Satisfaction expressed concerning the policy direction pursued by the Canadian government with Cuba

Thursday, March 26 1998

The Honourable Lloyd Axworthy
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
Room 418, North Building
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Dear Mr. Axworthy:

On behalf of the Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs I would like to let you know of our support for the position of the Cuban Conference of Bishops which recently reiterated the Holy Father’s denunciation of “oppressive economic measures — unjust and ethically unacceptable — imposed from outside the country.”

The Holy Father also urged the international community to come to the aid of the Cuban people: “In our day, no nation can live in isolation. The Cuban people therefore cannot be denied the contacts with other peoples necessary for economic, social and cultural development, especially when the imposed isolation strikes the population indiscriminately, making it ever more difficult for the weakest to enjoy the bare essentials of decent living, things such as food, health and education. All can and should take practical steps to bring about changes in this regard.” (Departure address, Havana, January 25, 1998)

We have followed with great satisfaction the policy direction pursued by the Canadian government in this regard. For many years and despite external pressure, Canada has maintained and continues to maintain diplomatic, cultural and economic links with Cuba. Thanks to its efforts to counter the isolation of the Cuban people, the Canadian government has managed to build a relationship with Cuban authorities that is based on mutual respect and trust. The fact that a number of political prisoners were released following the papal visit is a very encouraging sign; this was an initiative with which the Government of Canada collaborated through its ambassador in Havana.

While clearly there is a long road ahead, particularly with respect to human rights and democratic freedoms, we urge the Government of Canada to pursue constructive exchanges with all levels of Cuban society.

Yours sincerely,

+François Thibodeau, CJM
Bishop of Edmundston
Chairman of the Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops