The invasion of Grenada by a 7,000-strong U.S. military force on Oct. 25,1983, wrought more far-reaching changes in the Western Hemisphere than simply stamping out a leftist power play in the south Caribbean island. The U.S. intervention, conducted with the co-operation of six neighboring island states, marked a turning point for the former British West Indies and signalled a shift in hemispheric affairs, including the disruption of a long-standing “special relationship” between Canada, which was not consulted, and its Commonwealth partners in the Caribbean.
The Grenada episode extended the role of the United States as regional political policeman to encompass former British colonies, which once had turned to Britain in times of trouble and often to Canada in time of need.
This week, 16 months after the Grenada invasion, leaders of the Caribbean Commonwealth countries and Canada were convening in Kingston, Jamaica, for the latest in an intermittent series of meetings initiated in 1966 by Canada. But the Grenada precedent was not on the agenda of the two-day Kingston assembly. Canadian officials said before the meeting that Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, for
one, did not wish to re-
open a debate that had strained the Canada-Caribbean connection.
At the time of the invasion, some of Grenada’s neighboring governments, including Jamaica and Barbados, welcomed U.S. involvement—indeed, invited it. Others, including Canada, Belize and the Bahamas, questioned its legality and its implicit establishment of U.S. primacy. At an emergency meeting of the Organization of American States in Washington the day after the invasion, Ian Jacobs, the Grenadan delegate,said, “Ask yourselves: who is next that the United States does not like?” Former prime minister Pierre Trudeau voiced regret that participants in the Grenada intervention had failed to inform Cana-
da, let alone consult Ottawa, in advance. Trudeau questioned the future of Canada’s Caribbean connection at a Commonwealth meeting in New Delhi a month after the invasion.
But now, said an Ottawa spokesman, the Mulroney government wants “to move forward and not open old sores by looking back.” Mulroney, on his second foreign trip as Prime Minister, carried the message that Canada’s special interest in the former British colonies of the Caribbean will continue. While providing the area with more government aid than any other region of comparable population—$43 million last year and a projected $53 million this year from the Canadian International Development Agency alone —Canadians are key Caribbean investors and employers in minerals, milling and banking.
For the meeting’s host, Boston-born Prime Minister Edward Seaga, 54, the summit was an opportunity to seek more help in repairing Jamaica’s troubled economy to offset an austerity program that provoked riots in January. Seaga underlined the seriousness of the meeting by convening it in his austeritystricken capital instead of at a sunny Jamaican resort centre. But before getting to economic questions, the agenda for the closed sessions ranged over global—and regional—political questions.
Mulroney’s determination to skirt the touchiest regional issue—the divisive legacy of Grenada in U.S.-Canada-Caribbean relations—is based partly on his belief that he has already begun to repair one side of the triangle by reinforcing relations with Washington. On the other side, accentuating the positive in Kingston should help restore relations with the West Indies. “The phone didn’t ring when Grenada was invaded,” said a Mulroney spokesman. “If there is ever another similar occurrence, we expect to get several calls—from the United States and others.”
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