Canada can, and should, reject proposed Harper free trade deal with bloody Colombian regime.
Ottawa (23 June 2009) - The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is saddened to learn of the murders of two more trade unionists in the Arauca region of Colombia.
Pablo Rodríguez Garavito and Jorge Humberto Echaverri Garro, teachers with the Asociación de Educadores de Arauca (ASEDAR), were brutally murdered by unknown gunmen.
NUPGE joins other labour and human rights organizations, as well as ASEDAR, in condemning these murders and mourning the loss of these two leaders.
The ongoing murders highlight the unending human rights crisis taking place in Colombia.
Unfortunately, Canada is currently considering legislation to implement a Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) despite growing opposition to the deal because of human rights abuses in the South American country.
Human rights organizations have repeatedly condemned the Harper Conservative government in Ottawa for proceeding with the deal, despite the crisis that is unfolding without any intervention - if not the outright complicity - of the Colombian government.
Liberal opposition wavering
Until recently Canada's opposition Liberal Party appeared poised to support the deal. However, in the face of rising pressure to oppose the deal, the Liberals have shifted their position to demand an independent human rights assessment of the situation prior to a vote on the agreement. (Send a message to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff opposing the CCFTA.)
NUPGE president James Clancy, in a letter to Ignatieff, writes that it is "deeply inappropriate" for Canada to sign an agreement with the brutal Colombian regime of President Alvaro Uribe.
"I am asking that your party join with the New Democratic Party and Bloc Québécois in opposing this agreement," Clancy notes.
"I am sure, given your background in international human rights issues, that you appreciate the severity of the human rights crisis in Colombia. The scope and magnitude of the violence is deeply troubling and the suffering of the Colombian people immense," he says.
NUPGE participated in an international solidarity mission to Colombia during the summer of 2008. Leaders of four Canadian public sector unions met with a broad range of labour, aboriginal, Afro-Colombian, peasant and civil society organizations.
"The overwhelming opinion of these organizations was that free trade with Colombia will lead to worse human and labour rights abuses and further devastation of communities at risk," Clancy's letter says.
"These leaders reached the conclusion that a free trade agreement will not help the Colombian people. It will only exacerbate an already horrifying list of human and labour rights abuses that are shocking the world. It is deeply inappropriate for the Canadian government to ignore the pleas for assistance from some of the most persecuted and embattled people in the world," Clancy writes.
"Canada can, and should, play a leadership role in ensuring that a just and sustainable peace is achieved in Colombia. As an expert on international human rights I know that you appreciate the seriousness of this matter. I urge you and your party to oppose the proposed agreement."
With Parliament recessed for the summer it is expected that Bill C-23, to implement CCFTA, will be voted on in the fall. Opponents of the agreement are urging Canadians to keep up the pressure.
With the New Democratic Party and Bloc Québécois having announced that they will vote against the agreement the focus is on the Liberals to similarly take a stand.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE
NUPGE's Colombia Page