Politically & economically, Canada and Cuba have had an uninterrupted - though sometimes rocky - relationship. Canada and México, as partners in the NAFTA accord with the United States, under considerable pressure to embrace a “hard line” approach vis-à-vis Cuba, pressure they have for the most part resisted. During the 1970s and early 1980s, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau maintained a strong political relationship with Cuba and a personal friendship with Fidel Castro.
This is not to say that Canada is supportive of the Revolution. The basic goals of Canada toward Cuba are in some aspects the same: a desire for a multi-party electoral system (whereas Cuba sees its electoral system, free of political parties, big-money lobbying and adversarial politics, as being appropriate for its citizens); Canada would also prefer a “freer” economy, i.e., one that is less restrictive of foreign investment and which permits foreign ownership (Cuba has a highly regulated foreign investment scheme, in which more than 95% of foreign partners are restricted to less than 49% ownership in domestic investments, with the Cuban government maintaining 51%. This, coupled with a policy which permits investment only in strategic sectors, gives the government considerable ability to pursue national development goals as a prime objective, rather than as a byproduct of economic activity).
Culturally, Canada and Cuba enjoy a very strong relationship. In Nova Scotia, the Los Primos Project - a labour of love undertaken by musician Jeff Goodspeed and his wife, Amara, connect young musicians with their counterparts at a conservatory in Havana. This relationship has grown beyond their expectations, resulting in a documentary and annual visits by Canadians youth to Cuba and Cubans to Canada. There are dozens of other links, from the Canada-Cuba Sports and Cultural Festivals group, to university programmes that have hundreds of Canadian students studying in Cuba annually, and exchange programmes such as Canada World Youth. Also of note is the Canada Cuba Farmer-to-Farmer Project, which connects Canadian farmers with their counterparts in Cuba, where they learn about Cuba’s phenomenal success in organic agriculture and urban gardening.
It would be difficult to accumulate here an updated listing of all the cultural connections Canada and Cuba share. You may visit the Canadian Network on Cuba (www.canadiannetworkoncuba.ca) for links to many more examples of our two countries’ cultural relationships.
For more information on Canada’s activities in Cuba, visit the webpage of the Embassy of Canada in Cuba.