Other Diplomacies, Other Ties: Cuba and Canada in the Shadow of the US by Luis René Fernández Tabío, Cynthia Wright, and Lana Wylie, eds.

Published date01 December 2019
Date01 December 2019
DOI10.1177/0020702019894999
Luis Rene
´Ferna
´ndez Tabı
´o, Cynthia Wright, and Lana Wylie, eds.
Other Diplomacies, Other Ties: Cuba and Canada in the Shadow of the US
Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2018. 376 pp. $85.00 (cloth)
ISBN: 9-781-4426-5022-0
Reviewed by: Yvon Grenier (ygrenier@stfx.ca), St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish,
Nova Scotia, Canada
Books published in Canada about Canada–Cuba relations usually celebrate our
‘‘constructive engagement’’ with the island, wish we were more engaged at all levels
(maybe not the opposition), contextualize Cuba’s shortcomings in civil and polit-
ical rights, and compare us favourably to Americans. This book is no different,
though it promises a relatively new approach, examining Canada–Cuba relations
via the ‘‘diplomacy’’ conducted primarily by non-state actors. It can be read as a
companion to Cuba Solidarity in Canada: Five Decades of People-to-People Foreign
Relations, edited by John M. Kirk and Nino Pagliccia (Friesen Press, 2014). Here,
too, ‘‘people’’ are individuals or groups well-disposed toward post-1959 Cuba,
though Other Diplomacies: Cuba and Canada in the Shadow of the US is published
by a reputable university press and hints at a scholarly approach.
In their introduction, the editors contend that Canada should engage more fully
with Cuba (26) and refrain from pushing for ‘‘so-called Western-style liberal dem-
ocracy and human rights’’ (8). The last part of the book’s title—In the Shadow of
the US—is a
`propos since all publications on Canada–Cuba relations spend almost
as much time discussing Canada–US and Cuba–US relations. We are told that
Trump uses ‘‘reactionary Cold War rhetoric’’ and is ‘‘far more aggressive’’ in his
approach to Cuba than his predecessor. But ‘‘for all the differences, the Obama and
Trump administrations share similar policy aims’’ (9). Canada is also biased in
favour of Western-style liberal democracy, though Liberals have been more diplo-
matic about it than Conservatives, especially under Harper.
The book features three scholars from the island, including one of the three
editors (Luis Rene
´Ferna
´ndez Tabı
´o), who presents himself as having ‘‘published
widely’’ on Cuba–US relations and on Cuba, and the Canadian and US economies
(though none of his publications appear in the 30-pages-long bibliography). These
Cuban colleagues follow the party line scrupulously. As a matter of fact, so do
most of the Canadian contributors. The US embargo is called a ‘‘blockade’’ by the
editors, and we are told, absurdly, that the Cuban economy has ‘‘rebounded’’ from
the hardship of the 1990s to ‘‘become one of the most successful’’ economic leaders
in the region (24). This book could be published by official presses in Cuba with
very few editorial changes.
The chapter ‘‘Cuba–Canada relations under Stephen Harper: Missed opportu-
nities (again)’’ is pivotal in this collection. The authors, John M. Kirk and Peter
McKenna, are the deans (especially Kirk) of academic-activist work on Cuba–
Canada relations. They build on the platform presented in their book Canada–
Cuba Relations: The Other Good Neighbor Policy (University Press of Florida,
1997). For them, Canada has two options in its Cuba policy: to either adopt a
Book Reviews 623

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