Canada-Colombia deal on parliamentary agenda | National Union of Public and General Employees

Canada-Colombia deal on parliamentary agenda

Opponents urged to lobby Liberal MPs amid growing concerns that the Official Opposition is poised to join the Harper Conservatives in supporting the deal. Sign Petition, Send Letters!

Ottawa (10 Sept. 2009) - Legislation to implement the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) (Bill C-23) may be the first order of business in the House of Commons when MPs return Monday after their summer recess.

Sources say the Harper minority government is determined to ram the CCFTA through and it now looks as though the Liberals may be ready to join them.

After wavering on the agreement earlier this year, and raising hopes they might oppose the deal, concerns are rising that the Liberals could reverse course and provide the critical support required for the misguided Conservative proposal to pass before a widely-anticipated fall election.

Last spring, after receiving thousands of e-mails and calls urging them to vote against the CCFTA, the Liberals showed signs they were ready to demand a  formal independent Human Rights Impact Assessment of the deal before allowing C-23 to proceed. This would have been in keeping with a motion passed by the Commons international trade committee.

However, following a fast and little-publicized trip to Colombia by Scott Brison, the party's international trade critic, and MP Bob Rae, the foreign affairs critic, the Liberals now appear to be backtracking.

'Extremely irresponsible'

Peter Julian, New Democratic Party critic for international trade, made an urgent appeal to fellow MPs to show respect for human rights by opposing the bill when second reading debate began on C-23.

"It is extremely irresponsible for Canada to sign a trade deal with a country that has the worst human rights situation in the Western Hemisphere and that is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a trade unionist," Julian argued.

"The Conservatives and Liberals need to make the respect of fundamental human rights a precondition of any trade deal."

This opinion is shared by the majority of Colombia's trade unions and civil society organizations. 

Big business

A declaration by the General Labor Confederation (CGT), the Confederation of Colombian Workers (CTC) and the Unified Central of Labor Unions (CUT) says the only beneficiaries of the agreement  will be "big monopolies such as Colombia Goldfields Ltd., B2Gold, Coldcorp Mining Inc. and the Frontier Pacific Mining Corporation." Neither Canadian nor Colombian citizens will benefit.

"The political, economic, social, cultural, ethical and environmental impacts will be catastrophic for a country like Colombia," the Colombian groups say.

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has been an outspoken critic of the Canada-Colombia free trade deal. The union was part of a delegation, representing Canada's top public sector unions, that visited Colombia last summer and met with key labour groups, including CUT.

The delegation warned following the discussions that the agreement would lead to worsening human and labour rights abuses and further devastation of Colombian communities.

*Our overwhelming conclusion is that a free trade agreement will not help the Colombian people," the group said in a joint statement at the time. "It will only exacerbate an already horrifying list of human and labour rights abuses that are shocking the world."

Keep pressure up

NUPGE, which has played a major role in mobilizing public opinion against the agreement, is urging all Canadians to continue lobbying all MPs on the issue, especially Liberal MPs.

An online e-mail form is available at the link below. Please use it to send a letter to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and to forward copies to key Liberal MPs.

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