Monday, April 06, 2009

The Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement - A licence to kill

I'm trying to imagine how well it would go down in Canada if we passed a law providing for a token fine to be paid - on a purely voluntary basis -whenever the government combined with Canadian corporations to murder union workers. Not too well I think.

So why are we again considering promoting this behavior from the over 20 Canadian mining and oil and gas operations already in Columbia, including Nexen, Enbridge, Petrominerales, Coalcorp and Vancouver's B2Gold?

In July 2007 Steve stood next to President Uribe of Colombia and proclaimed it would be "ridiculous" to refuse to enter a free trade agreement with Columbia based on the latter's abysmal human rights record - a record which is even worse in 2008 than it was in 2007.

In November 2008 Steve and Uribe shook hands on the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
Coincidentally this was the same month the world heard about high-ranking Colombian army officers involved in “false positives” - the execution and dressing up of civilians as FARC guerrillas and claiming they were killed in combat in order to collect a body count bonus.

On March 26, 2009, the Canada-Columbia Free Trade Agreement passed first reading in the House as Bill C-23.

Some notes from the excellent MAKING A BAD SITUATION WORSE -

Canadian Council for International Co-operation
Canadian Association of Labour Lawyers
Canadian Labour Congress
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

  • Extrajudicial executions by security forces : 2007 - 330; 2004 to 2006 - 220; 2003 - 130 ; 2002 - 100.

  • 270,675 people have been forced to flee from their homes in the first quarter of 2008 - the highest rate of internal displacement since 1987

  • 1,015 people have disappeared over the past year – more than four times the total for 2007 and a 1300% increase over 2005. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, members of the country’s armed forces are suspects in more than 90% of the cases it is investigating.

  • Fewer than 1% of Colombian workers enjoy the right to collective bargaining, hampered by the introduction of anti-union legislation
  • Over 60% of the more than 3 million internally displaced people in Colombia have been forced from their homes and lands in areas of mineral, agricultural or other economic importance.
  • As of October 2008, more than 60 parliamentarians – most of whom are part of President Uribe's governing coalition in Congress… were under formal or preliminary investigation for their suspected links to paramilitary groups..., several have either pleaded guilty or have been found guilty of association with paramilitary groups, electoral fraud, murder, and the organizing, arming and financing of paramilitary groups.”
In Feb. 2008, Daniel García-Peña, VP of the leftist opposition party in Colombia came to Canada and explained why a free trade agreement would be "very negative for Canada and Colombia." :
"Canadian companies would be attracted to Colombia for all the wrong reasons, namely to take advantage of the country's weak labour, human rights and environmental laws. Many companies will come to bypass the laws Canada has and take advantage of Colombian standards, which are much lower. In many ways [this could] promote the exploitation of workers."
Furthermore, Mr. García-Peña says, a trade deal could destroy the livelihoods of many small Colombian farmers by flooding the market with subsidized agricultural imports. "The small peasant farmer would be unable to compete with the cheap imports of food," he says. "[This] would wipe them out."
Those who would benefit, he says, are the large agro-businesses in Colombia that would buy up the land of destitute farmers for the production of biodiesel, palm oil and beef for export.
Worst of all, Mr. García-Peña adds, these large agro-businesses have ties to the paramilitary squads at the heart of the ongoing rights abuses and violence in the South American country."
Please join NDP MP Peter Julian in sending Michael Ignatieff a note asking him to do some credit to his former reputation as a human rights activist :
Top Ten Reasons Why Canada Should Cancel Harper's "Free Trade" Deal With Colombia.

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