September 6, 2021
Re: Canada-Cuba Relations
I am writing to you on behalf of the Canadian Network On Cuba (CNC), which represents 22 Canada-Cuba friendship and solidarity organizations across Canada, ranging from Vancouver to Halifax, with over 50,000 in membership. Two of the CNC’s principal objectives are:
• bringing an end to U.S. economic sanctions against Cuba; and
• ensuring that Canada’s relations with Cuba are based on equality and respect for the island nation’s independence, sovereignty, and the right of self-determination.
Canadians – more than 3,900 – have already spoken clearly on these matters in two parliamentary petitions (e-2586 and e-3456) calling on the Government of Canada to actively oppose U.S. economic aggression against Cuba, and to ensure that Ottawa-Havana relations be maintained in accordance with established international law and diplomatic norms.
In 2014, the world rejoiced to see the restoration of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba in a signed agreement between then Presidents Raúl Castro and Barrack Obama. The world held out great hopes that relations between the two countries would be normalized. Canada helped by providing a venue for the talks which led to the improvement of those relations. However, under the administration of Donald Trump, we witnessed a return to the policy of overt and ever escalating hostility and aggression against Cuba. Under Trump, the economic sanctions against Cuba reached unprecedented levels with 243 new distinct and vindictive measures targeted against the island nation. Fifty of these measures were vindictively imposed, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, severely limiting the island nation’s access to equipment and other necessary items required to preserve the health of Cubans.
In response to the parliamentary petition e-2586, the Government of Canada acknowledged, “In the midst of the global crisis, the embargo on Cuba has become an additional impediment to purchasing medical supplies to deal with the pandemic, as well as to receiving international aid.”
The administration of President Joseph Biden not only continues the unrelenting, criminal, and immoral economic war against Cuba but has also imposed additional sanctions. It is not an exaggeration or hyperbole to describe Washington’s policy as an economic war against the people of Cuba. Imposed since the early 1960s, it constitutes the principal obstacle to Cuba’s social and economic development. The monetary cost to the heroic island-nation is immense: more than $130 billion.
This U.S. war against Cuba persists despite resounding international condemnation June 23rd, for the 29th consecutive time, the global community overwhelmingly stood with Cuba, voting 184 to 2 in the United Nations General Assembly, resoundingly repudiating the U.S. economic war against Cuba as a flagrant violation of international law. Canada stood among those counted in the vast ranks of the world’s nations resoundingly rejecting the coercive, unilateral, and extra-territorial U.S. policy. This global isolation was further underscored by the refusal of the vast majority of the world’s nations to sign on to the so-called so-called Joint Statement in the wake of the Washington orchestrated July 11 disturbances against Cuba.
Nevertheless, the U.S. war on Cuba continues unabated. Washington flagrantly flaunts international law and opinion, employing an array of coercive measures to force other countries to join in its aggression against the Cuban people. Canada has not been immune from these pressures. For example, in 2017 the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Treasury Department fined the American Honda Finance Corporation (AHFC) $87,255 for approving and financing between February 2011 and March 2014 the leasing by Honda Canada Finance Inc. of 13 cars to the Embassy of Cuba in Canada. Also, in 2020 Western Union Financial Services (Canada), Inc. decided to end the transfer of funds from Canada to Cuba. In a statement to the CBC, the company declared that the decision was “due to the unique challenges of operating remittance services from countries outside of the United States to Cuba.”
This decision not only caused – and is causing – 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.
Within this context, the Canadian Network on Cuba poses the following questions that should immediately be a focus of the Government of Canada’s foreign policy and external relations:
How do you and your party intend to respond to and counter the escalation of Washington’s hostility towards Cuba?
What immediate steps will you and your party take to oppose the economic sanctions of the United States against Cuba condemned by the United Nations and several other international organizations?
What concrete measures will you and your party implement to oppose the extraterritorial application of U.S. sanctions against Cuba as they pertain to Canadian businesses and Canadian citizens and, especially regarding the enforcement of the Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act?
Will you and your party support the right of Cuba to the return of the illegally occupied territory of the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay?
Do you and your party support Cuba’s right to self-determination and sovereignty, free of any external interference in the island’s domestic affairs (i.e., affirming the right of the people of Cuba to determine their own political, economic, and social arrangements without foreign interference)?
Will you and your party condemn the ongoing U.S. campaign of against subversion against the legitimate constitutional order of Cuba?
In 2019, the Government of Canada dramatically and abruptly reduced the staffing of the Canadian embassy in Havana. While many services have been restored, the embassy is still without a full complement, which continues to hamper its ability to function properly:
Will you and your party raise the staffing of the Embassy of Canada in Cuba to its full complement as quickly as it is possible?
Our enquiries are motivated by the reality that Washington’s effort to asphyxiate Cuba is an egregious violation of the human rights of the Cuban people and an intolerable violation of the right to self-determination. The CNC resolutely reaffirms the inalienable right of the people of Cuba – and all other peoples – to determine their future and their political, economic, and social system without external interference: a right enshrined in the United Nations Charter, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other international legal instruments.
Irrespective of their political or ideological positions, Canadians stand for the building of genuine friendship with the island nation: relations based on mutual respect, equality, and recognition of Cuba’s right to self-determination and sovereignty. This is poignantly illustrated by the financial support for the CNC’s Medical Supplies for Cuba Campaign, which has provided almost two-million syringes to assist Cuba in its country-wide vaccination program.
In closing, we wish to thank you for your consideration of these issues. We look forward to your response to our questions. If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Co-Chair and National Spokesperson
Canadian Network On Cuba
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