Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act

An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Colombia

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.

Sponsor

Stockwell Day  Conservative

Status

Second reading (House), as of Nov. 17, 2009
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment implements the Free Trade Agreement and the related agreements on the environment and labour cooperation entered into between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and signed at Lima, Peru on November 21, 2008.

The general provisions of the enactment specify that no recourse may be taken on the basis of the provisions of Part 1 of the enactment or any order made under that Part, or the provisions of the Free Trade Agreement or the related agreements themselves, without the consent of the Attorney General of Canada.

Part 1 of the enactment approves the Free Trade Agreement and the related agreements and provides for the payment by Canada of its share of the expenditures associated with the operation of the institutional aspects of the Free Trade Agreement and the power of the Governor in Council to make orders for carrying out the provisions of the enactment.

Part 2 of the enactment amends existing laws in order to bring them into conformity with Canada’s obligations under the Free Trade Agreement and the related agreement on labour cooperation.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

  • Oct. 7, 2009 Failed That the amendment be amended by adding after the word “matter” the following: “, including having heard vocal opposition to the accord from human rights organizations”.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

November 17th, 2009 / 10:15 a.m.
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NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-23 and I, along with my NDP colleagues, am proud to speak in opposition to the bill.

The bill is about free trade with a government that refuses to recognize human rights and a government that is complicit in human rights violations. The bill is also about free trade with a government that refuses to recognize the need to protect our planet and our environment, and that is complicit in taking our environmental resources for granted.

Canada signed a free trade agreement on November 21, 2008 and the legislation we are debating today is a result of that agreement and would implement the agreement signed between our two countries.

Even though the agreement is signed, it is not too late, which is why we are taking turns standing in the House to talk about the problems with this agreement. We are trying to wake the government up to the fact that this is a very bad deal. It is bad for Canada and it is bad for Colombia.

On May 25, the Bloc Québécois moved an important amendment to Bill C-23 which I believe is important enough to reread in this honourable House. The amendment reads:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:

“the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-23, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, because the government concluded this agreement while the Standing Committee on International Trade was considering the matter, thereby demonstrating its disrespect for democratic institutions”.

That is a very important and precisely worded amendment. The amendment is important because it restates the purpose of the bill to say that, in fact, members of this House would refuse to give second reading to this bill. We refuse to give second reading because it is not a bill that is good for Canada and it is not a bill that is good for Colombia.

I have previously stated in the House some of the most egregious aspects of this FTA. As we know, the CCFTA consists of three parts. There is the main FTA text but there is also a labour side agreement and an environmental protection side agreement.

The areas of concern are as follows: First, this agreement shows a failure on labour rights protection. Colombia is one of the most dangerous countries on earth for trade unionists. They are regularly the victims of violence, intimidation and even assassination by paramilitary groups linked to the Colombian government.

The CCFTA does not include tough labour standards. By putting these labour agreements, as I said, in a side agreement outside of the main text and without any kind of vigorous enforcement mechanism will not encourage Colombia to improve its horrendous human rights situation for workers but will actually justify the use of violence.

This agreement is also a failure on environmental protection. The environment issue again is addressed in a side agreement and there is no enforcement. Anybody who has ever looked at law, legislation or policy knows that if there is no enforcement it is meaningless. There is no enforcement mechanism here to force either Canada or Colombia to respect environmental rights.

We have seen in the past how agreements like this are unenforceable. For example, I will draw attention to one agreement we all know and that is NAFTA. We have never seen a successful suit brought under the NAFTA side agreement on labour.

Another aspect of the agreement that is problematic is the investor chapter copied from NAFTA's chapter 11 investor rights. The CCFTA provides powerful rights to private companies to sue governments, enforceable through investor state arbitration panels. This is particularly worrying because of the many multinational Canadian oil and mining companies in Colombia.

The arbitration system that is set up in chapter 11 gives foreign companies the ability to challenge legitimate Canadian environmental labour and social protections. Giving this opportunity to private businesses in Colombia and elsewhere would further erode Canada and Colombia's abilities to pass laws and regulations that are actually in the public interest.

Another area that we find problematic is the agricultural tariffs. Colombia's poverty is directly linked to agricultural development where 22% of employment is agricultural. An end to tariffs on Canadian cereals, pork and beef would flood the market with cheap products. What would this mean? This would mean thousands of lost jobs for Canadians.

Bill C-23 would also seriously destabilize the Canadian sugar industry. Importing sugar from Colombia would threaten the closure of at least one of the Canadian sugar plants in the west and would result in job losses of up to 500 employees and 250 sugar beet growers; all this while at the same time Colombia is not a significant trading partner for Canada. It is our fifth largest trading partner in Latin America; all this while at the same time 2,690 trade unionists have been murdered in Colombia since 1986 and 31 trade unionists alone this year; and all this when nearly 200,000 hectares of natural forest are lost in Colombia every year due to agriculture, logging, mining, energy development and construction, and we are complicit in this.

Free trade does not work in this context. What is the solution?

I would like to share with the House an idea that is familiar to many Nova Scotians and that is fair trade. Just Us! Coffee Roasters Co-Op really brought this idea of fair trade to Nova Scotia. Fair trade is a trading partnership based on dialogue, transparency and respect that seeks greater equality in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to and securing the rights of marginalized producers and workers, especially in the south.

Fair trade organizations that are backed by consumers are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for change, change in the rules and practices of conventional international trade, which is what we are seeing with this agreement.

The strategic intent of fair trade is threefold. First, deliberately work with marginalized producers and workers in order to help them move from a position of vulnerability to one of security and economic self-sufficiency. Second, empower producers and workers as stakeholders in their own organizations. Third, actively play a wider role in the global arena to achieve greater equality and equity in international trade.

To put it more simply, fair trade is an alliance between producers and consumers that cuts out the middle man. In this process, it empowers producers and it gives them greater dignity and a fairer price for their products. It provides consumers with high quality products that they know are more sustainable from both a social and environmental point of view.

Just Us! Coffee Roasters is Canada's first fair trade coffee roaster and it is located in the town of Wolfville, Nova Scotia. There are two Just Us! Coffee Roasters shops in my riding of Halifax, one on Barrington Street, which is in the heart of our business district, and the other one on Spring Garden Road, which is very close to the campus of Dalhousie University.

Both those coffee shops are touchstones for our community. They are not only a place to meet friends, a place to buy ethical products and a part of our local economy, but they are also doing more to support our local economy. They offer food prepared by local food suppliers, like Terroir Local Source Catering and Unique Asian Catering, which are small businesses located in the community of Halifax.

I applaud Just Us! Coffee Roasters for leading by example and for showing the country that fair trade is possible. It is my hope that the bill fails and that, instead of rewarding countries that fail to recognize human rights, we work with them to develop trade in a fair and equitable way.

Those are the reasons that I stand in opposition to Bill C-23.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

November 17th, 2009 / 10:25 a.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her very good speech and offer some solutions to our trade policy.

I would like to ask her a question with regard to the ideological slant of the Conservatives who are pursuing this. They often talk about how tough they are on crime and how tough they are on drugs and that whole agenda here in Canada, but at the same time they are willing to open up our borders for a privileged trading relationship.

What we really need to emphasize is that we do have trade with Colombia right now. It does go on between our two countries and will always go on with regard to a number of different goods and services. However, what we are doing is considering a privileged trading relationship that is the exception. This is with a narco state that has not only human rights issues with trade unionists but also drug production that ends up in Canada.

Does the member know why the Conservatives, who pretend to be so tough on crime and drugs, would want to engage in a privileged trading relationship with such a narco state?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

November 17th, 2009 / 10:25 a.m.
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NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, that is an excellent and very insightful question about bringing down the crime control issue with international trade.

It is all smoke and mirrors. We are tough on crime and free trade is good for everybody. If we say it often enough, it does not make it true.

I worked with a young man in my community of Halifax who said to me, “My dad sold rock and my uncle sold rock. What am I supposed to do? All I know how to do is sell drugs on the street corner. I don't know how to make a resumé. I don't know how to show up on time for work and communicate appropriately with my boss. We need programs to help me understand how to get a job but also how to keep a job”. We are not listening to the experts, the experts being the kids on the street who need assistance.

I will point out that our international trade critic has worked directly with people in Colombia and has asked them what they think of this free trade agreement. The experts, the people on the ground, are saying that trade unionists are being killed on the shop room floor and that the agreement is bad for their environment and their country.

The problem is that we have a government that refuses to listen to the real experts, the experts who are actually being impacted by the laws that we are arbitrarily drafting in some back room in the House of Commons. It makes no sense. We need to talk to Colombians about what they need. We need to talk about youth on the street who are at risk to find out what they need. That is how we should move forward on both of these issues.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

November 17th, 2009 / 10:30 a.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague from Halifax gave her usual ground level speech about an initiative in the House. I wonder if the member could speak to another side of this proposed so-called free trade agreement, a free trade agreement that is free of any conditions to protect the environments of Canadians or Colombians.

Every time we raise concerns about the government's failure to act on environmental protection measures and climate change, it speaks of balance, and yet this agreement and the side agreement on the environment has severely pared back any environmental conditions as found in the agreement that we have with Mexico and the United States.

Does the member think that environmental conditions are just as important to fair trade?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

November 17th, 2009 / 10:30 a.m.
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NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her counsel and mentoring on environment issues. She is doing an excellent job of representing environmental issues in the House.

I agree with her wholeheartedly. I would come back to the fact that the environmental regulations are a side agreement. They are not included in the main body of the text to show they are important to the government. There also are no enforcement mechanisms, which means it is completely meaningless. We cannot do x and, if we do x, nothing will happen. It makes no sense. We need something that is enforceable and we need it to be in the main body of the agreement.

As for her question about whether the environment should be considered when it comes to fair trade, I say, wholeheartedly, yes. We will see that. I used Just Us! Coffee Roasters as an example. Not only is it about fair trade but it is looking at shade-grown beans, which are more ecologically sustainable, and it is looking at the impacts on the environment in all of the countries where it works.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

November 17th, 2009 / 10:30 a.m.
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Bloc

Robert Vincent Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, I could say I am pleased to rise here today, but the truth is, I am not.

I do not understand how a government can introduce a bill in the House of Commons that aims to implement a free trade agreement with Colombia. I find it shocking. It is appalling that a government should favour the mining industry at the expense of human rights in Colombia.

First of all, people here have spoken out to say that this agreement favours the mining industry in several ways. The agreement's provisions have been explained in a number of documents. Colombia is one of the main countries where the mining industry can still mine coal.

If a mine is established in the middle of a village, mining companies have no problem displacing all the people. As we all know, anyone who resists will be killed. Is that what we want? Does Canada want to send a message to the entire world that it cares more about an industry than about people? We want to protect those people. This kind of situation cannot be tolerated by Canadians.

Human beings have rights, workers have rights and children have rights, such as the right not to work and not to be exploited. We do not let companies break the rules here, but we are ready to help them do it elsewhere. I am dumbfounded by this. Moreover, so many crimes go unpunished in Colombia as a matter of course that human rights groups believe there is collusion between Colombian politicians and paramilitary forces. At this very moment, more than 30 members of the congress are under arrest in Colombia. I do not think that Colombian parliamentarians, as a group, are particularly trustworthy. I have said it before, and I will say it again: I do not understand how a country like Canada can pursue free trade with Colombia without a thought for the Colombian people. It is beyond comprehension.

The Conservative government would have us believe that things are much better than they used to be. But that is not what we have been reading and hearing about what is going on in Colombia. We have been hearing that in 2008 the number of crimes committed by paramilitary groups rose by 41%, compared to 14% the year before. That means that in 2008, the paramilitary crime rate surged by 55%. Is that what we want to be a part of? Are these the people we want to help?

Maybe everything is fine and dandy in Colombia, but there is one thing I do not understand. The Conservatives should listen carefully, because I did not make this up. It is right there on Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada's website. The website recommends that people avoid all non-essential travel to the city of Cali and most rural areas of Colombia because of the constantly changing security situation and the difficulty for the Colombian authorities to secure all of its territory. And where do these mining companies operate? In rural regions.

We are told that everything is fine and that we should trade with Colombia, but on the other hand, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada tells us that we should not go there because it is dangerous. It is dangerous for the people of Canada and the people of Colombia, but for the mining industry alone, it is not dangerous. That industry faces no danger, because it hires the paramilitary forces and does business with them. I will come back to Foreign Affairs later.

The government is going to tell us at some point that Canada does business with Colombia and that it does good things. I will tell hon. members what it does with Colombia. Canada buys only raw materials from Colombia. Energy products accounted for 31% of exports in 2007, while agricultural and agri-food products accounted for 58%. It is the mining industry that the government wants to protect. Canada buys a total of $138 million worth of coal and related products, $115 million worth of coffee, $72 million worth of bananas and $62 million worth of cut flowers. That is our trade with Colombia. Is it profitable for us? No, it is not. Can we do without it? Yes we can.

I repeat, and this is the important point in the free trade agreement with Colombia, the only thing we do not want is for Canada to take the people of Colombia hostage in an effort to promote the mining industry. That is what the government is trying to do. I totally disagree with giving even two minutes' thought to helping an industry to the detriment of a people. It is unfair. It is unthinkable.

I return to the subject of Colombian exports. They do not come from urban regions. They come, rather, from Colombia's most remote rural regions. It is here, in these remote regions, that the greatest wealth of natural resources is to be found, but it is here, too, that the most violence is to be found. To continue in this vein, it is here that 87% of the forced population displacements occur, as well as 82% of abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law and 83% of the murders of union leaders. Continuing on, according to the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, this would lead one to believe that there is substantial evidence that Canadian investment in these regions of Colombia is linked to human rights violations.

I am not making that up. It is taken from a report of the Standing Committee on International Trade of June 2008 on concerns over the effects on the environment and human rights in connection with the free trade agreement with Colombia. I can go even farther than that. It is clear and simple. A group from the Standing Committee on International Trade carried out studies to find out whether, through the free trade agreement, something could be done in support of human rights and the environment. Democracy here in this House is not the kind of democracy that should be copied around the world, and I will tell you why.

This government authorized the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development to go and see what was happening in Colombia in order to prepare a report, including conclusions on the free trade agreement. The members did not even get time to draft the report before the government signed the free trade agreement with Colombia. Is that the sort of democracy they want in this House? They ask people to prepare a report and then ignore it. Is this the government Canadians and Quebeckers want here? I do not think this is the answer.

I want to continue from where I left off. There was talk of areas where a high degree of caution is required. The exception to this would be some parts of the coffee growing area near Bogotá and resort areas with established tourist industries. People should avoid travelling to Colombia.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
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November 17th, 2009 / 10:40 a.m.
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Bloc

Josée Beaudin Saint-Lambert, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his speech on free trade between Canada and Colombia. I completely understand his passion and interest in this subject.

I would like him to elaborate on the fact that the government is eliminating the possibility of pressuring Colombia into respecting human rights in that country, and why the government is eliminating this possibility.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

November 17th, 2009 / 10:40 a.m.
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Bloc

Robert Vincent Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her question, which I will answer in a roundabout way.

We want this government to take responsibility and exert pressure for human rights in Colombia, but it is not even capable of doing so here at home. I am referring to the older worker adjustment program, but the government is not interested in older people. It wants to grant an additional 5 to 20 weeks of employment insurance benefits for those people who lose their jobs, instead of introducing a program for older worker adjustment, or POWA.

How can we trust a government that is not even willing to help its fellow citizens who live here and pay taxes?

What makes us think that this government could have any influence on human rights in Colombia when it does not even respect them here?

Worse yet, the government will not even adopt anti-scab legislation to prevent people from replacing workers who are on strike. How are we to believe that it has any consideration for people in another country?

The only thing Canada wants to achieve today, with this free trade agreement, is to open the door for the mining industries to operate mines in Colombia. The government will make things easier for them by doing nothing to help that country and by doing nothing to help people who, like hostages, have to work for these companies.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
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November 17th, 2009 / 10:45 a.m.
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Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his fine exposé on the current situation in Colombia as well as in this House.

We have been discussing the pros and cons of Bill C-23 for several months now. On this side of the House, we think there are a lot more cons than pros. That is only to be expected.

As always, the Bloc Québécois is opposed to all injustice, not only in Quebec and Canada but everywhere in the world. This bill, unfortunately, would sanction a number of injustices.

When the government says that no crime victim or any one whose rights have been trampled, even here in Canada, should be ignored and tells us that it has a very busy law and order agenda, I think it is forgetting that there are places elsewhere in the world where people do not have the ability or even the possibility of defending themselves.

At present in Colombia, 30% of the people who in the government are being seriously investigated for corruption, collusion and all sorts of things and 60% of the rest are suspected of engaging in activities that are not exactly legitimate in view of their positions and responsibilities.

Every day in the House, members from one party or another rise to praise someone from their community or someone whom they know to remind us—because this person is deceased—of how important the person was to his or her family, children, colleagues at work and the people he or she met on a daily basis.

At times like those, I think it would be great for us to stop treating the victims in Colombia—the trade unionists and murder victims—as mere statistics despite what the Colombian government has to say and despite its efforts to minimize these crimes. We know of 109 murders between January 2007 and June 2008. I want to list a few of them and it would be good if my colleagues on the other side could start seeing them as human beings, as fathers and mothers of families and as people with responsibilities in society. These people are dead today because of their convictions and their work. I want to mention the following:

Maria Teresa Jesus Chicaiza Burbano, killed on January 15, 2007; Maria Theresa Silva Reyes, killed on March 28, 2007; Ana Silvia Melo Rodriguez, killed on May 19, 2007; Marleny Berrio de Rodriguez, killed on June 11, 2007; Leonidas Sylva Castro, killed on November 2, 2007; and Maria del Carmen Mesa Pasochoa, killed on February 8, 2008.

Other people who have been murdered include Maria Teresa Trujillo, killed on February 9, 2008; Carmen Cecilia Carvajal Ramirez, killed on March 4, 2008; Leonidas Gomes Rozo, killed on March 8, 2008; Victor Manuel Munoz, killed on March 12, 2008; Ignacio Andrade, killed on March 15, 2008; Manuel Antonio Jiminez, on March 15, 2008; Jose Fernando Quiroz, on March 16, 2008; Jose Gregorio Astros, on March 18, 2008; Julio Cesar Trochez, on March 22, 2008; Adolfo Gonzales Montes, on March 22, 2008; Luz Mariela Diaz Lopez, on April 1, 2008; Emerson Ivan Herrera, on April 1, 2008; Rafael Antonio Leal Medina, on April 4, 2008; Omar Ariza, on April 7, 2008; Jesus Heberto Caballero Ariza, on April 16, 2008; Marcello Vergara Sanchez, on June 5, 2008; and Vilma Carcamo Bianco, on May 9, 2009.

I could go on naming names for another 20 minutes. How many victims do there have to be in Colombia before this government wakes up and realizes that it is not a good idea to be negotiating a free trade agreement at this time with a country that has no more respect for human beings than this?

All of the persons I have named were unionists. All of them were working to improve the living conditions of people living in Colombia and trying to make a better life for themselves. But this government does not hear the names of the dead and murdered. It hears them only when it is in its interest to hear them, when it can spread propaganda, when it can use them.

This government should stop using the misfortune of others for its own advantage and start respecting people who work to earn a living.

At the moment, working people in Colombia are subjected on a daily basis to violence, murders and crimes. We cannot stand by and let this sort of thing go on. If we agree to this free trade agreement today, we are agreeing to the continuation of these murders of men, women and children.

I do not know if my colleagues are like me, but I believe that all of us have to look into our hearts, stop thinking about profit only—obviously, there is short-term profit involved here—and stop thinking that we can impose our law on the whole world. That is not the way it works, and that is not the way it will work in Colombia, where the government is corrupt virtually from top to bottom.

Do you think that the Colombian government will be suddenly cleansed of all its impurities because we sign a free trade agreement today with Colombia? One would have to be a little naive to think that.

Indeed, my colleague from Compton—Stanstead is right. You have to be a little naive or acting in very bad faith to believe such a thing. You have to be a little naive or acting in very bad faith to try to make this House vote in favour of a bill that has not been thought out and for which no serious consultation has been done. As my colleague from Shefford so aptly said, the only consultations that were done were not used to develop a free trade agreement that would stand up and take account of the rights and lives of the people in Colombia.

If we adopt this agreement, if we pass this bill, I will be ashamed as a Quebecker and a Canadian. I am ashamed that we would support such a bill. I am ashamed that we are trying every day, through the Justice minister, to introduce bills that will put crooks in prison using minimum sentences, with no consideration for judicial discretion. I am ashamed that we are trying to introduce bills that would throw a large part of the population, aboriginals primarily, into prison without any opportunity for rehabilitation. I am ashamed that we are permitting a corrupt government to keep on turning a blind eye to crime and the murder of its citizens who are doing everything they can to give the people living down there a better life.

I simply cannot believe this. I cannot believe that the members in the other opposition parties are turning a blind eye too. I do not believe it. If we stand up for the rights of the people we represent, we have to stand up, by virtue of our status as members of Parliament, for the rights of the people we represent everywhere in the world and for the rights of human beings.

The unionists have come to meet with us and let us know about these odious crimes committed against their sisters and brothers. We know perfectly well that they have not been heard by the government.

Is my time up, Madam Speaker? Very well then.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
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November 17th, 2009 / 10:55 a.m.
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Bloc

Robert Vincent Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Laval for her fantastic presentation. She gave a very good explanation of what is happening in Colombia and what the free trade treaty involves.

I would like someone to tell me why the Canadian government is so keen to sign a free trade agreement with Colombia. I cannot understand or imagine why it wants to do so. The only thing I can think of is that it is under pressure from the mining lobby, which wants to open doors in Colombia because it will benefit mining companies. Who will go to work there? I am not sure many people from here will go to work in Colombia. We want to exploit the Colombians and their land. For whose benefit? For the benefit of the mining companies that will stash this money in the Cayman Islands to avoid paying tax. What good is the agreement if human rights are not respected in Colombia?

I would like to ask my colleague what she thinks of this option.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
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November 17th, 2009 / 10:55 a.m.
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Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Madam Speaker, I agree with my colleague. I also do not understand why this government is in such a hurry to give in to the lobbyists' demands. But I am not surprised.

The Bloc Québécois members are not the only ones who are opposed to this free trade treaty. The opposition members are not the only ones who are opposed to this free trade treaty. Justice for Colombia is an organization based in England, not Colombia. It is based in England, where all the unionized workers support our cause. Nearly three million United Steelworkers of America support our cause. As far as I know, we are not the only ones who support this cause. We should not be so crazy, so naive.

What is the government waiting for to stop kowtowing constantly to Bay Street? What is it waiting for to stand up and refuse to aid and abet these mining companies, which will keep on committing abuses and will enable these killings to continue?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
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November 17th, 2009 / 10:55 a.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for her passionate presentation to the House on this important debate.

Obviously, there have been a lot of discussions going on with regard to this free trade bill, particularly as it relates to human rights matters and specifically related to unionists. I have come to understand that the death or human rights abuses of unionists also occurs in a number of other countries and at the same levels of incidence. I am not aware of the details, but the member may have some details on that.

Second, the standing committee that looked at this whole issue regarding the human rights concerns had reported to the House that it felt that there should be an independent human rights assessment done as part of the consideration of this matter.

I have also come to understand that Amnesty International has refused to do so—

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
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November 17th, 2009 / 10:55 a.m.
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Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.

Obviously, such acts of violence are committed in other countries as well. We are very aware of that. However, there is a common thread. Where mining companies are present, there are union problems and human rights violations. For example, in Romania, the rights of workers have not been respected. People who lived around the mines had to be moved. These people have ongoing health problems because mining companies have little respect for them.

My colleague is knowledgeable about all aspects of human rights. Yes, the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms should apply and the Ligue des droits et libertés should be allowed to review this agreement and add anything that is missing. This agreement currently has very important gaps.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
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November 17th, 2009 / 11 a.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak to the bill again.

Let me begin by following up on the comments made by the member for Mississauga South when he asked a question of the Bloc member. It certainly is the case that in 2008, the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade recommended that no agreement be signed with Colombia until the human rights situation there has improved. It also recommended that a human rights impact assessment be undertaken to determine the real impact of a trade agreement. The government, of course, has ignored this report.

With that information in mind and the fact we have known about this for a year now and that members of the House are very familiar with it, as it keeps being brought up over and over again, the issue is, why is the Liberal Party not opposing this trade agreement? Why are the Liberals complicit with the government in trying to ram this through?

I appreciate the member for Mississauga South, because I know that on this particular issue and others, I do not really think he is in sync with his caucus at all. The member for Kings—Hants has stood up in the House and the tone and content of his comments are certainly, to my mind, very different, if not the exact opposite. It sounds to me like there may be some sort of mini-war going on within the Liberal caucus over there, and I certainly hope that the member for Mississauga South could win on this one, because we are doing our best on this side to hold up the bill as long as possible, perhaps to give him enough time to win the war and to get his caucus members onside. He is quite aware that together we form quite a formidable force in the House. The three opposition parties actually are the majority, and if we could just get the Liberals onside on this particular issue, it would go a long way to stopping this initiative.

The history of the Liberal Party has been all over the place on this issue and many others, but certainly there is a core group in the Liberal Party that, I would think, is having a lot of difficulty supporting this particular free trade agreement.

Bill C-23, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Colombia was introduced in the House by the Minister of International Trade on March 26, 2009. Bill C-23 implements three agreements and the respective annexes signed by Canada and the Republic of Colombia on November 21, 2008. The first of these is the bilateral free trade agreement between Canada and Colombia.

The Canada-Colombia free trade agreement provides for the liberalization of various types of economic activities: trade in goods, trade in services, foreign investments and government procurements. It has already been pointed out by members of the Bloc and NDP how small this amount of trade really is. In fact the previous Bloc member suggested that this free trade agreement is all about the mining companies, the mining sector, and supporting the mining companies without any regard to the human rights record found in Colombia right now.

The two other agreements dealt with in the bill are side agreements to the free trade agreement, the agreement on the environment between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and the agreement on labour cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Colombia.

The environment agreement seeks to ensure that each party enforces its environmental laws. However, if a country does not have any environmental laws, it is hard to enforce them in the first place.

The labour agreement seeks to ensure that the domestic law of both states respects basic labour rights and is duly enforced. The latter agreement also provides for the possibility of resorting to arbitral panels to settle trade-related disputes that involve a persistent pattern of failure to comply with obligations under the labour agreement, an option that is not created in the environment agreement.

The wording in agreements can sound very good, but at the end of the day, it is the will, the implementation, and enforcement of the agreements that make them successful or not successful. We do not want to get involved in an agreement like this when we know that the basic bedrock, the basic infrastructure, is not there to promote the proper type of results we would expect from an agreement like this.

We in our party want to develop free trade agreements that promote fair trade. We on this side of the House are all in favour of reducing barriers and we are supporting fair trade as opposed to free trade. We have seen what sorts of agreements have been developed over the last few years with successive governments in this country. I recall the Liberal Party in 1988 and its leader at the time, John Turner, who was running his entire election campaign against the Mulroney government's Free Trade Agreement with the United States, and saying he was going to eliminate it if he became prime minister. Of course, the Liberals said they would eliminate the GST and do a lot of other things in their red book back in 1993, but which they totally ignored when they came to power.

Currently Canada is party to five free trade agreements, all of which have been implemented through legislation. There is the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement, and the Canada-Israel and Canada-Costa Rica free trade agreements. The two others we have been dealing with lately have been the free trade agreement with Peru and the one with the European Free Trade Association.

Bill C-23 implements the three agreements between Canada and Colombia through a set of provisions that will form the core of a stand-alone piece of legislation, the proposed Canada-Colombia free trade agreement implementation act. It also contains amendments to a number of existing pieces of legislation: the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act, the Commercial Arbitration Act, the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act, the Customs Act, the Customs Tariff, the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development Act, the Export and Import Permits Act and the Financial Administration Act.

I mentioned that the extent of trade in goods between Canada and Colombia is relatively modest at the current time. In 2008, two-way merchandise trade between Canada and Colombia totalled just over $1.3 billion and Canadian merchandise exports to Colombia totalled $703 million. The major exports include agricultural products such as wheat, barley, lentils, as well as industrial products, paper products and heavy machinery. Canadian merchandise imports from Colombia totalled $643 million and consisted of major imports such as coffee, bananas, coal, oil, sugar and flowers. Having said that in regard to those figures, I believe that Colombia is our fifth largest trading partner in the area. It is not even in our top four trading partners in the area.

Bill C-23 has attracted considerable attention, as we have pointed out and continue to point out. The groups and individuals opposed to the implementation of the free trade agreement oppose it because of the country's abysmal human rights record. The previous Bloc member read the names of people who have been killed, and I have a similar list as well. People are being killed on a daily basis in Colombia and the government seems to ignore that fact. As a matter of fact, the president was invited to appear before the committee and the Conservatives are blithely ignoring the record of the country, all because the Conservatives have this tunnel vision that they can sign these free trade agreements that are somehow going to lift everybody up. That in fact does not work out. What we have seen in Colombia and other countries is a degradation of the environment after the free trade agreements have been put into place.

That is why we need a fair trade agreement. On that basis, I think we should certainly look at a different approach here, and only after the human rights record is straightened out in Colombia.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

November 17th, 2009 / 11:10 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I have here the Amnesty International report for 2009. I would like to read the conclusion and ask for the member's comments. It says:

Throughout the Americas region, human rights defenders continue to work for a world where everyone is able to live with dignity and where all human rights are respected. To do this, defenders often have to challenge powerful social and economic elites, as well as the inertia and complicity of governments that are failing to honour their obligations to promote and defend human rights.

That is one of the reasons I wanted to participate in the debate and why I am troubled with the trade-offs here. However, I am moved by Amnesty International's generic statement and I wonder if the member would care to comment on it.