Cuban cargo ships in Canada's ports are the most visible sign of an unbroken, 20-year-old Cuban-Canadian trade connection. One link in this chain stopped here recently when Cuba's Japanese-built sugar carrier, the 26 de Julio, was unloading sugar at Redpath Industries' Toronto sugar terminal.
In fact, a steady flow of Canadian dollars for Cuban products, unhampered by the recent refugee crisis, is needed more than ever by Cuban President Fidel Castro's struggling economy.
The raw sugar cargo of the 26 de Julio, which has a revolutionary slogan painted on her funnel showing a sturdy arm with a machete raised to cut sugar cane, also helps satisfy the sweet tooth of the Canadian consumer, who relies on the country's small handful of busy sugar refineries like Redpath for its refined sugar products.
Another source of President Castro's Canadian dollars is the eight-year-long flow of Canadian tourists to Cuba. since 1972, perhaps 25,000 Canadians have made the one-week package tour to Havana, looking for the "thrill" of a Caribbean holiday in a communist society. They have left behind an estimated $ 25 million.
Sugar, tourism, and the country's recently expoited superb seafood products bring Cuba some of the millions of dollars needed to buy Canadian equipment and technical expertise.
Some of this trade is based on the US industrial and engineering designs that have been denied Cuba since the American blockade, which began in 1961 and has continued for 19 years without a break.
These have included new diesel locomotives for the Cuban State Railways (with their engines made in Canada under US patents) and food processing machinery like cream separators, along with farm chemicals.