Cuba in the 1960s Conference in Canada

Photo by Bill Hackwell

By Vicente Morin Aguado

HAVANA TIMES – Canadian university press announced an international conference at Dalhousie University in Halifax, focusing on the decade that saw the birth of the Cuban revolution. From October 31st until November 2nd, there will be very unique debates about our history, says professor John Kirk, one of the event’s organizers and author of several articles about Cuban affairs, as well as a renowned translator of figures linked to Fidel Castro.

HT: The ‘60s marked the building of the revolutionary project, the legitimacy of which has been lauded and questioned over so many years. Does the Canadian social sciences community deal with this?

JK: “Unlike US-Cuba relations, Canada-Cuba relations are normal. Canada is the island’s fourth most important trading partner; it is the greatest foreign investor in the Antilles (Sherritt International) and it is the most important source of tourism (1.3 million Canadians traveled to Cuba last year). In 1962, when all of the other countries in the Western hemisphere broke off relations with Cuba (under US pressure), only two – Mexico and Canada – maintained them.  Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau also visited Cuba in 1976, an unprecedent action for a NATO leader.”

HT: Your answer refers to state relations, is there anything else in regard to ideology, ideas?

JK: “Of course, there are great ideological differences (as you can see in Canada’s leadership of the Lima Group).  But, like the European Union, Canada prefers to analyze these differences, share concerns and keep an open dialogue with Cuba, on the whole.  And yes, Ottawa recognizes Diaz-Canel’s government to be Cuba’s legitimate government.”

HT: The event program reads “experts from Cuba, the UK, Latin America, Europe, the US and Canada, will take part in a series of panel discussions so as to assess the Cuban economy’s sucesses and challenges.”  Can we really talk about successes of the Cuban economy, in the past and present?

JK: “Yes, I believe we can talk about progress, especially in social matters.  For example, its infant mortality rate (even lower than the US’ own), universal and free healthcare, medicine prices… these are all important advances. There have also been significant, internationally renowned, advances in education.  And Cuban culture is exceptional: from Chucho Valdes’ jazz music to Acosta’s ballet company, from Fabelo’s art to Leonardo Padura’s literature. It’s not at all bad for a country of just 11.2 million inhabitants, that has been harrassed by its extremely powerful neighbor who has dedicated itself to bringing about a change in government…”

HT: In a democratic country such as Canada, what is the opinion about Cuban professors’ absolute inability to criticize freely in universities, to engage in an academic discussion that really questions the government’s work and its leaders?

JK: “I believe that professors in every university, have the obligation to carry out their research based on the truth.”

John Kirk

HT: The Cuban government is being represented at the conference by the Cuban Ambassador to Canada, an important diplomat, Josefina Vidal. Is this conference a vindication of the Revolution?

JK: “Ambassador Vidal is one of our forty speakers, but it is an academic congress, not a solidarity one. This is why researchers based in Europe, Latin America, the US, Canada and, of course, Cuba are taking part. There are even two key speeches by former US Ambassador to Cuba, Ambassador DeLaurentis, and the neurologist the Canadian government brought in to discover the cause of the so-called “Havana Syndrome”, which has affected Canadian diplomats. This isn’t a “vindication of the Revolution” in the slightest.

HT: The media mystery surrounding these sonic attacks will be the conference’s headliner, there’s no doubt about it. Can you give us a teaser?

JK: The only thing that I can say is that Dr. Alon Friedman, an innovative neuroscientist from Dalhousie University’s Brain Repair Center, will present his findings at the conference.

HT: We take our leave from professor John Kirk with his personal opinion about current events in our country:

JK: “This year not only marks 60 years of the Cuban Revolution, but is also a moment of historic change on the island: a change in leadership, a Constitutional reform and a complicated process of economic development. We believe that this is a good time to discuss the progress that Cuba has made in the past 60 years and maybe most importantly, to take a look at current developments.”

Readers interested can find direct information about the conference here

Vicente Morin Aguado: [email protected]