Column

Canada—the guilt of having stolen goods

Ottawa responded to Helms-Burton like any Mafia gang faced with a determined district attorney. It used extortion.

Barbara Amiel April 14 1997
Column

Canada—the guilt of having stolen goods

Ottawa responded to Helms-Burton like any Mafia gang faced with a determined district attorney. It used extortion.

Barbara Amiel April 14 1997

Canada—the guilt of having stolen goods

Barbara Amiel

Column

I've had many fears over the years about what I consider to be the criminal policies of our various Ottawa elites, but I never expected our government would actually become a fencing operation for stolen goods. Alas, here we are. The United States recently banned some Canadians from crossing its border because their employer uses Cuban property stolen from Americans. Our government's response was to

encourage the thieves and hurl threats at the policemen. In Canada, the Ten Commandments are now revised to Nine, our government having officially opted out of “Thou shalt not steal.”

A short summary: after Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, he imposed a classic communist state, with theft, repression and terror. The best documentation is Armando Valladares’s prison memoirs,

Against All Hope, his account of 22 years in Castro’s gulag. Businesses were neither nationalized nor expropriated—processes which involve independent bodies establishing full and fair compensation. Castro just stole everything.

The United States delayed freezing Cuban assets in retaliation. This slowness was a windfall for our banks. Castro transferred Cuban deposits held in U.S. banks into Canadian banks, which had no qualms about Fidel’s acquisition methods. In a 1960 speech,

Castro praised the Soviet Union, talked about the “liquidation” of counterrevolutionary elements and explained that while he was “nationalizing” evil banks, he was exempting those nice Canadian ones.

Twenty years later, the Trudeau government signed a treaty with Havana that sold the private property rights of Canadian citizens for $850,000. That was the sum of money Cuba gave the Canadian government in

return for Ottawa promising it would not support any claims by its citizens for compensation. Canada, therefore, made it official that it did not mind if its citizens were robbed—at least not by a Marxist regime.

As justification, Canada hung its hat on the United Nations. The UN has had three phases: up to about 1960 it was, as sarcastically referred to by the Soviet Union, a “voting machine” for the United States. Phase Two reflected the UN coming under Soviet influence as well as that of the New Left. Phase Three, which we now see, is the post-Soviet period in which the UN and most Third World countries have decided to back the winning side and return to Western values.

It was during Phase Two, in the early 1970s when the Soviet Union’s influence was at its zenith, that the UN declared the customary international law of expropriation dead. It had no authority to do so and indeed, in almost all subsequent cases, courts have consistently ruled that states must pay full compensation.

But in those heady, stoned-out days, who cared about international law or about U.S. stolen property? Canadians spent money on

Ottawa responded to Helms-Burton like any Mafia gang faced with a determined district attorney. It used extortion.

cheap holidays—as they do now—enjoying Cuban beaches forbidden to Cuba’s ordinary citizens. When the Soviet Union was no more, however, Castro had to scramble for money. He hit upon the notion of fencing all the businesses he had stolen. He offered joint venture agreements to foreigners. He promised investors a real basket of goodies: there would be no restrictive environmental laws, no nasty unions to deal with, no collective bargaining. Indeed employers wouldn’t have to worry about social benefits at all because they would just tell the Cuban government how many workers they needed and pay the authorities. The government would decide on wages. Canadian companies were, in effect, using slave labor.

It was at this point that the Americans got angry. By now, the stolen properties of their citizens were worth more than $6 billion.

They passed the Helms-Burton Act which, contrary to most reports, does not prevent Canadians or any foreigner from doing business and investing in Cuba. It only applies to those making use of property that was specifically stolen from Americans. Ottawa responded to Helms-Burton like any Mafia gang faced with a determined district attorney. It resorted to extortion, passing legislation that punished any company or individual that stopped operating stolen assets because of Helms-Burton.

Meanwhile, indigenous feelings against Castro’s regime, though brutally suppressed for years, are surfacing as he ages. In a telephone news conference last week, four Cuban dissident leaders in Havana, including Vladimiro Roca, president of the Cuban Social Democratic Party, and Odilia Collazo, president of the Pro-Human Rights Party, spoke of the oppression and harassment that continues to face some Cubans and their children as well

some as as the vile conditions in that country’s prisons.

In the end, Canada may be seen not as Cuba’s best friend but as a collaborator with an evil regime. Canadian businessmen who do not have strong feelings about Castro, but see it as a prudent long-term decision to stop dealing in stolen property, face up to five years imprisonment by their own government. What is behind this madness? I suppose Canada has been under the influence of the 1960s longer than most of the world. Then there is the greed of some businessmen who are strip miners of the soul and immoral enough to believe that it’s a good deal to make money dealing with the crooks who robbed their fellow businessmen a generation ago.

Ottawa probably loves Helms-Burton: it’s a chance to throw sand in the face of the United States, which satisfies some peculiar neurosis of our political elites. Whatever the reason, the notion has been sold that Canada’s role as receivers of stolen goods is a leavening moral influence on Yankee greed and imperialism. If we buy this, then the suicide cultists who waited for a UFO to take them to a higher plane of existence are sane compared to us.