Each of these situations influences the ties that have traditionally shaped Canada-Cuban relations. Links between non-state actors in Canada and Cuba in areas such as the economy, education and tourism have been critical to the development and maintenance of relations. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has been providing attractive development assistance to Cuba since 1994. Much of it was « economic, » which was aimed at « modernizing the state. » Some have been used to support the launch of Canadian business projects with Cuban partners or to encourage Canadian exports. Some of the economic programs were the management of the microenterprise tax, business management, assistance with technical training and the acquisition of computers from the Central Bank, a programme to strengthen administration and professional economy within the Ministry of Economy and Planning and training/certification programs for craftsmen in certain basic industrial sectors. Several types of merchandise assistance were also offered. Much of the aid provided by NGOs has been directed towards activities at the community level. A small portion of the aid has been allocated to human rights and governance initiatives, including a pilot human rights fund project and a dialogue fund with several Canadian and Cuban partners. Relationship scholars and Cubans who agreed on Canada`s presence on the island did not notice much difference between the Harper and Trudeau governments, although Mr. Trudeau made a state visit to Cuba in November 2016, where he met with President Raul Castro and talked about trade, development assistance, food security, gender equality and climate change. The visit, considered a success by both Canadians and Cubans, was quickly overshadowed by the death of Fidel Castro only 10 days later.
Trudeau`s reaction to Castro`s death was controversial: the prime minister called Castro a « legendary revolutionary and speaker » and someone who made « significant improvements in the education and health care of his island state. » These three themes disrupt the long-held and important friendship between Canada and Cuba. While the withdrawal of a large portion of diplomatic personnel is certainly an important decision with significant implications for bilateral relations, it is important to distinguish between Canadian and U.S. positions.