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Election backgrounder (raw info):
Cuba and Canadian Politicians

We present here a few links of interest and excerpts from the Parliamentary record. With an election coming on June 28th in Canada, the attitudes of Canadian politicians toward Cuba are worth investigating - challenge candidates when they come to your door campaigning!

For the two links below, once the page is loaded, just search for "Cuba" within the page (it's probably CTRL-F on a Windows keyboard, or Command-F on your Macintosh).

1/ Interesting (and sad) comment from Mr. Alan Borovoy, General Counsel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association :


Canadian politicians
- comments on Cuba in Parliament since 2000

37th Parliament, 1st Session

Ms. Francine Lalonde (Mercier, BQ):

Mr. Speaker, when we questioned the government on the respect of human rights and democracy in China, the Prime Minister said that the government felt that strengthening ties with that country would be the best way for us to promote these values with the Chinese government.

How can the government justify that, in the case of Cuba, it adopts a diametrically opposed position and rejects the presence of that country at the Summit of the Americas? Why this about-face?

Hon. Pierre Pettigrew (Minister for International Trade, Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, it is important for the Bloc Quebecois member realize that we are also committed to Cuba.

We have trade relations with that country; CIDA has programs in Cuba. On a bilateral level, we are committed to China and we are also committed to Cuba.

The difference is that when we organize a Summit of the Americas to promote democracy and establish a free trade zone of the Americas to strengthen democracy, we are talking about a much narrower context and we are fully justified, as hosts of the summit, to act as we are doing.

Ms. Francine Lalonde (Mercier, BQ): Mr. Speaker, precisely, the summit is not just about the free trade zone of the Americas.

Yet, the government's attitude toward Cuba is opposed to that displayed by all Canadian governments since Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

Does that sudden about-face not simply show that this government does not really have a foreign policy but merely follows the United States, which does not want to see Cuba at the summit?

Hon. Pierre Pettigrew (Minister for International Trade, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to now see the Bloc Quebecois use Pierre Trudeau as an example. Last week, it was Bernard Landry who referred to Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Things are going well in Canada.

I can assure the hon. member of one thing: Our government has applied Canada's foreign policy vis-á-vis Cuba in the respect of the established tradition. We have remained committed to Cuba and we will continue to be.

The difference with the Summit of the Americas is that when we host an event, as we will be in Quebec City, it is normal to respect the consensus that exists through our hemisphere, and this is how that decision was made.

37th PARLIAMENT, 2nd Session

Mr. Stan Dromisky (Thunder Bay-Atikokan, Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Secretary of State for Latin America and Africa.

    In light of his recent visit to Cuba, I and the people of Canada would like to know the present status of the relationship between the Government of Canada and the government of Cuba?

     Hon. Denis Paradis (Secretary of State (Latin America and Africa) (Francophonie), Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the president of the Canada-Cuba friendship group for his question.

    First, I would like to say that we are number one in tourism in Cuba, with 400,000 Canadians who will be visiting Cuba. We are number two in investment in Cuba. Trade and investment are two good ways to promote dialogue and promote Canadian values like human rights and democracy. We are planning right now an exchange of parliamentarians with our amigos.

37th PARLIAMENT, 2nd Session

     Mr. David Price (Compton-Stanstead, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Secretary of State for Latin America, Africa and the Francophonie, who is just back from the first Canadian ministerial visit to Cuba since March 1999.

    Following this mission, to what extent does Canada feel it has achieved its objectives?

     Hon. Denis Paradis (Secretary of State (Latin America and Africa) (Francophonie), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the question is timely. I am indeed just back from Cuba.

    One of the issues we raised was tourism. Each year, 400,000 Canadians travel to Cuba.

    Another issue we raised with the Cubans was the size of Canada's investment in their country. Canada is the second largest investor in Cuba. We will also put in place agreements so that our SMBs, or small and medium size businesses, can increase their presence over there.

    We also raised the issue of human rights and democracy. In continuing our dialogue, we have agreed to have parliamentary exchanges.

37th Parliament, 1st Session

Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot, BQ):

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs took a position squarely on the side of those who oppose Cuba's participation in the Summit of the Americas, saying that Cuba showed little respect for democracy and did not allow dissent.

How can the minister explain, on the one hand, the inclusive and tolerant policy of his government towards countries such as China and Indonesia, where human rights and democracy are being violated and, on the other, the policy of excluding Cuba?

Hon. Pierre Pettigrew (Minister for International Trade, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Foreign Affairs made it clear that Cuba's participation in the Summit of the Americas had not been possible because a hemispheric consensus had not been reached, in light of that country's refusal to engage in certain democratic reforms.

Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot, BQ): Mr. Speaker, this is a double standard.

On March 18, 1994, in speaking about China and various other countries, the Prime Minister said, and I quote:

-the best way to improve human rights in countries such as this-that we do business with them to open the country up to the world. This is the way to achieve democracy.

Why is it that this same reasoning does not apply to Cuba?

Hon. Pierre Pettigrew (Minister for International Trade, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, in the case of China, we will not enter into a agreement that in any way resembles those we are contemplating with the Americas. We wish to consolidate democracy in the Americas, to negotiate a free trade agreement which will reinforce that democracy.

We believe that we must maintain relations with China in order to encourage it along the road to democracy. We support China's entry into the World Trade Organization, but this is not a close relationship of the sort that would exist with a free trade agreement.

The Bloc Quebecois must open its eyes to this basic reality of foreign policy.

37th Parliament, 1st Session

Mr. Charlie Penson (Peace River, Canadian Alliance):

Mr. Speaker, Jonas Prince was chairman of Delta hotels when he signed an agreement with the Prime Minister in 1993. Mr. Prince operated at least nine Delta hotels in Cuba until he sold his interest in 1998.

My question is for the Minister of Industry, if he would pay attention. Has Mr. Prince or his companies ever received any direct or indirect funding from his department, from the Business Development Bank of Canada or from Export Development Corporation?

Hon. John Harvard (Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia, Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, since March 18, in other words in the last two weeks, the Cuban government has arrested approximately 72 Cuban dissidents in almost every province in that country.

    Can the Secretary of State for Latin America, Africa and Francophonie, explain to the House what is Canada's position on those arrests?

     Hon. Denis Paradis (Secretary of State (Latin America and Africa) (Francophonie), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, Canada is raising serious concerns with the Cuban authorities regarding the recent crackdown on several dissidents.

    We believe that engagement is the real way to promote Canadian values and share our perspective on economic, social and political issues with Cuba. Canada has and will continue to have frank and honest discussions with Cuba regarding human rights concerns.

37th PARLIAMENT, 2nd Session

Mr. Benoît Sauvageau (Repentigny, BQ):

Mr. Speaker, Cuban dissidents have been taken before the courts and sentenced to lengthy prison terms following trials that some people have described as a farce. We know that the Minister of Foreign Affairs has already expressed Canada's great concern regarding this to the Cuban ambassador.

    Will the minister tell us what he intends to do to follow up on this troubling situation?


     Hon. Bill Graham (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, I asked the Cuban ambassador to meet with me. I also sent a letter to my Cuban counterpart expressing Canada's disappointment as well as our complete disapproval of the policies that led to these unreasonable and unacceptable sentences for journalists and others who work for freedom in Cuba. We will continue to remonstrate with the Cuban government in order to have this practice abolished.

37th PARLIAMENT, 1st Session

Mr. Svend Robinson (Burnaby--Douglas, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

    Earlier this month a Canadian businessman, James Sabzali, was the first foreign national to be convicted under the U.S. trading with the enemy act. His crime was selling water purification supplies for the people of Cuba.

    What action is the minister taking to strongly protest this outrageous attack by the United States on a Canadian citizen whose only crime was to obey Canadian law?

     Hon. Bill Graham (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I would like to assure the House that we take this matter very seriously. We are in contact with Mr. Sabzali's lawyers to make sure that we make all representations possible for the Government of Canada.

    I want to remind the House however, that this gentleman was convicted not only for activities which he conducted in Canada, but the majority of activities for which he was convicted were when he was in the United States and in the jurisdiction of United States laws and courts. This makes this case somewhat more complicated than other cases that we have had to face in the past. However, I want to assure the member and the House that we will follow it closely and give every aid we can to this Canadian citizen and his problem.

37th Parliament, 1st Session

Mr. Svend Robinson (Burnaby-Douglas, NDP): Mr. Speaker, Canadian citizens are entitled to be civilly disobedient if they are being ignored and if democracy is being trampled on.

The Prime Minister has also spoken about the summit being about human rights. Colombia has an appalling record of human rights violations, one of the worst in the world with murders, massacres and impunity.

If the Prime Minister is serious about human rights, why are countries like Colombia and Peru invited to this summit when the country of Cuba, with which we have an excellent trading relationship, is not being invited? Why is there a double standard?

Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, these governments have been elected. I want to be in a position to talk directly with them about respect for human rights. I want to tell them that respect for human rights is not about members of parliament encouraging people to use civil disobedience.

37th Parliament, 1st Session

Ms. Francine Lalonde (Mercier, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the minister allows them to operate, but he does not allow them to be there.

The Minister for International Trade justifies Cuba's exclusion by the fact that the FTAA would create a sort of close relationship between Canada and its various partners, different from that with China, for example.

How then are we to explain his agreeing to promote such a close relationship with Colombia, a country with more than 1,000 political assassinations a year and where human rights offences are no longer counted?

Hon. David Kilgour (Secretary of State (Latin America and Africa), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, once again, until now Vector's involvement concerns civilian planes. There are no helicopters for military purposes. So the same response applies.

37th Parliament, 1st Session

Mr. Peter Goldring (Edmonton Centre-East, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, 40 years ago Cuba aimed its missiles at North America. Canada and the United States together went on full military alert to deal with the crisis.

Forty years later, the United States has the technology to defend against the missile threat of rogue nations and wants to build a North American protective shield against these threats.

Will parliament be fully involved in the decision making process?

Hon. Art Eggleton (Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, yes.

37th PARLIAMENT, 2nd Session

     Mr. Stockwell Day (Okanagan-Coquihalla, Canadian Alliance):

Mr. Speaker, because of disarmament the world is witnessing a global realignment of nations, a new geopolitical divide.

    The Prime Minister's decision to not support UN resolution 1441 puts us in the camp of nations like Libya, Syria, Iran, communist China and Cuba, and not on the side of our historic allies like Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, the United States, Spain and the new democracies of the new Europe.

    Why does the Prime Minister think that the economic and strategic interests of Canada will be enhanced by clearly placing us on the wrong side of this new divide?

     Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, Canada is an independent country and Canada made a decision on behalf of all Canadians.

37th Parliament, 1st Session
EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 007 Tuesday, February 6, 2001

Mr. Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat, Canadian Alliance):

I am the foreign affairs critic for the Canadian Alliance. My job is to scrutinize the government's foreign policy and to offer suggestions on how it might be strengthened. We must do more than quit annoying the Americans and undermining our relationship. We must put greater effort and resources into building and improving that relationship. Why should we do that? We should do it because it is in the interests of Canada. Even a small percentage of increases in exports to the United States would result in thousands of new Canadian jobs.

However, the Prime Minister and the Department of Foreign Affairs would much rather talk about their elaborate efforts to promote trade with China and Cuba. This is a little more than ironic because Canada's exports to China have gone down by about $800 million since the first trade Canada mission a few years ago.

Meanwhile, our yearly trade with Cuba is $500 million dollars. We do more trade with the United States in half a day than we do with Cuba in the entire year. The United States, moreover, is not a notorious human rights abuser like both China and Cuba.

We need to do much better. First, we should start by forging much stronger relationships with the Bush administration, congress and senators. We also need a new initiative to get to know governors and legislators because they are often the first to raise issues which can sometimes become full blown trade disputes.

37th Parliament, 1st Session
EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 047 Tuesday, April 24, 2001

Mr. Steve Mahoney (Mississauga West, Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the minister who has shown tremendous leadership in taking Canada down an inevitable path that we must seriously explore.

Imagine our country having any kind of serious negotiations with 33 other countries and not having some form of protest. I cannot imagine it. It is what makes Canada the most democratic and freest country in the world.

There was much noise made by people who were opposed to free trade about the security fence that was put up around the perimeter. Imagine the scenario if that particular defensive action was not undertaken by our government.

I recall when some students in Vancouver, who broke through at the APEC conference, were pepper sprayed. That led to a multimillion dollar inquiry into how the RCMP behaved and acted. There were all kinds of legal fees, allegations, counterallegations and charges. It was because some students had broken through a fence, perhaps not the same kind of fence as in Quebec City, in a violent way to try to force their views on the security people. It was not tolerated and the actions led to an inquiry.



What would have happened in Quebec City? We know that some people were arrested because they were carrying explosive devices and potential means of destruction into the country. Those weapons were confiscated. We saw it on television. What would have happened if there was not the level of security and those people had come through and somehow managed to detonate an explosive device and perhaps seriously injure, maim or even kill some of the participants?

Every member opposite in the House would be on their feet screaming indignation, calling for the government to resign, calling for the people involved in security, the solicitor general and others to resign their seat because they were unable to provide the necessary security for an international meeting to take place.

Canadians would agree that the images we saw were not what we expect to see in a Canadian city at any given time. The reality is that we live in a world that is full of people who would purport to put their views forward using means that are unacceptable to the vast majority of Canadians.

I wish to speak about that vast majority in terms of the demonstrators. Most of the demonstrators were there to peacefully put their viewpoints across. They held a very successful people's summit. I take some exception with that, but that is all right. I do not have a problem with that.

They put their counterviews on the table and they discussed them. They passed resolutions and developed strategies. There were people from the labour movement who were concerned about labour standards. There were people from the civil society who were concerned about sovereignty, culture and protection of our natural resources. The government does not have a problem with any of those issues being put forward.

I would argue that the protesters drove the agenda with some success. I am not convinced that six months ago when the planning began for this conference the first and most significant clause to come out of Quebec City would have been the democracy clause. The engagement of the public has led the leaders of all those countries to decide that a common bond, a common principle of any agreement on free trade must include an adherence to the democratic principles that Canadians hold so dear.

What this means is elections. That is why Cuba was not invited or allowed to participate. Anyone who has been to Cuba would realize that the people, on the surface, seem to have everything that they need. They seem to have their health care and their education provided for. They seem to have certain basic things like food and shelter. However, in Cuba they do not have the most fundamental basic human right, that is the right to dissent, the right to demonstrate, the right to hold a differing opinion, and the right to express that opinion. It is clear that in terms of this agreement, with the democracy clause, that they simply cannot be part of that.

One of the issues that will be looked at is the situation in Haiti. There will be a group travelling to Port-au-Prince to meet with government officials to ensure that true democracy and not some kind of military dominance is in place in Haiti.

The countries that are signatories to this agreement, and I do not know of any other agreement where this kind of a clause has been put in place, will have the right to expel a particular country from membership and disallow it from taking part in the particular benefits of free trade if in fact it violates the democracy clause. What we see could only occur in Canada. We need to deal with the possibilities if we can.



The member for Burnaby-Douglas claims he was shot by a rubber bullet, although he is not sure, but he and the leader of the NDP want to force an inquiry. These are mere tactics in an attempt to derail and stop the progress of negotiating a free trade agreement.

Who would benefit if we were to expand our markets? This country has done remarkably well. Our next census will show our population to be somewhere around 31 million people. If we compare that to our neighbour to the south, which has 10 times our population and the clout and economic ability to trade, it is quite remarkable that our growth rate is higher than the United States, 2.4% versus 1.7%. Our inflation rate is lower, our unemployment rate is comparable and our economy is very strong on its own.

Could we do that if we were to shrink wrap our borders and shrink wrap this country? I do not think we could. However, should we be looking at other markets? Do we want to tie ourselves to the will of the United States when the economy does take a downturn or do we want to have alternatives?

We want to ensure that our sovereignty is protected. I have no doubt about that. Every member in this place would agree with that. We want to ensure that our natural resources and renewable resources are protected and, where feasible, are marketed where opportunities arise.

The intent of the motion put on the floor by the Bloc is to ensure that there is transparency in the negotiations. Many of the meetings were on television. The media had complete access and the people's summit had terrific input into the process that went on. The transparency is there.

The fact that we are on our feet today is another example of how parliament can play a role in shaping the future. We should work with the minister and the government to ensure that we negotiate a free trade agreement of the Americas that will not only benefit Canada but benefit many of the poorer countries that could use assistance in terms of science and technology, our exports, our expertise and our capabilities, and that could perhaps use some help in the area of democratization.

We are on the edge of a tremendous opportunity to expand the horizons of this country. Instead of dwelling on the negative, the demonstrators and the rock throwers, we should acknowledge the fact that there is healthy dissent. It is truly Canadian and the Canadian way to negotiate. This is an opportunity we should seize. We should move forward and develop an agreement with the Americas that makes sense for the prosperity of this entire hemisphere.

I am confident that with the leadership of the minister and the Prime Minister, and the work of all the people involved, we will indeed have an agreement for which our children will say well done.

37th Parliament, 1st Session
EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 003 Wednesday, January 31, 2001

Mr. Stockwell Day (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I rise to resume debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. (REMOVED NON-Cuba RELATED BLATHERING) The government over the past seven years seems to have taken more pleasure in tweaking the nose of our trading partner, whether by appearing to favour the Castro regime in Cuba or simplistically opposing the American position on various international treaties or most recently avoiding the discussion of a proposed continental anti-ballistic missile defence shield.

37th Parliament, 1st Session
EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 022 Tuesday, February 27, 2001

Mr. Randy White (Langley-Abbotsford, Canadian Alliance):

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-11. (NON-Cuba STUFF REMOVED) A fellow from Cuba came into our country a very short time ago. I was asked by parents to look into the situation because they had an underage child. I should say that the child used to be underage but both the Conservative and Liberal governments took it upon themselves at one time to change the age of consensual sex from 16 years to 14 years. This child, who is now legally able to have consensual sex is 15 years old and the fellow who is dealing is 32. The parents asked me to intervene, so I did.


We are not sure how he got into the country. Nobody was ever really sure. Once he found out that I was on the job on this particular issue, I knew what would happen. He was advised to apply for refugee status. Word gets out pretty fast to apply for refugee status and get into this morass that lasts forever and keeps a person in this country, so first of all I applied as an intervener at the refugee hearing.

He, at his discretion, tried to keep me out of the refugee hearing. I had to apply to the refugee board to get into the refugee hearing. I had to fight that battle. I won that. It is preposterous that a Canadian citizen cannot sit in a refugee hearing at his or her own discretion and that an individual applying for refugee status in Canada, regardless of whether he or she is a criminal or not, has the option to kick out a Canadian citizen. That is just preposterous.

I won the right to be in the hearing. In the refugee hearing, since I was allowed to be there, I was my own intervener. I am not a lawyer. I have only picked up the basics of this through self teaching. In the hearing I was passed a document-from the right source-that identified this fellow as being wanted by the FBI in the United States for trafficking. He was wanted in Nevada and California.

There he had a 15 year old child from Canada, the parents did not want him, we did not want him, he was trafficking and the Americans were after him. We found out that he had been living in the United States for four years, but at his own discretion when the heat was on in the United States he skipped across the border to Canada to say that he was applying for refugee status, solely to avoid the law in the United States, not as an applicant from Cuba, although that is what his application said.

I fought this in the refugee hearing. I asked what we were doing to ourselves and why did we not ship this fellow the next morning over to the States and let him pay his dues, but no. We had more than one refugee hearing. We were to have numerous refugee hearings on this guy. The parents were beside themselves, not quite understanding why it was that Canada was even entertaining a refugee hearing in the first place, much less a refugee hearing on an individual who had been living in the United States for four years.

As time went on we actually won the battle and the refugee board declared that he was not a genuine refugee. After the board did so, I said to the refugee board that the guy had better be put in holding because he was going to jump. No, the board did not want to do that because then his rights would have been violated. So the board told him he was not a refugee and what did he do? We do not know where he is today because he skipped, exactly as I told them he would and exactly the way it has happened countless times when I have fought these issues.

A person has to wonder what bright light comes on at the immigration and refugee hearings such that people will not listen to reason. I recently found out as late as last week that this person has absconded with the young girl. The parents are wondering why we even entertained the refugee hearing in the first place, much less not holding the guy once he was declared deportable.

What is wrong with that philosophy?

37th Parliament, 1st Session
EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 014 Thursday, February 15, 2001

Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca, Canadian Alliance):

Mr. Speaker, I have two questions for the minister. First, 400,000 Canadians every year travel to Cuba, yet Cuba has not been invited to the summit of the Americas. In the post-Castro era which will come in the not too distant future, the exclusion of Cuba from a free trade agreement with the Americas will only contribute to the continued poverty that exists in that country. Why has Cuba been excluded from the summit in Canada?

Second, will the minister present to her counterparts in cabinet that all free trade agreements and international treaties be put in front of the relevant standing committee before they are ratified by the government?

Hon. Maria Minna:

Mr. Speaker, as I said, Canada's position in the free trade discussions has been made public. The committee will have hearings. The committee will be discussing Canada's position. All members of the House are free to participate, both as witnesses or as participants around the table to intervene and ask questions of the witnesses. This is the parliamentary system. We have a committee process especially for that reason, so we can get into issues in a more in-depth sort of way.

I said that the Minister for International Trade has made Canada's position public, which is why it is being discussed widely, not only in the standing committee and in the House, but also across the country. At the same time he has asked his counterparts to agree to make all of their positions public as well. That has not happened yet and may not happen. However, with respect that is not something we have control over.

It is important that we as Canadians ensure that we protect the kinds of issues that we care about. This is why it is happening at committee, in the House and in the public forum as well.

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