Quebec wants to open a permanent office in Cuba
‘We have to seize moment,’ says International Relations Minister
By Ryan Hicks, CBC News Posted: Apr 18, 2016 5:00 AM ET Last Updated:
Apr 18, 2016 6:45 AM ET
Quebec wants to seize the opportunity presented by the thawing of
diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States to open a
permanent office in Havana.
“It would be a very concrete gesture to show our determination to
establish [a] sustainable and permanent relationship with Cuba,”
International Relations Minister Christine St-Pierre told CBC News in a
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An office in Havana would help Quebec businesses hoping to break into
the island nation’s economy and help develop relationships in education,
science and culture, St-Pierre said.
“Ideally, it would happen fairly quickly,” said the minister. However,
talks with Cuban authorities and the federal government need to take
place before the province can establish a firm presence.
First official visit last November
St-Pierre accelerated steps to solidify the relationship after her
official trip last November — the first by a Quebec international
She said realized Quebec needed to act quickly in order to take
advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to strengthen relations
with Cuba, only a three-and-a-half hour plane ride from Montreal.
Fifty countries were present at the trade fair in November, St-Pierre
said, and many had the same idea.
“The Chinese are there,” she said. “The Germans are there, and they
definitely want to do business with Cuba.”
After the mission, she expanded the responsibilities of Quebec’s mission
in Mexico to include Cuba, as a first step towards developing stronger
and more stable ties.
Quebec’s relationship with Cuba dates back to the 18th century, when
French-Canadian explorers first travelled to the island. Today,
Canadians make up a third of tourists in Cuba, with Quebecers making up
40 per cent of them.
Quebec already has 26 offices in 14 countries around the world. It
opened a mission opened in Dakar, Senegal on March 4.
Under the decades-old U.S. embargo of Cuba, American authorities have
the right to penalize foreign companies with U.S. business interests in
This has prevented some Quebec companies from entering the Cuban market.
However, the recent thaw in relations between the U.S. and Cuba is a
signal that the Americans may eventually lift the embargo. This is why
“Quebec [is] moving forward,” said St-Pierre.
Cuba’s human rights record
When it comes to Cuba’s record on human rights and freedom of speech,
the minister believes Quebec can help promote democratic values by
further developing its relationship with Cuba and its government.
“If you want to show what you are doing in your own country and the
protection of values, democracy, human rights, I think it’s the best way
to be with them and help them understand,” she said.
“They can see what we have in Canada. We have freedom of speech, and
it’s very, very important in a democracy.”
‘No-brainer,’ says Cuba expert
Quebec and Canada have a “natural advantage,” when it comes to
capitalizing on Cuba’s economic opening, says John Kirk, a Latin
American Studies professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, because
of the relationship both governments maintained with the country despite
However, he says, until now, Quebec and Canada have not taken full
advantage of that position.
“This is a no-brainer,” says the author and editor of 16 books on Cuba.
“While Ottawa has been asleep at the switch under Stephen Harper and has
frittered away its natural advantages, other countries have not,” he said.
“The government of Quebec is taking the lead, and I sincerely hope
people in Ottawa will take notice and do the same thing themselves.”
Source: Quebec wants to open a permanent office in Cuba – Montreal – CBC
News – www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/quebec-cuba-office-1.3538078