Dialogue and engagement in the Great White North

One of the things we’re told is that the politics of confrontation and sanctions hasn’t worked and thus we need to try dialogue and engagement. You know, just like Canada.
Well it seems that members of the Cuban colony in Canada aren’t sold on that idea.

It started with the recognition of Castro by former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who treated Castro like an “elected official instead of a dictator who took over the country,” said Maurice Sambra, a sculptor and painter.
“No government since then has recognized the brutality of the regime that usurped the human rights of the people and stole the assets of the country to maintain power.”
Sambra called on the government to intervene for the Cuban people and to press for the freedom of political prisoners and dissidents.

The fact is that Canada’s approach to Cuba has nothing to do with seeking change. Quite the contrary, in places like Canada and Spain, that do business with castro, inc., there is no desire for change in Cuba. Why would there be? Cuba represents a slave workforce of more than 11 million ready to be exploited.

“We want Canada to exert pressure by not allowing Canadian enterprises to invest in Cuba, which supports the enslavement of the workers. The Cuban government has a new leader, Raoul Castro, but we don’t want him or his regime. We want true freedom for the people of Cuba.”

I sympathize with these Cuban-Canadians but I’m afraid their pleas will fall on deaf ears. It’s not fashionable to be opposed to castro, inc. especially in “enlightened” countries like our neighbor to the north.

Levy said that while the Canadian government is aware of the situation in Cuba, it continues the “legacy left by Trudeau,” treating Castro like an elected representative of the people of Cuba.
“From then until now, Canada has continued to trade with Cuba, and promoted tourism and investment in Cuba. All these things support the nomenklatura who have stolen the people’s assets. We don’t understand why the robbers of the country are recognized as legitimate rulers.”
Sambra said the constitution that was in place before Castro took power should be brought back, which he said Castro changed “to suit his needs.”
“It’s very hard for the people in Cuba to survive Castro’s brutal dictatorship. I would like Canadians to know that what seems like a vacation paradise for Canadians is hell for the Cuban people. They suffer every day.”

But millions of Canadians have gone to Cuba and “seen” the worker’s paradise with their own eyes. “They are so friendly and they sure can dance!”

Before Sambra came to Canada as a refugee in 2001, he was jailed three times, the first when he was only 16 years old for painting a sign that said “Down with Castro’s dictatorship.”
“After writing and distributing some anti-Castro pamphlets I was sentenced to eight years in jail,” he said. “Amnesty International (AI) and the Canadian government declared me to be a prisoner of conscience, and then Canada accepted me as a refugee.”

Certainly not one of those recent arrivals that “thinks differently” that we’re constantly hearing about.

“I know how people are suffering in jail now, how they are dying little by little,” said Ismael, president of the Cuban Canadian Foundation.
Ismael expressed his view that Canada’s involvement with Castro, without recognizing and condemning the dictator’s misuse of power and repression of the people, has ignored the Cuban people’s suffering and need for their human rights to be reinstated.
“We are trying to awaken the conscience of the Canadian government to use a better way [of dealing with] the Castro regime.”

3 thoughts on “Dialogue and engagement in the Great White North”

  1. Living in Ottawa with my Cuban wife who I met after living and working for 5 years in Cuba, I usually agree with your comments. In this case, I think you’re overstating Canada’s skills in terms of international engagement. While it’s true that Canada has has a long-standing policy of ‘constructive engagement’, the reason for it not condemning Cuba’s government and the state of (non-) human rights is not because they actually like they way it goes – it’s more likely because Canadian governments traditionally do not have a single, coherent vision about anything beyond their borders. That’s why a Canadian jailed in a foreign country (ANY foreign country) can only dream about receiving the type of consular assistance that, for example, US citizen receive. And don’t think that Canadian companies fare any better – the Canadian government couldn’t care less about trying to enhance business relations with other countries. Cuba is no exception – there is no policy to condemn the island’s government, but there is no meaningful policy to increase business with the island, either. It just doesn’t register on Canada’s radar screen.
    Canada is a parliamentary democracy, which means that the Prime Minister and all the ministers are members of parliament. Unfortunately, that also means that government posts at the decision-making level are handed out based on party loyalty and politics, not on merit. You can have a lawyer running the health system, or an anthropologist the ministry of finances, or a bachelor in health care the ministry of foreign affairs. Hence, no real foreign policy…

  2. Well I guess that I should feel comforted that Canada’s appeasement of the regime stems more from incompetence than any sympathy Canadian leaders might have for totalitarian dictators but somehow I’m not.

  3. Canadian foreign policy is definetly a plan, parlamentary ministers have very little knowledge, however junior ministers do and an army of public employees draw year after year with lots of resourses Canada’s foreign policies, in cuba’s case is based in John Diefenbaker political input and influence by the fact that no canadian lost property in Cuba ( they were all compensated). Personally I witness as late as 1976, while still living in Cuba the “Sun Life of Canada Insurance” still had offices in Havana (Aguiar y Obrapia) It is shamefull that the subsequential canadian goverments are reluctant to call for the end of cuba’s secesion. Althought many policy makers are aware that the “constructive engament” with the cuban dictatorship is a falier. Many retired politicians will admit to it. However there is at least three if not more, Quebec based lobby groups in the defense of castroland.

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