Canada - Cuba Relations

Canada-Cuba relations can be traced back to the 18th century, when vessels from the Atlantic provinces of Canada traded codfish and beer for rum and sugar. Cuba was the first country in the Caribbean selected by Canada to locate a diplomatic mission and official diplomatic relations were established in 1945, when Emile Vaillancourt, a noted writer and historian, was designated Canada’s representative in Cuba. Canada and Mexico were the only two countries in the hemisphere not to break relations with Cuba in the years that followed the Cuban revolution in 1959.

Cuba is represented in Canada by an embassy in Ottawa and also has consulates in Montréal and Toronto.

Bilateral relations

Canada and Cuba enjoy a broad and diverse relationship built on a long history of mutually beneficial engagement, important and growing economic and commercial relations, and strong people-to-people ties across a wide range of sectors and interests. Canada’s approach is to engage with all elements of Cuban society - government, the business sector, non-governmental organizations and civil society at large.

Canada supports the process of economic modernization being undertaken by the Cuban government, with greater opportunities for the development of non-state economic activity and private initiatives. Building on our successful cooperation experience in areas of economic policy development and institutional strengthening, Canada will seek to support the Cuban government’s intention to implement a process of economic modernization.

Canada supports a future for Cuba that fully embraces the fundamental values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Canada has consistently recognized Cuba’s strong commitment to economic and social rights, with its particularly important achievements in the areas of education and health. At the same time, Canada has stressed the importance of basic civil and political rights, such as freedom of speech, association and the press.

Canada’s public advocacy programme in Cuba promotes greater understanding of Canada and Canadians, and of the Canadian model of a multicultural, democratic and innovative society. One of the most successful Canadian-inspired events in Cuba is the annual run in honour of Terry Fox, a cancer victim and national hero who undertook a run across Canada to raise awareness of the importance of cancer research. The Terry Fox Run in Cuba has become the largest in the world outside of Canada.

Knowledge of Canada, its history, geography, policies and programs, is also promoted through Canadian Studies Centres located in six universities across Cuba. Academic cooperation represents one of the most important aspects of the relationship between Canada and Cuba, with expanding networks of academics and researchers from both countries working together in a wide range of disciplines.

While the Canadian Embassy in Havana does not directly fund or facilitate cultural or interpersonal exchanges, cultural and interpersonal ties contribute to strengthening people-to-people relations between Canadians and Cubans. To learn more about promoting Canadian culture and funding Canadian cultural projects, please consult Canadian Heritage or the Canadian Council for the Arts. For additional information, read our cultural FAQs for Canadians interested in Cuba.

Cuba is the third most popular overseas destination for Canadians (after the United States and Mexico) and Canada is Cuba’s largest source of tourists, with over one million Canadians visiting annually (more 40 per cent of all visitors to Cuba).

Canada's international development program in Cuba is aligned with several of the priorities of the Government of Cuba, in particular increasing agricultural productivity and improving the efficient and accountable delivery of public services.

Canada and Cuba have a well-established, significant and growing commercial and investment relationship. Cuba is Canada’s top market in the Caribbean/Central American sub-region and bilateral merchandise trade between the two countries is over one billion dollars annually. Canadian companies have significant investments in mining, power, oil and gas, agri-food and tourism.

February 2013