Stop the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement
On March 26, the Canadian federal government tabled the text of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement and introduced implementing legislation in Parliament.
From this date, deputies dispose of 21 days to debate its ratification…which means 21 days to convince them not to approve it!
On November 21, 2008, in Lima, Peru, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez signed a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries. The agreement now must be passed before their respective assemblies in order to be ratified before being implemented.
The Harper government has not yet submitted the FTA to the House of Commons. It's still possible to stop the agreement!
Already, throughout the negotiation process, which took place from July 2007 to June 2008, the Conservative Government ignored numerous calls to halt the process, considering the disastrous human rights situation in Colombia and dangers that the FTA could aggravate the situation. For example, negotiations were finished before the Canadian government's Permanent Committee on International Trade submitted its report and recommendations. This report demands the Harper government to postpone signing the FTA with Colombia until the human rights situation in Colombia has substantially improved 1.
The human rights track record of President Uribe is simply disastrous. Despite the president's denial of the ongoing armed conflict in Colombia, the conflict continues to victimize civilians. In 2007, at least 1,400 civilians were killed and at least 305,000 people were displaced. Around 270,000 people were forcibly displaced during the first semester of 2008, which is an increase by 41% of the same period in 2007. At least 40 unionists were killed during the first 8 months of 2008, more than the total number of victims in 2007 [[Source: Amnesty International, Colombia. "Leave us in peace!", Civilian Targets in the Internal Armed Conflict. Facts and Figures, October 28, 2008. http://www.amnesty.org/fr/for-media/press-releases/colombia-leave-us-pea...
]]. The fundamental oversights in the 'demobilization' process of paramilitary groups initiated by the Uribe government has permited these groups to continue their actions in total impunity.
Practicing political accompaniment with peasant communities displaced from their territory by the paramilitary structures of the Colombian state, our organization, the Colombia Accompaniment and Solidarity Project (PASC), has always opposed the FTA's negotiation, which will cause the multiplication of forced displacements of populations such as those precipitated by Canadian mining companies in a country that counts already three million internal refugees [[A large part of Canadian investment in Colombia is and will be in the extractive industries. 75% of human rights violations and forced displacements happen in regions of the country where extractive industries are active.
]]. Now that the FTA, negotiated in secret, has recently been passed, we are very concerned by the support Canada is giving to the Uribe government that allows paramilitaries to re-establish control of the land in total impunity, and instead publicly denounces national and international organizations that work to promote human rights 2.
The renewed outbreak of the strategy of eliminating the opposition is tangible on the ground. The Justicia y Paz Commission, with whom we carry out our accompaniment in displaced communities in Lower Atrato, Choco, received direct threats. Their accompaniers on the ground have all received death threats on their personal cell phones and one of them was detained by paramilitaries.
The Canadian government and Canadian companies are also responsible for the situation in Colombia. As Canadian citizens, it is troubling to note that our government supports and interacts with a government that has been denounced internationally for its violations of human rights, particularly towards indigenous populations. It is equally revolting to know that Canadian companies, notably in the mining sector, invest in projects in Colombia that have devastating social and environmental impacts.
We demand the Canadian government acts so that President Uribe puts an end to the violence. We demand equally that the Harper government revisits its position on the Free Trade Agreement with Colombia.
Demand that your deputy:
- Re-open the debate on the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement in the House of Commons;
- Vote against the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, considering the grave situation of human rights violations and the absence of will of the Uribe government to improve the situation;
- Demand actively that the Harper government put pressure on the Colombian government to break it's ties with the paramilitaries and their structures.
Attached is a model letter that you can send to your deputy (either as an organization or as an individual). Letter to your deputy - Stop the FTA
Find your deputy by clicking here:
- See also: Making a bad situation worse :
- Human Rights, the Environment, and the Free Trade Agreement with Colombia. Permanent Committee on International Trade. June 2008.
- For example, you can see the joint declaration of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, "Colombia: stop false accusations against human rights groups". November 19, 2008. found at this address: http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/11/19/colombia-stop-false-accusations-ag...