Peter Julian Asks Canadians Help To Stop Colombia Free Trade Deal

Canadian Member of Parliament, Peter Julian, the NDP’s International Trade Critic is asking Canadians to help defeat a bill that would set up free trade deals with Colombia.
Earlier today Julian spoke to the house in Ottawa condemning the proposal which is is calling a “Bush-style free trade agreement”.

As journalist Michael Krachan reports:

“The Harper Government believes that the killing of trade unionists, peasants and activists by para-militaries in Colombia is just business as usual. The Uribe Colombian Government may have one of the worst human records in the world; the Harper government is pushing on with the support of Michael Ignatieff and has tabled Bill C-23, the enabling legislation of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement signed in December 2008.

This agreement should be rejected by Parliament.”

Julian told those in the House that he and the NDP is opposed to the blood that is on the agreement.

“Mr. Speaker, just last week Amnesty International condemned the Colombia authorities for abusing the country’s judicial system, “to undermine the legitimate work of human rights defenders”. More than a dozen human rights defenders and 46 trade unionists were killed by paramilitaries in 2008 alone. Double 2007. According to testimony received today at trade committee, thousands of paramilitaries with ties to the government are forcing poor peasants off the land and taking it over with the regime’s complicity. More than 1,500 peasants have been massacred so far by the Colombia military as so-called “false positives”; no less than the cold-blooded murder of innocent people. Incredibly, the Conservative government is pressing ahead with a Bush-style free trade agreement with the regime. What is more incredible is that the Leader of the Opposition is supporting this trampling of human rights in the name of powerful corporate interests. The NDP is standing on the side of millions of Canadians who oppose murder, torture and human rights abuses. We oppose the blood that is on this agreement.”

On the other side of this political coin is International Trade Minister Stockwell Day. He says that Canada needs to ratify a free trade pact with Colombia. Using the economic crisis and the fear of lost jobs Day pushed for the pact to be passed quickly.

The Winnipeg Free Press reports:

“If we don’t get parliamentary approval, opportunities will be lost for Canadians,” Day said.

“That will mean jobs can be threatened and especially at a time when we need to open doors, not close them, this would put Canadian producers and Canadian service providers and Canadian workers at a severe disadvantage.”

What is at stake is money. Lots of it. Last year alone Canada did $1.3 billion worth of two-way trade with Colombia, $2.5 billion with Peru.

While Day does note that Colombia has human rights violations he seems to think that there has been “considerable progress” made. That differs from what Amnesty International says about the paramilitary and security forces that are blamed for murdering and threatening human rights advocates and trade unionists.

“Failing to do so risks giving a green light to those who wish to attack them,” said Marcelo Pollack, from Amnesty International’s Americas Programme.

“The threats and killings that tragically marred last year’s marches must not be repeated. The legitimate right of everyone to peaceful protest must be guaranteed by the Colombian authorities,” said Marcelo Pollack.

The Bloc Quebecois is also opposed to the Colombia pact. That leaves the final decision up to the Liberals.

That may be a hard sell for the Conservatives as the Winnipeg Free Press quotes Liberal trade critic Scott Brison who has said he’s approaching the proposal with an open mind.

Still, he said it’s “completely hypocritical and inconsistent” for the Conservative government to make that argument with respect to Colombia, a relatively tiny trade market, when it has spurned doing business with China, the world’s largest market, over its violations of human rights.

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