October 26, 2005

SAFE FROM WHAT? (via obc):

11 members of Cuban choir defect in Toronto (CTV.ca News, 10/26/05)

Eleven members of Cuba's national choir have defected in Toronto.

The internationally acclaimed 40-member Coro Nacional de Cuba arrived in Canada last week.

The choir has its roots in an army choir founded in 1959 by Ernesto (Che) Guevara. They sing classical, folkloric and popular Cuban music.

The defectors reportedly dodged security officers and jumped into waiting cars after concerts in Toronto on Sunday and Monday.

"I'm told they're at a safe house in Toronto, with some help from a local church group," promoter Robert Missen told The Globe and Mail.

How can you give political asylum to people from a country with which you have such good relations?

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 26, 2005 9:57 AM

At least they didn't give up free health care.

Posted by: tefta at October 26, 2005 10:24 AM

File under: "Let freedom sing," etc.

More importantly, shouldn't this blog be holding a "When'll Canada give 'em back" pool?

(Just another excuse to get rid of books...)

Posted by: Barry Meislin at October 26, 2005 11:09 AM

Canada has excellent relations with Cuba according to Wikipedia. Castro was one of the pall bearers at Trudeau's funeral.

How can Canada grant asylum from what many canadians apparently believe to be a socialist paradise?

Posted by: Gideon at October 26, 2005 4:25 PM

Why don't the Republicans ever get some of these guys and give them a microphone or invite them to speak on the Senate floor? It's doubly annoying when we get to hear Elian Gonzales tell us how wonderful Cuba is on the news magazine shows.

Posted by: Matt C at October 26, 2005 5:31 PM

I would expect that this will mean that Cuba won't take the risk of participating in the Baseball World Cup (or whatever it's called) next year.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 26, 2005 6:04 PM

According to Foreign Affairs Canada, these are the key issues in Canadian/Cuban relations:

* Tourism:

Cuba is the fifth most popular overseas destination for Canadians (after the United States, Mexico, United Kingdom and France). In 2003, approximately 494,000 Canadian tourists visited Cuba. There were approximately 125 flights from Canada to Cuba per week during high season. For more information on visiting Cuba.

* Human Rights:

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 urged Cuban authorities to achieve similar progress with respect to basic civil and political rights, such as freedom of speech, association and the press.

Canada’s Foreign Minister Graham has expressed deep concern and has strongly protested to Cuban authorities the incarceration and harsh sentencing of 75 Cuban dissidents, which took place in March and April 2003. Senior government officials have directly raised concerns about the health and prison conditions of the "75" at bilateral meetings with senior Cuban officials. Given the peaceful nature of the dissidents’ activities, Canada’s position is that the severe restrictions on freedom of expression cannot be justified on the grounds of national security. The Canadian government has therefore requested the release of the imprisoned dissidents, with immediate consideration for those in poor health.

Canada co-sponsored a resolution on Cuba’s human rights situation for the thirteenth consecutive year at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in April 2004. In May 2003, Canada, Uruguay and Chile jointly presented a statement on Cuba’s human rights situation to the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS). The statement was supported by seventeen of thirty-four permanent members of the OAS.

* Public Affairs in Cuba:

Canada’s public affairs programme in Cuba promotes greater understanding of Canada and Canadians and their ideals of a multicultural, democratic, caring, innovative society. One of the most successful Canadian-inspired events in Cuba has been an annual Run in honour of Terry Fox, a national hero who ran across Canada for cancer research. The 7th Annual Terry Fox Run attracted over one million participants across the island in February 2004, making it the largest in the world outside of Canada. Knowledge of Canadian culture and history is also promoted through Canadian Studies programmes at four Cuban Universities. Canada hosts a "Speakers Program", bringing Canadian academics to Cuba to discuss topics including multiculturalism and the Canadian economy. The history and diversity of Canada-Cuba relations was recently explored in a photographic exhibited entitled "Cuba-Canada: One Hundred Years in View."

Posted by: David Cohen at October 27, 2005 12:06 AM

So it seems that Cuba would make a fine replacement 10th province when Alberta finally takes a hike.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 27, 2005 1:25 AM

Seems there's a problem when more than a quarter of a number will leave their life behind to leave their country.

Posted by: RC at October 27, 2005 2:36 AM