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Canada-Colombia FTA removed from legislative agenda: Canada steps towards dignity

May 27, 2009 A joint statement from the La Chiva Collective, Pueblos en Camino, and Mingas-FTA Public pressure has forced a victory in the fight to stop the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA). Sources from Canada’s three opposition parties have confirmed that the ruling Conservative Party has removed Bill C-23, implementing legislation for the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, from the government’s current legislative agenda. The CCFTA has not been defeated: at this time, it appears to lack the political support needed to be rushed through the Canadian parliament as proponents had intended. With the high level of controversy and public doubt surrounding the motives and consequences of the CCFTA, it may not re-enter parliamentary debate until the Fall of 2009. What this means is not that the struggle against the CCFTA is over but that Canadians are having their say and getting in the way of Prime Minister Harper’s reckless trade agenda. As a result of a negative public reaction to the deal, the Liberal Party of Canada, which had made statements in favour of the controversial agreement, has become internally divided on the issue, with many members now insisting on an Independent Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) before Bill C-23 were to be ratified in the Canadian parliament. Recognizing the Liberals’ reluctance on this issue, the minority Conservative government appears to have gotten ‘cold feet’ in extending their support for a regime that inflicts daily terror on its own people with impunity and affirming a deal that would 'make a bad situation worse' in Colombia. An immense effort has been building from diverse sectors across North America and Colombia over the past several weeks. With countless letters and phone calls to Liberal MPs, participation in numerous rallies across the country, and the signing of petitions urging a halt to the CCFTA, the Canadian public has found its voice. This has been complemented with a strong and effective lobby effort by labour, human rights and citizens' advocacy organizations and numerous opposition parliamentarians who have strongly opposed this bill. It is clear that many Canadians are trying to move towards their country having a more dignified role in the world. These Canadians are saying they stand up for human rights and oppose the kind of economic model represented by agreements like the CCFTA, which serve to protect the rights of transnational corporations and disregard the rights of communities, workers and average citizens. It is not trade that is opposed, but this particular brand of so-called ‘free trade’ that continues to be negotiated behind closed doors, imposed in the interests of a few and caused the ruin of our communities and economies. Canadians have stood beside their Colombian counterparts because this so-called ‘free trade’ is damaging to all of us, even if there were no human rights abuses in Colombia. This is a bad deal for Colombia and for Canada, but it is also an opportunity to stop being taken in the wrong direction and to make our own decisions based on what is good for us, our communities and our environment, rather than letting those who work for profit and greed continue to decide against us. The Conservatives pulled this legislation off the table because they value their political survival more than the CCFTA. Many are also watching policy developments in the United States on this and other trade-related issues. Still, the CCFTA remains a danger, and Canadians must continue to be vigilant. No politicians, certainly not the Conservatives or Liberals, will do the right thing without pressure, and the government may yet try to get it passed under the table. We must not now turn to silence. On June 8, President Uribe is coming to Montreal. The Harper Government is more than willing to turn Canadian dignity into shame, and the Liberals have made statements in favour of the government’s interests. We stand with the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP, who have listened to the people. We will continue to say: NO to Uribe’s presence in Canada! NO to an FTA with the criminal regime! YES to building relations of the peoples based on solidarity and dignity! -30- La Chiva: Pueblos en Camino: Mingas-FTA: