|Canadian Embassy, Havana||Cuban Embassy, Ottawa|
|Ambassador Perry Calderwood||Ambassador Josefina Vidal|
Trade relations between Canada and Cuba dates back to the 18th century, with vessels from Atlantic Canada trading cod and beer for rum and sugar in Cuba. Diplomatic relations was formally established between the two countries in 1945. Cuba was the first country in the Caribbean selected by Canada for a diplomatic mission.
Diplomatic relations between the Canada and Cuba remained uninterrupted in the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution. Canada, in addition to Mexico, remained one of only two countries in the Americas that maintained uninterrupted relations with Cuba after the revolution. Although John Diefenbaker, the Prime Minister of Canada, was a staunch anti-communist, he reasoned that relations should be continued "despite the philosophical differences between [Cuba's] communist regime and the West..., and that Canada should hardly be required to tighten its trade restrictions above and beyond those of other Latin American nations."
On 26 April 1959, the Prime Minister of Cuba, Fidel Castro,[note 1] visited Montreal to participate in a toy drive for Cuban children. In addition to inviting Castro, the event's organizers, the Junior Chamber of Commerce of Montreal, also invited several members of Canadian government to greet Castro, although those contacted refused to do so.
The choice to maintain relations with the revolutionary Cuban government served as a point of contention for Canada-U.S. relations in the decades following the Cuban Revolution. During John F. Kennedy's tenure as the President of the United States, Diefenbaker used Canadian-Cuban relations to showcase that Canada was not mirroring the foreign policy of the United States. Diefenbaker's policy with Cuba was continued under the tenure of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who long held the opinion that Canada needed to establish a foreign policy, "indepedent of American influcene".
The Canadian government was critical of the United States embargo against Cuba during the 1960s and 1970s, objecting to American attempts to block trade to Cuba by Canadian-based American subsidiaries. In 1975, the United States passed legislation, loosening the restrictions in its embargo, formally permitting foreign subsidiaries (including those based in Canada) to conduct trade with Cuba.
In 1976, Trudeau spent three days in Cuba, and sparked a personal friendship with Castro. The visit was also the first by a Western nation to Cuba since 1960. Trudeau's trip to Canada was criticized by Diefenbaker, given Cuba's involvement in the Angolan Civil War. Remarks made by Trudeau in Cuba, notably "Viva Cuba! Viva Fidel Castro," were also criticized by Diefenbaker, and Thomas Cossitt, a Canadian Member of Parliament. In his memoirs, Trudeau noted that Castro downplayed Cuba's involvement in Angola during his visit, and he had only realized the extent of Cuba's involvement after returning to Ottawa. Shortly after his visit to Cuba, Trudeau cut foreign aid to Cuba.
In January 1977, Canadian-Cuban relations was strained after details were made public that the Cuban government used a consular mission in Montreal for the purposes of information-gathering. Five Cuban nationals were expelled from Canada, including three diplomats. Canadian law enforcement was already aware of the espionage activities within the consulate, and placed the building under surveillance as early as 1972. Canadian authorities did not intend to take action against the consulate during that period, but its revelation to the public forced authorities to act. In a statement of admission, the Cuban government stated it used the consulate for intelligence gathering, although noted its activities were directed against the United States government and the Central Intelligence Agency.
In 1984, the Canadian government passed the Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act, a law designed to dissuade Canadian-based American subsidiaries from taking part in the American economic embargo of Cuba.
In 1994, a joint venture was formed between the Cuban Nickel Union and the Canadian firm Sherritt International, which operates a mining and processing plant on the island in Moa. A second enterprise, Cobalt Refinery Co. Inc., was created in Alberta for nickel refining.
Canada, in addition to the European Union, objected to the passage of the Helms-Burton Act in the U.S. Congress in 1996, specifically Title III, a provision that permitted Americans whose properties were nationalized by the Cuban government, to sue individuals that are presently using it. The Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Lloyd Axworthy stated "Canada shares the U.S. objectives of improving human rights standards and moving to more representative government in Cuba. But we are concerned that the Helms-Burton Act takes the wrong approach. That is why we have been working with other countries to uphold the principles of international law".
In response to the Helms-Burton Act, the Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act was amended to permit Canadians sued under the Helms-Burton Act, to counter-sue in Canadian courts. The resulting amendment also found those that paid damages under the Helms-Burton Act to be liable to fines and imprisonment in Canada. In a satirical response to the Helms-Burton Act, a private member's bill known as the Godfrey-Milliken Bill was introduced in the House of Commons of Canada in response to the extraterritoriality of the Helms-Burton Act. The proposed bill would have allowed descendants of United Empire Loyalists who fled the American Revolution to be able to reclaim land and property that was confiscated by the American government in the 1700s. Although the Helms-Burton Act went into effect in 1996, enactment of Title III was postponed until April 2019.
During the mid-1990s, Canada and Cuba reached an agreement that saw the Cuban government compensate Canadians whose properties were expropriated after the Cuban Revolution. Emergency economic reforms made during the Special Period in Cuba, allowed for a significant number of Canadian businesses to invest in Cuba. Increased economic activity between the two countries prompted an official visit to Havana by Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien in 1998.
Castro travelled to Montreal in 2000 to serve as one of Trudeau's pallbearers at his funeral.[dead link] In 2001, the Canadian government protested U.S. preclearance customs agents in Canadian airports who tried to catch American citizens travelling to Cuba in defiance of U.S. law. During the 2010 United Nations Security Council election, Cuban diplomats to the United Nations lobbied members of the United Nations General Assembly to vote for Canada.
In 2013, the Canadian government hosted bilateral talks between the governments of Cuba and the United States. Seven negotiation sessions were held between the American and Cuban governments in Ottawa and Toronto. The following negotiations led to the normalization of relations between the American and Cuban governments. In November 2016, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, made a 30-hour official visit to Cuba.
Cuba is presently Canada's second largest export market in the Caribbean/Central American region, with over C$1 billion in goods traded annually. There are in total 85 Canadian companies and subsidiaries operating in Cuba, including brewer Labatt Breweries. Around 1.2 million Canadians visit Cuba annually. Canadian visitors account for 30 per cent of all tourists to Cuba per year, making Canada the largest source of tourists for Cuba.
Canada has had an embassy in Havana since 1945. The current building was built in 1929 and used by Canada since 1961. It also provides consular assistance to Australian and Israeli nationals. The embassy is located in the upscale district of Miramar in municipal area of Playa in Havana. Canadian consulates are also found in Varadero and Holguin. due to these two locations being key destinations for Canadian tourists.
- Canada–Caribbean relations
- Canada–Latin America relations
- Cuban Canadian
- Foreign relations of Canada
- Foreign relations of Cuba
- Castro governed Cuba as the Prime Minister of the country from 1959 to 1976. He governed the country as the President of Cuba from 1976 to 2008.
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