Friday, June 21, 2019

Communiqué - 9th Biennial Convention of the Canadian Network on Cuba: Defending Canada-Cuba Ties of Friendship & Solidarity  

Isaac Saney (CNC)
On June 8 - 9, 2019 delegates of 19 Canada-Cuba solidarity and friendship organizations from across the country gathered at Toronto City Hall for the 9th Biennial Convention of the Canadian Network on Cuba (CNC). Delegates met in the context of Washington’s escalating attacks on Cuba and worrying developments in Canada-Cuba relations. The closing of Canada's visa office in Havana, for example, was highlighted as extremely perturbing. Delegate deliberations emphasized that for 2019-2021 one of the central tasks facing the CNC, therefore, is to do its utmost to reverse these negative developments and ensure Ottawa's policy towards Cuba does not mirror Washington's. The Convention underscored  that Canadians, who in their hundreds of thousands visit Cuba annually for many reasons including tourism, business, academic, political and cultural exchanges of all kinds, want Ottawa to pursue a foreign policy based on mutual respect and equality.  

Heroic Island Faces the Empire 

On June 7, a pre-convention event was held at A Different Booklist, where speakers Cuban Consul Yoslaidy Clemente López, Cikiah Thomas (Chairperson, Global Afrikan Congress) and Dr. Isaac Saney Cuba specialist, CNC co-chair and spokesperson) addressed  a packed house.  Clemente López said Cuba's history has been one of resisting and standing up to colonizers and imperial powers and that the Cuban people would prevail over whatever the U.S. decided to hit them with.  In their presentations Saney and Thomas soberly but passionately denounced Washington’s and Ottawa's aggression against Cuba and Venezuela. With the meeting serving as the kick-off for the CNC Convention, the presenters called on all Canadians to uphold the right of self-determination and sovereignty of all peoples, while opposing the meddling and interference of any external force in their countries. 

       On the morning of June 8, the 9th Biennial Convention opened by acknowledging and greeting guests from the Embassy of Cuba in Canada and the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP).  Chief Stacey Laforme of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation then brought greetings. With a moving message of unity, Chief Laforme stressed the commonalities that bind all peoples together. As a token of gratitude, Chief Laforme was presented with a pouch of Cuban tobacco by CNC co-chair Isaac Saney. Saney underlined the symbolism of the Cuban tobacco by reciting the story of Hatuey, the Taino chief from Haiti who led the resistance in Cuba to Spanish colonization. Hatuey is recognized by Cubans as the island nation’s first internationalist. Saney also highlighted Havana’s important diplomatic contribution to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  

        Distinguished guests included Her Excellency Josefina Vidal (Ambassador of Cuba to Canada), Tania López Larroque (Consul General of Cuba), Sandra Ramírez Rodríguez (Director, North American Desk - ICAP), Yamil Martínez Marrero (Canada Desk - ICAP) and other Cuban diplomats and guests. The Convention then had the distinct honour and privilege of receiving words of greetings from Ambassador Josefina Vidal. The Ambassador underlined the importance of the Canada-Cuba solidarity and friendship movement.  She emphasized that despite facing ongoing U.S. aggression, the Cuban people had preserved their unity, without violating any of the revolutionary or ethical principles that have guided Cuba’s socialist project. She stated that Cuba’s goal was to continue to build a society of ever greater equity and justice, guided by José Martí’s vision of a nation “with all and for all.” The Ambassador reiterated these points in the June 8th evening public meeting, Cuba Moving Forward in 2019, held at the Church of the Holy Trinity, located in Trinity Square. She elaborated on the island nation’s socioeconomic development and the new constitution, emphasizing Cuba’s determination to renew its revolutionary and nation building project, while preserving its independence and sovereignty. She underscored the extensive democratic participation of the Cuban people in this process.  In a lively question and answer period, Ambassador Vidal unequivocally declared that Cuba stands for Latin American independence, is opposed to foreign interference and intervention in the region, and would not yield to imperial pressure. She said that the Canadian government should reconsider its decision to close its visa office in Havana, so that it would not be remembered as the government that ended Canada-Cuba people to people relations.  
         Delegates attended from almost all the Canadian Network on Cuba member groups from Halifax to Vancouver.  A report on the CNC work over the last two years was presented by co-chairs, Isaac Saney and Elizabeth Hill, followed with verbal reports from member organizations. In addition to plenary sessions and public events, three Convention panels were also held. In the first panel, on Canada-Cuba-U.S. relations, Sandra Ramírez  and Isaac Saney addressed Canada’s closing of its visa processing facilities in its Havana embassy and its impact on the Canadian and Cuban people. There was also an extensive discussion of Washington’s aggression against Venezuela and the impact on Cuba and Canada of the activation by U.S. President Trump of Title III and IV of the notorious and internationally condemned Helms-Burton Act. On the second panel, Defend Cuba and Latin American Sovereignty and Independence, Yamil Martínez (ICAP), Edgar Godoy (Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network) and Dr. Maria Páez Victor, (Chair, Canadian, Latin American and Caribbean Policy Centre) underscored the historic meaning of the Cuban Revolution for the cause of democracy, sovereignty and peace in the region.  The dangers of U.S. imperialism, especially its ongoing attacks on Venezuela, which Canada has also joined, were examined in sobering detail.       
        The third panel featured a special guest speaker, Mark Entwistle, former Ambassador of Canada to Cuba from 1993-1997. Trained as an historian, Mr. Entwistle drew attention to the early history of Canada-Cuba relations going back to the late 19th century before reviewing the uninterrupted diplomatic relations that Canada and Cuba have enjoyed since 1945. He accentuated that Canada, along with Mexico, refused to break diplomatic relations with Cuba in the 1960s when the United States established its economic, financial and commercial blockade of the island nation. He stressed that the recent closing of the visa office represents a serious departure from this longstanding relationship. He underscored that Cuba has a unique perspective on the world and has played an important role in contributing to regional peace and security. In the question and answer period, Mr. Entwistle emphasized that Canada's relationship with Cuba is important but that due to current developments Canada's image is at risk of being harmed in the eyes of the Cuban people.     

        Over the course of the convention delegates reaffirmed their determination to strengthen the Canada-Cuba solidarity movement and defeat the U.S. all-sided economic blockade of Cuba. Delegates also expressed their deep concern over the current state of Canada-Cuba relations resolving to do their utmost to ensure that relations remain based on the international norms of mutual respect and equality between nations. Therefore, given the escalation of the U.S. economic war against Cuba and the current uncertainty in Ottawa’s relations with Havana, a number of resolutions were adopted to guide the work of the CNC during 2019-2021. 

        Measures were adopted to stabilize and grow the Ernesto Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade in order to ensure its future success. Carrying on the fight against the U.S. economic blockade of Cuba, delegates adopted a resolution against the activation of Titles III & IV of the Helms-Burton Act aimed at mobilizing Canadian public and political opinion against the unabated U.S. policy of aggression against Cuba. Apprehensive about the present state of Canada-Cuba relations, they also passed a resolution calling on Ottawa to reopen visa services in the Canadian embassy in Havana. Among other resolutions adopted were those calling for actions to mark the 5th anniversary of the liberation of the Five Cuban Heroes and the 500th anniversary of the founding of the city of Havana. Additionally, resolutions were passed to support the following conferences: 8th Vancouver Che Guevara Conference, in Vancouver, October 25– 27, 2019; Hemispheric Anti-Imperialist Solidarity Conference for Democracy and Against Neo-Liberalism in Havana, November 1-3, 2019; and Cuba at 60: Current Challenges, Future Prospects, in Halifax, October 31-November 2, 2019. Delegates also reiterated the necessity to continue to strengthen the work with Members of Parliament and legislatures.  
        To pursue this mandate and initiatives a new seven-member executive was elected: Bronwyn Cragg, Nora Fernandez, Julio Fonseca, Tamara Hansen, Elizabeth Hill, Michael O’Neill and Isaac Saney. The CNC embarks on the next two years with the task of expanding solidarity and friendship with Cuba throughout Canadian society. The CNC reaffirms that the people of Cuba, whatever the changes in Ottawa’s relations with Havana, can continue to count on the ongoing and undiminished solidarity and friendship of the people of Canada.  This solidarity and friendship are neither tenuous nor transitory but spring from the deeply rooted respect and admiration of Canadians for Cuba’s historic realization of its right to independence and self-determination: respect and admiration amplified by the what the Cuban people have been able to achieve while facing unceasing aggression from the United States. Out of this respect and admiration unbreakable ties of solidarity and friendship have been -- and continue to be -- forged between the peoples of Canada and Cuba.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Embassy of Cuba in Canada

Canada Parliament Hosts Symposium on Cuba

Ottawa, May 28, 2019 — On Tuesday morning, a Symposium on Cuba was held at the Federal Canadian Parliament, under the auspices of the Hon. Senator Ringuette Pierrette and T.J. Harvey, MP, Co-Chairs of the Canada-Cuba Parliamentary Friendship Group, by initiative of the Canadian Network on Cuba.
The opening panel, made up by renowned scholars, namely, Isaac Saney, John Kirk and Julia Sagebien from Dalhaousie University, Halifax; and Professor Keith Ellis, from York University in Toronto, examined Cuba-Canada´s long-standing positive bilateral relations, current challenges and future prospects; as well as Cuba´s economy, society and foreign policy.
The second and last panel of the meeting focused on the nature of the Canadian trade relationship with Cuba, its importance for both countries, and the impact of the escalation of U.S. economic sanctions against Cuba on Canadian companies doing business with the island, particularly, after the activation of Title III and the threat to enact Title IV of the Helms Burton Act. Among the panelists were representatives of Canadian companies and organizations that maintain links with Cuba, including Sherritt International Corp. Acasta Capital, the National Bank of Canada, Gowling WLG international law firm, Air Transat and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Canada–Cuba.
The Honourable senators Ringuette Pierrette, Stan Kutcher, Beverley Busson and Diane Giffin; and members of Parliament Michel Picard, Anthony Rota and Fayçal El-Khoury, were in attendance.
Attending the Symposium in representation of the Embassy of Cuba in Ottawa were Ambassador Josefina Vidal, accompanied by other members of the diplomatic staff.