Bringing satire to foreign policy, two lawmakers introduced a parody of the controversial Helms-Burton bill on Tuesday in the latest show of Canadian disdain for U.S. efforts to deter foreign investment in Cuba.
The bill mockingly suggests Canadians deserve compensation for lands seized from their Tory ancestors during the American Revolution. But the legislation is no joke, and neither is the anger behind it.
Canada is Cuba’s biggest trading partner, active in sectors ranging from tourism to mining to beer-brewing. It is deeply annoyed by Washington’s efforts to sway its diplomatic policies or curb lucrative trade practices.
Under the Helms-Burton act, Cuban-born naturalized U.S. citizens whose property was confiscated after the 1959 communist revolution can sue foreign businesses that now use those properties.
The bill is designed to discourage foreign firms from doing business with Cuba. For example, a Canadian firm doing business with a Cuban sugar refinery could face a lawsuit from the family that owned the refinery before it was seized by Fidel Castro’s government.
The satiric Godfrey-Milliken bill says the 3 million Canadian descendants of 80,000 uprooted loyalists have as much of a right to compensation.
The bill “is one expression of growing resentment toward the U.S. and its view of itself as the ‘moral conscience’ for all nations,” said the co-sponsors, John Godfrey and Peter Milliken of the governing Liberal Party.
More than 100 Canadians have contacted the lawmakers to inquire about claiming compensation. Godfrey says he plans to press for return of his family’s ancestral home in Carter’s Grove, Va., while Milliken says he would claim property in the Mohawk Valley of New York.
While both see the humor in the bill - and neither expects to actually claim U.S. property - they are deadly serious about making a point about what they see as outrageous U.S. policy.
Canada also has threatened to complain formally that Helms-Burton is a violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, though it is waiting to see whether President Clinton, if re-elected, opts to waive some of the bill’s provisions.