CNC Logo

About the CNC

[Cuba Calendar] Cuba Events

Travel tips!

Image courtesy of Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center
Havana from Space

Havana Weather

General Inquiries

Website Comments


Government of Canada

Canada, Cuba and the OAS

Canadian government relations with Cuba have run the gamut, from Pierre Trudeau's well-known close friendship with President Fidel Castro, to the Mulroney government's outright hositility and pro-USA position. In 1994, the Helms-Burton Act's extraterritorial provisions prompted Canada to pass a law forbidding U.S. corporate subsidiaries operating in Canada from abiding by the economic embargo of Cuba (a law that has never been enforced).

In 2003, the Canadian government took an unusually strong pro-USA position on the matter of the "dissidents," seeking to support American calls for the censure of Cuba in international fora. One forum of note is the Organization of American States (OAS), to which Cuba has been relegated to the role of observer following the October Crisis of 1961. CNC member organization NSCUBA sent the following message to Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham prior to the opening of the June session of the OAS. Also provided below is a news article that reveals Canada's planned actions at that meeting.

The final article on this page notes the reaction of the OAS member states to the Canadian / USA attempt to castigate Cuba. We sincerely hope the Canadian government takes the time to reevaluate its counterproductive stance in light of Cuba's neighbours' position.

6 June 2003.

Dear Minister Graham,

On behalf of the Nova Scotia-Cuba Association (NSCUBA), a member of the Canadian Network on Cuba, I am writing to share our hope that you have a productive meeting with Canada's OAS partners this weekend. As Cuba is likely to figure prominently on the agenda, we thought it timely to raise a few important points which reflect the perspective of our membership.

First and foremost is our strong concern at the violation of the OAS charter by one of its member-states. The United States has violated Articles 3 (a), (e), 18, and in particular, Article 19, which states:

"No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. The foregoing principle prohibits not only armed force but also any other form of interference or attempted threat against the personality of the State or against its political, economic, and cultural elements."

That Cuba has been a victim of U.S. attempts to undermine and, ultimately, overthrow the Cuban government is not open to interpretation: it is a fact, stated plainly and clearly in U.S. foreign policy documents and in public comments by both President George Bush and the head of the U.S. Interests' Section in Havana, Mr. James Cason.

As Charter Article 3(h) considers any act of aggression against one member state as an act committed against all, we call on the Canadian government to support Cuba in efforts to pursue its natural development free from interference by the United States of America. At the very least, a motion of censure against the ongoing activities of the United States is far more appropriate for the OAS to pursue, than the widely-anticipated condemnation of Cuba for, paradoxically, defending itself from that aggression.

We urge the Canadian government to act in upholding the principles of the OAS and fulfill the vision of an organization committed to building democracy and justice in the Americas.

With best regards,
Mark Rushton
Director, NSCUBA.

CC: Canada OAS desk
CC: Kim Cowan, Cuba Desk, DFAIT

7 June 2003 (Saturday).
Globe & Mail. Pg. A-17.

"Canada to seek OAS action against Cuba"

by Paul Knox

Canada will ask the Organization of American States to consider taking non-economic measures against Cuba in response to a crackdown on peaceful dissent, Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham said yesterday.

Mr. Graham said he will ask ministers at the OAS's annual general assembly beginning tomorrow in Santiago to register disapproval of Cuba's jailing of 75 dissidents and journalists.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Graham said the OAS should follow the lead of the 15-member European Union, which said on Thursday it would cut back political and cultural contacts with the government of Fidel Castro due to the crackdown.

The EU said its members would limit high-level government visits, downgrade participation in Cuban cultural events and invite Cuban dissidents to events on their national days.

Mr. Graham said he would steer clear of proposing economic sanctions, in line with Canad'as long-standing opposition to the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.

"Cutting out high-level meetings is a good way of sending a signal, ...." Mr. Graham said. "Economic sanctions punish the people. We want measure to punish the elite."

Mr. Graham took the unusual step of summoning Cuban Ambassador Carlos Fernandez de Cossio to his office in April to express "extreme concern" over the crackdown, in which dissidents were imprisoned for up to 28 years.

He conceded yesterday that it could be hard to win backing even for limited sanctions from the OAS, which suspended Cuba in 1962. Members have been reluctant to discuss Cuban affairs for fear of being too closely identified with U.S. policy.

A Canada-backed move to have the OAS register concern over the crackdown failed last month at a lower-level meeting of ambassadors to the inter-American body.

But Mr. Graham said he would try again in Chile with his counterparts, even if the best he could manage is a declaration expressing concern.

"A clear indication that the Americas are united against these measures in itself is important," Mr. Graham said.

Ministers from the 34 active OAS members plan to discuss the progress of democracy since the 2001 Americas summit in Quebec City. ---

1Organization of American States

[Link: return to homepage]