Open Letter to François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Foreign Affairs on the issue of extraterritorial application of US sanctions against Cuba

Canadian Network on Cuba 

Vancouver monthly pickets against U.S. blockade of Cuba, February 17, 2020

Re: Western Union and U.S. Economic Sanctions Against Cuba

I am writing to you on behalf of the Canadian Network on Cuba (CNC), which represents Canada-Cuba friendship and solidarity organizations across Canada, ranging from Vancouver to Halifax and with over 50,000 in membership. One of the CNC’s principal objectives is advocating that Canadian foreign policy regarding Cuba remains based on equality and respect for sovereignty and the right of self-determination.

Consequently, the CNC is deeply concerned by the decision of Western Union Financial Services (Canada), Inc. to end the transfer of funds from Canada to Cuba. As Elizabeth Hill, a Toronto resident, was informed on February 21 at the Western Union outlet on St. Clair Avenue, “Western Union employees got a memo today saying they can no longer transfer funds to Cuba. They can only send funds to relatives of U.S. people.”

This decision will not only cause significant damage to people-to-people contacts and Canada-Cuba relations but is also a violation of the sovereignty of Canada by raising U.S. law above that of Canadian law. This is an unambiguous act of hostility against Cuba carried out within Canada by Washington.

As Ms. Hill observes, “How can this happen in Canada? I am a Canadian citizen, and Canada has had good relations with Cuba for more than 70 years. We do not have a blockade against Cuba as the United States does. We do not have rules against citizens sending funds to Cuba.”

Does U.S. law supplant Canadian law within Canada? Is this decision by Western Union not only a violation of the sovereignty of Canada but also a contravention of the Canadian Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act (FEMA)?

The Government of Canada enacted FEMA in 1984 in order to protect Canada against the increasingly extraterritorial nature of the U.S. economic blockade of Cuba. It was further specifically amended and strengthened in direct response to the United States’ Torricelli Act of 1992 and the Helms-Burton Act of 1996. In short, FEMA prohibits Canadian corporations from complying with the extraterritorial measures of U.S. economic sanctions against Cuba.

We, therefore, wish to inquire: What concrete measures will the Government of Canada implement to oppose the extraterritorial application of U.S. sanctions against Cuba and enforce the FEMA?

This violation of Canadian sovereignty by Western Union Financial Services (Canada), Inc. illustrates that Washington not only wages an economic blockade against Cuba but also a diplomatic and political blockade. For 28 consecutive years, the General Assembly of the United Nations has rejected and condemned these economic sanctions – an economic blockade – imposed on Cuba by the United States. Washington’s policy, with its extraterritorial character, is a flagrant violation of the UN Charter and customary international law. In 2019, as in previous years, the global community overwhelmingly stood with Cuba, voting 187-3 against Washington. Canada was once again counted in the vast ranks of the world’s nations resoundingly rejecting the coercive, unilateral and extraterritorial U.S. policy.

The CNC calls on the Government of Canada to uphold Canadian sovereignty and reject this or any other effort to implement in Canada the internationally condemned and illegal U.S. economic blockade of Cuba.

In closing, I wish to thank you in advance for your consideration of the issues raised and answering the questions posed.

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Isaac Saney, Co-Chair and National Spokesperson

Canadian Network on Cuba

Monthly picket against U.S. blockade of Cuba, Ottawa, January 17, 2020.

(Photos: OCC, VCSC)

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