House of Commons Hansard #20 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was colombia.

Topics

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Whitby—Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know the member for Wascana does not want to hear this, but read what the professors say, read what the economists say. I will share it with the House. The Liberals took the money. The money is gone. They siphoned it off. When are they going to put it back?

Democratic Reform
Oral Questions

March 30th, 2010 / 3 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canadians have long desired a more accountable Senate and support term limits for senators. Our Conservative government agrees with Canadians.

Can the Minister of State for Democratic Reform tell the House what he is doing to make this a reality?

Democratic Reform
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, indeed, yesterday this government introduced legislation to limit the terms of senators to eight years. This legislation will ensure that senators gain the experience necessary to fulfill their important role as second sober thought while also allowing the Senate to refresh and renew itself.

I welcome the members opposite to support our efforts to make the Senate more accountable, effective and democratic.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River
B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations between all parties and I think if you seek it you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, during the debate tonight pursuant to Standing Order 52, no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be received by the Chair.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

When Bill C-2 was debated in the House, before oral question period, the hon. member for Chambly—Borduas had the floor. There are two minutes left for questions and comments regarding his speech.

The hon. member for Mississauga South has the floor.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, in debating this bill, much of the debate has been based on whether there is an implication of trade with regard to improving the human rights situation in Colombia. I wonder if the member has any evidence or information regarding the experience of other countries where human rights questions were brought to bear and whether improvement in trade relations had some impact on the human rights situation.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for that very fundamental question.

In the past, when it came to signing agreements with other countries, we took into account their human rights track record, with respect to both labour and the rights of men, women and children. Those are things we considered in the past.

This time, we are going about it differently. We are trivializing the human rights situation. In the comments I made earlier, before oral question period, I said that Colombia could be classified as a rogue state on the human rights front. The proximity between the government and paramilitaries who engage in violence and commit murders is so obvious that it is shocking and despicable to want to conclude an agreement with a state that behaves in such a manner.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the members of the House who have taken a principled stand against the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement, in particular the member for Burnaby—New Westminster for his consistent efforts to challenge the ethics of this free trade agreement between Canada and Colombia.

I have been aware of the situation in Colombia for a number of years and have had the privilege to speak directly to Colombians from all walks of life in regard to the situation they face in their homeland under the Uribe government. In fact, I have many constituents who have fled to Canada because they no longer felt safe in their home country.

In the last session of Parliament, I spoke about the CCFTA and undertook to talk about the lack of environmental protection and labour rights in the agreement, violations of labour rights, violence committed against unionized workers and the anti-trade union atmosphere of Colombia, as well as the murders of trade unionists. These are the norms.

At that time, my colleagues and I took note of the fact that Colombia was the most dangerous place in the world for trade unionists. More than 2,700 Colombian trade unionists have been murdered since 1986 and, tragically, they have been murdered with impunity. There is only a 3% conviction rate for those who murder and, even worse, the agreement that Canada proposes to sign with Colombia has a system of fines for companies that murder their workers.

How can we be party to any agreement that has a provision for killing a trade unionist and paying a fine? It is unspeakable and I believe that once Canadians understand what the proposed Canada-Colombia free trade agreement contains they will reject it.

Today I would like to speak about crimes currently being committed by the Uribe government against indigenous Colombians.

In a recent report released on February 23, Amnesty International called for immediate international action to ensure the survival of indigenous peoples in Colombia. The organization says that guerrilla groups, state security forces and paramilitaries are responsible for grave human rights abuses against indigenous peoples. These abuses include killings, enforced disappearances and kidnappings, sexual abuse of women, recruitment of child soldiers, persecution of indigenous leaders and forced displacement of communities from land that is rich in economic potential. People are forced from their land because these areas are valued for natural resources, including oil and minerals.

Amnesty International has stated that the situation of indigenous peoples in Colombia is nothing short of an emergency. Until countries like Canada recognize the gravity of the situation and exert much needed pressure on the Colombian government, there is a real risk that entire indigenous cultures may be eradicated.

According to the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, ONIC, the survival of 32 different indigenous peoples in Colombia are at risk as a result of the armed conflict, the impacts of large-scale economic projects and a lack of state support. According to ONIC, at least 114 indigenous women, men and children were killed, many others threatened and thousands driven from their land in 2009 alone.

In its latest report, Amnesty International says that the threats facing indigenous peoples are intensifying and is calling upon guerrilla groups and state security forces to respect the rights of indigenous people not to be dragged into hostilities, and equally important, the right of indigenous peoples to own and control the lands upon which they depend for their cultures and livelihoods. Tragically, indigenous leaders and communities who try to defend their land rights, commonly experience threats, killings and mass displacement.

Colombia's ongoing armed conflict has affected millions across the country and left tens of thousands dead, tortured and forcibly disappeared. The vast majority of victims are civilians. In the last seven years, more than 1,595 indigenous people were killed or forcibly disappeared as a result of the armed conflict, and 4,700 collective threats were reported. In the vast majority of cases, these crimes have not been properly investigated, nor have the perpetrators ever been brought to justice.

Just as with trade unionists, the death toll is rising and still the Conservative government is determined to pursue a trade agreement with a highly questionable regime.

As Amnesty International testified to the House of Commons committee on international trade in November 2009, one of the most worrying trends is a dramatic increase in the number of Colombians forced to flee from their homes. As many as 380,000 in 2008. That brings the total number of internally displaced people in Colombia to between three and four million, among the highest in the world, and growing.

Forced displacement has paved the way for misappropriation of lands, mostly by paramilitaries but also by guerrilla groups. It is estimated that more than four million hectares of land may have been stolen by paramilitaries in this way.

Displacement is one of the greatest threats facing indigenous communities, as in the case of Colombia. I do not believe that it is a coincidence that this happens in areas where oil, rich minerals and remarkable biodiversity is in evidence. International mining, agribusiness and the extractors of oil have a vested interest in these territories, all at the expense of the people who have a right to live on these lands.

We know that multinationals, including Canadian business interests, are in Colombia and are participating in the exploitation of resources.

According to the Colombian director of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, when this displacement to urban centres occurs it becomes very complicated since most of the indigenous women do not know Spanish very well. The immensity of the city frightens them with its anonymity and the lack of solidarity among residents. The women face new problems in raising their children and relating to their partners because the city is not a customary environment. In addition to this uncomfortable environment is the anguish of leaving their homes, running with what little they had or could carry in order to outrun death and desolation.

Accepting new, unfamiliar realities and activities not traditional to indigenous cultures, results in culture shock and disorientation. People experience a way of life and language radically different from their own. This fracturing can result in a breakdown of cultural continuity as young people find themselves in alien environments and deprived of the social and cultural networks and practices necessary for the survival of their communities.

Displaced people are at a heightened risk of destitution, sexual violence, exploitation by criminal gangs, armed groups and discrimination. Even in places in which they seek refuge, they may face further intimidation or violence and have to flee again. The inadequate state response to the needs of internally displaced communities means that some people return to the dangerous situations they fled, and without support or safeguards that should be provided by the state.

The right to traditional lands is crucial to indigenous peoples in Colombia, as elsewhere. It is a vital element in their sense of identity, livelihood and way of life and is crucial for their future.

This of course brings me to the motion put forward by the Liberal Party that it claims would protect human rights in Colombia. This motion would allow Colombia to monitor its own human rights and report on this monitoring if the Colombian government chooses to do that. This is completely inadequate. When one considers the murders, torture and displacement of people, this motion is a sham.

It is clear that the official opposition wants nothing more than to sign onto the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement despite the human, environmental and ethical cost.

I wonder what Canadians would say if they knew that in this month's legislative elections, independent observers were there and reported vote-buying and fraud that allowed narco-paramilitary candidates to maintain influence over the Colombian congress, or about the plea to the Canadian Council for International Co-operation from the Colombian Methodist Church bishop, Juan Alberto Cardona, during his visit to Canada in 2007. The Bishop said, “we know from other places, like Mexico, that these agreements might create more wealth for wealthy people but they make inequities worse. Whatever wealth is created, it does not reach poor people”.

The Colombia-Canada free trade agreement was signed behind the backs of the Colombian people, without any real participation from civil society and without any study on its impact. This is something that must be made clear to this Parliament and the people of Canada. The stage is set for further and increased human rights violations.

Colombians have asked Canadian society and this Parliament to demonstrate solidarity with the Colombian people by mobilizing against and refusing to sign the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement.

For the sake of humanity, we need to listen. When will the current government and the official opposition finally listen?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the questions raised had to do with other jurisdictions and what they were doing. The U.K., Australia, the U.S. and the EU have all had some discussions and activity with regard to trade arrangements with Colombia.

However, I do understand that there has been disagreement. President Obama is very ambitious to improve foreign exports but in his last speech did not mention Colombia as being one of the sources. It would appear that the Congress has one view and the president has another. I wonder if the member has any information on the current status of the trade discussion in the United States.