Canada-Cuba Relations: The Other Good Neighbor Policy

Canada-Cuba Relations: The Other Good Neighbor Policy

Canada-Cuba Relations: The Other Good Neighbor Policy

Canada-Cuba Relations: The Other Good Neighbor Policy


In the "neighborhood" of the Americas, Canada alone has maintained consistently cordial relations with Cuba, in spite of considerable pressure from the United States. In the first book-length study of the subject, John M. Kirk and Peter McKenna explore this unusual dynamic, focusing mainly on the period since 1959. They begin with the evolution of the Canadian-Cuban relationship, which was initially founded on pragmatic economic and commercial considerations. Cuba has always been one of Canada's major trading partners in Latin America, and it is the second most popular vacation resort for Canadians. Subsequent chapters, ordered historically, explore each Canadian prime minister's response to the revolutionary government in Havana. Changing personalities and ideologies in that office have had a significant impact on Canada's Cuba policy. The author also look at the relationship from the Cuban point of view: they have drawn on privileged interview and archival material from Cuba, including never-before-seen diplomatic records from Cuba's Foreign Ministry, to create a thoroughly rounded portrait. In what is perhaps a controversial stance, the authors seek to use Canada's Cuba policy as a lesson in good neighborliness for the United States, and they dedicate their book to "all those who struggle for the introduction of common sense, dignity, and justice into U.S.-Cuban relations".


The seed for this book was planted at a lasa conference several years ago when Rafael Hernández, of Havana's Centro de Estudios sobre América dragooned one of the authors into substituting on a panel on Cuban foreign relations when a participant didn't show up. the rest, as they say, is history. the topic came into clearer focus after John Kirk accompanied Premier John Savage of Nova Scotia as his counselor-interpreter on two successful commercial delegations to Cuba in 1994 and 1996.

Since then Kirk has acted in a variety of other functions that have helped provide further understanding of this dynamic: as a consultant for various Canadian companies with investments in and exports to Cuba; preparing a report on Canadian research priorities in Cuba for the International Development Research Centre; giving evidence on Cuba to foreign affairs committees of the Canadian Parliament; and working for a variety of nongovernmental organizations under the umbrella group of the Cuba-Canada Interagency Project. the specific topic of bilateral relations was then placed into the framework of Canada's fast-developing ties with Latin America by Peter McKenna.

We owe our gratitude to many people who have offered their insights into this topic, one that has become timely in the wake of Cuba's economic liberalization on the one hand, and Washington's repeated attempts to see the Castro government removed on the other.

An earlier version of this manuscript was read by Wayne Smith, of the Center for International Policy in Washington. Smith, both as a former diplomat (he headed the U.S. Special Interests Section in Havana during the Carter years) and as a scholar of U.S.-Cuban relations for many decades, provided valuable insights into diplomatic niceties of the trilateral relationship. Louis Pérez of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, undoubtedly the leading scholar of Cuban history, encouraged the authors to step outside the original bilateral parameters to examine the role of powerful catalyst that Washington plays in Canada-Cuba relations, a fact that became increasingly important in the wake of the 1996 Helms- Burton legislation. Finally Michael Erisman, of Indiana State University . . .

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