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Canada’s foreign policy towards Cuba under the Harper administration : continuity or change?



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Canada’s Cuba policy has been an important aspect of Canadian foreign policy in the last five decades. Generally, during that period Canada’s Cuba policy has been different from the US policy. Canada's approach has been to engage with the island through bilateral relations instead of isolation and pressures. This Canadian strategy of engagement towards Cuba had its heyday during the Chrétien administration in the 1990s through the so-called policy of “constructive engagement”. The goal of this approach was to promote democratic change in Cuba's political system using cooperation instead of isolation. Nonetheless, under Harper the orientation of Canadian foreign policy in general, and consequently of Canada’s Cuba policy have evolved towards a different path. Under the Conservatives, Canada has attempted to improve its overall relations with the US through closer cooperation in the political and defense contexts at the international level, and to avoid frictions on conflicting issues that could affect the relationship. The main purpose of this shift is to secure the cardinal interests of the Canadian economic elite with its southern neighbor. Harper’s Cuba policy is in keeping with his general foreign policy orientation: to refrain from pursuing any initiative that implies even a minimal confrontation with Washington. Besides, Cuba’s “constructive engagement” belongs more to the so-called middle power approach or Liberal internationalist model of Canadian foreign policy, where Ottawa preferred to follow a more diplomatic strategy at the international stage. The Harper administration is involved in shifting that paradigm, and is not particularly interested in constructive engagement even though the policy has not been abandoned officially.



Canada, Cuba, Harper, United States, foreign policy, constructive engagement



Master of Arts (M.A.)


Political Studies


Political Science


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