House of Commons Hansard #57 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trade.

Topics

Motions in Amendment
Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

Noon

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-2 be amended by deleting Clause 7.

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-2 be amended by deleting Clause 12.

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-2 be amended by deleting Clause 48.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the report stage amendments but I must say that these are the most egregious circumstances imaginable.

As we well know, the trade committee, which was supposed to vet and hold, as the Liberal Party promised, full and comprehensive hearings on Bill C-2, did not do that. The Liberals and Conservatives combined to shut down the hearings. It is for that reason the NDP is bringing forward these report stage amendments.

The Liberal and Conservative majority on the trade committee refused to hear from the Canadian Labour Congress and some of the largest trade unions in the country, such as the National Union of Public and General Employees and the Public Service Alliance of Canada. As we know, these are labour activists, people simply trying to improve the working conditions of themselves and their co-workers.

More trade union activists are killed in Colombia than anywhere else on earth. One would expect that the promise by the Liberal Party to have full and comprehensive hearings would have come to pass, but that was absolutely betrayed.

The Liberals not only refused to hear from the Canadian Labour Congress and labour activists from some of Canada's largest unions, they also refused to hear from any members of the labour movement from Colombia. These are people who often give their lives trying to improve working conditions in Colombia because of the immense brutality of the paramilitary organizations that are affiliated with the Colombia government. They refused to hear from any of the non-government activists affiliated with the labour movement.

Labour activists in Colombia, who often do their work as volunteers with threats to their lives and those of their families, simply wanted to go before the trade committee and give their points of view on 90% of the remaining labour movement in Colombia, not the government-affiliated labour movement but trade union activists who comprise 90% of the labour movement there. The Liberals and Conservatives said no to hearing from those labour activists. They said no to hearing from Afro-Colombians, individuals suffering the brunt of the brutal government-linked paramilitary groups that, there is no other way to put it, brutally slaughter hundreds of activists every year.

Rather than the trade committee hearing from African Colombians, aboriginal Colombians, the free labour movement in Colombia, not the government-sponsored part of the labour movement, rather than hearing from Canada's largest unions and labour activists from the Canadian Labour Congress, it closed out debate on Bill C-2. Through a pretty thuggish process, it simply shut out all of those groups and many civil society organizations and individuals, all of whom had written to members of the trade committee to appear before the committee. Then, in the space of just a few minutes per clause, it moved to rubber stamp this trade bill.

As we know, there is the so-called Liberal amendment that requires nothing more or less than the Colombian government to report on itself annually. I guess one of the reasons the Liberals moved closure on this issue before committee was that the witnesses who came forward were very clear about the fact that this amendment, which would force the Colombian government to report on itself, is simply not credible given its lies and deception.

What the committee heard from the CCIC, no less, was that there could be a historic precedent to put in place some independent and impartial human rights monitoring and evaluation both prior to and during this process. Quoting from the organization's testimony before the committee, it stated, “...the damage from a non-credible process is high...”.

What we have are no full and comprehensive hearings and a non-credible process that has been added in allowing the Colombian government to report on itself. The Liberals and Conservatives rammed this bill through without the due and appropriate consideration, without even hearing from the folks who the trade committee is bound to hear from. It is absolutely outrageous.

Our report stage amendments endeavour to tackle these issues: the lack of credibility and lack of process around this; and the fact that the Liberal Party has completely betrayed its past. I think it is fair to say that in the past, under previous leaders, the Liberal Party did have some legitimate connection to human rights. When we look at the history of the Liberal Party, there were times when the Liberal Party stood up for human rights issues. However, that is not the case today under the current leader. I believe profoundly that is one of the reasons that the Liberal Party is in such difficulty in the polls. People in this country want to choose between something more than far right to extreme right points of view.

In the Colombian trade deal, we have a government that, through its secret police, through its military and through its affiliated paramilitary organizations, has been nothing less than brutal with dissidents, the people who stand up for labour rights and human rights.

The NDP offered about 100 amendments to this trade agreement. What we talked about and what we put forward at committee stage was the very clear desire from the labour movement and human rights organizations across this country and in Colombia to have an independent and impartial human rights assessment prior to any implementation of this trade deal.

Given the fact that there are more serious human rights violations around labour activists in Colombia than anywhere else in the world and that, according to many sources, there are more forced and violent displacements and thefts of land in Colombia than anywhere else in the world, most of it done through organizations affiliated with the Colombia government, as well as human rights violations by the guerrillas operating in Colombia, no one is proposing offering a reward for those human rights violations. We, in this corner of the House, steadfastly resist offering a reward to the Colombian government for repeatedly bad behaviour.

The Colombian government might have a slick public relations firm but, quite frankly, the violations and the many reports speak for themselves. The fact is that we had more witnesses asking to come before committee than the trade committee has seen since I have been in Parliament in the last six years, and yet there was a closing off and refusal to hear systematically from human rights organizations, from activists involved in human rights work, work with the aboriginal community and work with the African-Colombian community, and labour activists.

Our many amendments that were brought forward called for an independent and partial human rights assessment, among many other things, prior to this bill being implemented and also to put in place a system so that if the Colombian government did not keep its commitments the trade agreement could be abrogated.

All of those amendments were refused despite the fact that two years ago, when the trade committee actually went down to Colombia, we had a unanimous recommendation that the Conservative government not proceed any further with this trade agreement until an independent and impartial human rights evaluation could be undertaken to determine to what extent this would have a negative impact on human rights.

Although that was unanimously agreed to at the time, the Conservatives stepped back within 24 hours and tried to, under pressure, I imagine, from the PMO, distance themselves from the report. However, it passed unanimously at committee. It is only the change in Liberal leadership that has led to the Liberal Party completely betraying its tradition of standing up on human rights.

The fact that we brought forward these amendments, that we were very clear about the importance of rebuilding the bill with a human rights focus and that so many organizations throughout the country said that they wanted to step forward and speak to this issue, I think attests to the fact that Canadians are profoundly concerned about the direction this Parliament is taking.

I have had the privilege of speaking at a number of public events throughout this country. I have been speaking about this issue at public events in Ontario, Quebec, the Maritimes and western Canada. Canadians are very concerned about this issue.

To close, I will give one example in the riding of Davenport where 200 people came out to speak to the issue of concerns about the Liberal Party's stand on human rights and this pushing forward of the Colombian trade deal. People in Davenport and so many other ridings across the country want to see this bill receive the sober second thought these report stage amendments are designed--

Motions in Amendment
Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Niagara West—Glanbrook.

Motions in Amendment
Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster talked about the fact that there has not been ample discussion. I assure him there have been over 38 full speeches in opposition to the bill and currently there are only 36 NDP members. I am assuming my hon. colleague has probably spoken a couple of times, and maybe more than that. There have been at least three full speeches by the member for Burnaby--New Westminster. There have been over 31 committee meetings. Over 98 different individuals have testified on the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement. Over 18 of those witnesses have actually testified more than two times.

What new information does my colleague from the New Democratic Party think we are going to receive? We have been studying this bill for a couple of years. I appreciate his concerns, but I am not sure exactly what new revelations we hope to find on the bill.

Motions in Amendment
Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I like the member as an individual, but I profoundly disagree with him on this question.

Two years ago we had hearings and it was a unanimous committee recommendation not to proceed any further with implementing the Canada-Colombia trade deal. Just a few weeks later the government gave the back of its hand to members of Parliament from all four parties who said at that time that we should not proceed and it moved to sign a trade agreement with Colombia.

Since that time we have had a first series of hearings. Those hearings were comprehensive. There were people heard from all sides. All members of Parliament realized this was the wrong road to take, all members of Parliament from all four parties. At the time, the Liberals had a very progressive leader and that consensus was very clear. We fast forward to the committee hearings over the last few months, particularly last fall. We heard without exception from only one side. Before the bill had even been debated and passed by the House, we heard from pro-government witnesses, from only one side. Only one side was heard. It is very clear that when the labour movement both in Colombia and Canada wants to come forward, and civil society activists want to come forward, the promise the Liberal Party made for full and comprehensive hearings should have been kept. It was not.

Motions in Amendment
Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his work on the bill. It has exposed a serious misgiving we have with regard to trade. We have to keep in mind that we are not talking about ending trade with Colombia. We are talking about providing it with a privileged trading relationship. Instead of getting tough on crime, we are rewarding those who abuse and kill other people. We are going to reward them with a privileged trading agreement that we do not even provide other countries that have better human rights records. I would like to ask my colleague about the irony of that.

Once again, we are not talking about ending relations with Colombia. We are talking about giving it a privileged status and rewarding its behaviour.

Motions in Amendment
Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is a very important question. Over the last few weeks we have seen even more revelations of the bad behaviour of the Colombian government. I talked about the human rights violations, the labour rights violations, the forced and violent displacement from land. Those are all a matter of public record. There is no doubt that had those witnesses from the free Colombian labour movement, not the government-sponsored part, that little 10% part, been allowed to come before the committee, those voices would have been heard.

Recently we have heard even more revelations of the involvement of the secret police, the DAS in Colombia, in the systematic killings of labour activists. The DAS passed on that information to paramilitary organizations. It went around the world. All members of Parliament have to take that into consideration. There were revelations a few days ago just before closure was brought in that President Uribe's brother was actively involved in the paramilitary killings that were taking place. Those allegations came forward and now we have another reason for members of Parliament of all parties to say, “Whoa, there is a fundamental problem here”.

We are seeing members of the president's family involved in human rights abuses. Those allegations need to be investigated. On the secret police involvement, very clearly we should not be rewarding bad behaviour. That is a repudiation of a fundamental Canadian value.

Motions in Amendment
Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to speak to Bill C-2.

I want to speak to the point that my friend from Windsor West raised in terms of trade. We need to make it very clear. Canada already does trade with Colombia. There is some $1.3 billion in two-way trade right now, with $602 million in Canadian exports and $734 million in imports.

It is important to understand that the purpose of the free trade agreement is to institute some rules-based trading. To say that there is no trading going on right now would be disingenuous and quite frankly misleading. There is trade right now. We are trying to make sure it is rules based so that we can move forward on a stronger footing.

I am pleased to rise in the House today to talk about the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement because it is an important agreement for Canada. It has been the subject of extensive debate and study by the House and the Standing Committee on International Trade.

At the standing committee alone there has been over 35 hours of witness testimony on the free trade agreement. In the House, opposition members have spoken 99 times to Bill C-23 which was in a previous Parliament, as well as Bill C-2.

The New Democratic Party members have made it clear that they are opposed to free trade. As a matter of fact, they have never met a free trade deal they did not oppose. They have spoken 40 times to these bills despite only having 36 members. We can do the math on that one.

The committee has heard from over 90 witnesses who have shared their knowledge and views on this agreement. Some organizations have appeared more than once. This is in addition to the visit by the standing committee to Colombia to study Canada's commercial relationship with Colombia. During this visit alone, members of Parliament were able to meet with over 50 Colombian stakeholders.

What have members of the House and members of the committee heard time and time again during their discussions on the free trade agreement? They have heard that this is a strong commercial agreement for Canada and for Colombia.

Certainly no one is saying that Colombia is a country that has fixed all its problems. While we were in Colombia listening to testimony, people talked openly. The government talked openly of the struggles the country has had in terms of civil unrest and civil war over the years. We would be hard pressed to find anyone with the government or civil society who has not said that conditions have improved.

That is one of the things we are talking about here today. As we heard from SNC-Lavalin when it appeared before committee, more and more engagement of Canadian companies and good Canadian values are more likely to help the situation than to make it worse.

We must move forward now with the passage of this free trade agreement. Canadian business is looking to Parliament to do everything we can to open doors for Canadians, to create new commercial opportunities around the world and to work with our partners to help our citizens succeed.

To allow this to happen, Canadian companies need improved access to markets in order to compete. That is why this free trade agreement is such an important accomplishment. Trade between our countries is significant.

In 2009, as I mentioned when I started my speech, our two-way trade in merchandise totalled $1.3 billion. Key Canadian products such as pulse crops, paper, wheat, barley, machinery and motor vehicles are exported to Colombia. Canadian companies and producers of these products are counting on the passage of the free trade agreement. Colombia is a vibrant and dynamic market for Canadian exporters and foreign investors. It is a growing market of 48 million people.

As soon as the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement comes into effect, exporters and investors in Canada will enjoy lower trade and investment barriers in the Colombia market.

Colombia will eliminate tariffs on nearly all current Canadian exports, including wheat, pulses and mining equipment. The competitive advantage that will be provided for Canadians with the removal of these tariffs is significant. The removal will help Canadian workers, farmers and businesses stay ahead of their global competitors.

Canadian exporters, particularly of the commodities, are already at a disadvantage compared to their U.S. counterparts due to higher transportation costs. These disadvantages could become even worse if the U.S.-Colombia agreement comes into force. As well, Colombia has been aggressively expanding its commercial relations with other countries, having recently concluded negotiations on a free trade agreement with the European Union and it is currently in negotiations with Panama and South Korea. If we wait to implement our agreement, we risk seeing Canadian exporters further disadvantaged in this important market.

Colombia maintains tariffs averaging 17% on agricultural products, with tariffs ranging from 15% to as high as 108% for some pork products, 80% for some beef products and 60% for certain beans. Indeed, agriculture was a key driver for these free trade agreement negotiations, and a successful outcome of agriculture was absolutely critical.

Tariffs on 86% of Canadian agricultural exports will be eliminated immediately when the free trade agreement comes into force. That translates into about $25 million in annual duty savings in sectors such as wheat, barley, lentils, beans and beef. Clearly, this is a significant amount and will certainly provide additional incentive for Colombian companies to buy Canadian goods.

During one of its appearances before the standing committee, the Canadian Cattlemen's Association was quite candid with its views:

I'm interested in making the lives of Canadian beef producers better. I think this agreement and other trade agreements do that.

This government echoes these remarks. We are working on trying to support Canadian farmers and to make the lives of Canadians better by creating jobs and ensuring the long-term competitiveness of this country.

The benefits of this trade agreement extend beyond agriculture. By creating new market opportunities for Canadian exporters, this agreement is also expected to have a positive impact on the Canadian manufacturing sector, growth that can be achieved in Colombia. Off-road dump trucks, auto parts and machinery are some of Canada's leading exports to Colombia. These products will benefit from increased market access through this agreement.

We need to listen to Canadian businesses and help them expand their reach into this exciting market. The time for Canada to act is now. Our trade with Colombia is complementary. Both countries have a lot to gain.

It has been mentioned by members on the opposite side that there is a number of issues facing Colombia. They talk about the paramilitary, the FARC. One of the things they forget to factor into the equation is the extensive illegal drug market in Colombia. What this deal does is it helps Colombians rely less on drugs and more on trade.

This is trying to provide opportunities for Colombians so that they do not need to rely solely on the illegal drug market that has plagued Colombia. This is about trying to create additional opportunities. When we say we will not provide opportunities or will not give them an opportunity to trade, we remove the chance for them to be able to transfer out of the illegal activities into legal activities where they could make sustainable long-term differences.

Colombia is making significant advances to ensure it becomes a stable democracy. However, one cannot have a democratic and secure nation without jobs and opportunities. Colombia is working to create opportunities for its people, and the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement will assist in those efforts.

Our businesses can compete with the best in the world. It is certainly time we listened to our Canadian companies and worked to ensure that they maintain their competitiveness in this market and have the chance to pursue new opportunities.

I would also mention the fact that during the polling that has been going on with the presidential elections coming, of all the parties that are running there is only one party that opposes free trade. Let us think about that. There is only one party out of all the parties that are running for re-election and to run the country that actually opposes free trade. Ninety-six per cent of those parties support free trade. That is what the polls show.

We talk about what is not good for Colombia. I think Colombians understand what is important for Colombia. If there was such an opposition to free trade, do members not think that would become an issue during the campaign? Do members think any political party in Colombia would be supporting free trade if they believed this was going to hurt their chances of winning? That bears out in the results of the polls which show that only one party, which actually has less than 4%, opposes free trade.

It is for this reason and the many benefits to our Colombian partners that this agreement brings that I ask all members to support the passage of this free trade agreement.

Motions in Amendment
Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, like all members, I, too, have received many communications from constituents and others.

I have a two items to mention today.

First, there was a proposed amendment to the bill, which would require an assessment being done of the impact of trade on the human rights situation in Colombia. Could the member advise the House when that would happen and what the process would be in terms of making that assessment? Is any funding provided for such an activity in Colombia and/or Canada?

Finally, could the member identify whether the United States has decided to move forward at this time with its free trade deal with Colombia?

Motions in Amendment
Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Mississauga South has raised a number of important questions.

We have parallel agreements in the free trade deal about labour co-operation and the environment. This is one of several instruments that the Government of Canada has been able to develop in terms of working through some of these free trade deals, which are among some of the strongest in the world.

The Liberal member for Kings—Hants put forward a motion at committee to strengthen that. We look forward to having separate human rights agreements dealt with on a yearly basis.

These two factors will strengthen this deal and make it work for the Colombian people. The motion passed through committee and it was brought forward in the House.

Motions in Amendment
Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague mentioned a fairly laughable pretension, that somehow the Colombian elections, which were fraught with a whole variety of issues raised by election observers, were somehow only focused on an agreement with Canada, that every Colombian voted on that basis despite paramilitary involvement.

We have seen a meltdown in the Mexican rural economy as a result of the final corn tariffs being taken off because of NAFTA. NAFTA was the same kind of spin, that somehow it would help rural Mexicans. Rather than helping or strengthening the Mexican economy in rural areas, the NAFTA agreement has done exactly the opposite. It has led to the colombianization of rural Mexico and an explosion of the drug trade.

Could he comment on that? We are hearing the same old bromides that this agreement will help Colombians when there has been absolutely no due diligence, no impartial human rights assessment. Neither the Conservatives or Liberals, who are cheerleading this agreement, can say that.

I have a final question around trade strategy. We have signed bilateral agreements and our trade has actually gone down in places like Costa Rica, Israel and Chile. We sign these bilaterals and our exports to those markets go down. What is wrong with the government's trade strategy?

Motions in Amendment
Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, as we look at the situation as it evolved in Colombia, we see that things are definitely better now eight years later than they were when President Uribe started.

The member talks about the challenges with which Colombia still has to deal. I do not think anyone in the House would disagree that there are still challenges with which the Colombian government needs to deal. If we look at just one story, anecdotally, that was written in the newspaper some time ago, when the troops showed at the border of Venezuela and the U.S. asked President Uribe if he needed some military support, he said no. He said that he needed a free trade agreement with the U.S. He said that this was not the way he wanted to do business as a country as it move forward. He realized that Colombia had issues with drugs and with productivity.

Colombia has signed a number of trade agreements. It believes that this agreement will help it move out of its current situation.

Motions in Amendment
Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, throughout the debate on the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement, I have said that we cannot let ourselves be blinded by ideologies that assume all free trade agreements are good, or on the other side, that all free trade agreements are bad. Instead we must judge each agreement, and in this case, the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement, in terms of how it will really affect in the long term the people of Canada and Colombia.

In Canada, farmers, factory workers, small businesses and families across the country will benefit from increased trade with one of Latin America's fastest growing economies. In Colombia, thousands of lives have been destroyed by decades of civil war and narcoterrorism. The decent, hard-working people of Colombia deserve a better future, a future driven by legitimate opportunities from trade and investment, which can help free Colombians from the violence and human rights abuses fuelled by the drug trade.

Colombia has made significant progress over the last decade. Security has strengthened and human rights abuses have declined. Earlier this year, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, tabled her annual report on Colombia. In her report, she recognized the “significant progress Colombia has made in human rights”. President Obama has also recognized the progress that has been made.

The foundation of this progress is Colombia's strong, independent judiciary. President Uribe's acceptance of the Supreme Court decision, which limited his presidency to two terms, as well as the vibrant presidential election that is now taking place, also help to underscore and demonstrate Colombia's democracy and respect for the rule of law.

However, Colombia's social progress remains fragile and incomplete. Much more needs to be done. Poverty, unemployment and lack of legitimate economic opportunity force too many Colombians to turn to the violent life of the drug trade. For too many Colombians, it is the only way they can make a living and provide for their families, but we can help. In fact, we have a responsibility to help.

Canada has a moral obligation to help Colombia build its legitimate economy, and we have a long history of providing foreign aid to Colombia. These Canadian aid dollars have helped in building vital social infrastructure in Colombia. We have helped protect vulnerable Colombians by improving security programs for women and children. We have helped Colombia with foreign aid to help train labour inspectors, to strengthen the enforcement labour laws and the respect of human rights. Canada has helped in the area of resource development. We are helping to strengthen environmental protection and improving community engagement.

These are a few examples of how Canada and Colombia are working together now, but aid dollars are not enough. Foreign aid does not provide the economic levers that a developing country needs to become self-sufficient. For that we need trade. We must encourage investment that is socially and environmentally responsible, investment that provides economic opportunities for all Colombians, including the most vulnerable, while respecting and strengthening human rights.

A free trade agreement with Colombia can create real jobs and real opportunity for Colombians. The agreements on the environment and labour co-operation will help ensure that our trade is conducted in a socially and environmentally responsible way.

As Liberals, we recognize and have a history of understanding that economic engagement can help strengthen human rights engagement. Prime Minister Trudeau was certainly no slouch when it came to human rights, but he was also the first western leader to engage post-revolutionary China, even before President Nixon.

Throughout our discussions on free trade with Colombia, the Liberal Party focused on the human rights situation. For us, it is vital that free trade with Colombia strengthens and improves the protection of human rights for all Colombians, including the most vulnerable. The Liberal Party listened to the concerns of Canadians and Colombians and we acted. We insisted on a human rights amendment to this free trade agreement. That is why we now have a binding treaty on human rights, a treaty that was signed by both the Canadian and Colombian governments last month. That is why the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement is now the first trade agreement in the world to include an ongoing human rights impact assessment.

Under this agreement, Canada must measure and analyze the effect of the FTA on human rights in both countries. In fact, both Canada and Colombia must table annual reports in their Parliaments, analyzing the impact of this FTA on human rights. When these reports are tabled in Parliament, they will be public. These reports will be examined in committee, where civil society organizations and other expert witnesses from both Canada and Colombia will be heard.

This will ensure that we do not stop focusing on human rights when this FTA goes into effect. It will ensure that, on an ongoing basis, we will have constructive engagement on human rights for years, perhaps decades to come.

This Liberal amendment and the treaty on human rights and free trade has received support in Canada and Colombia and around the world. Dr. James Harrison, a professor at the University of Warwick told our trade committee that:

—the Canadian proposal is exciting and could become a model in this area, because no other country has yet included this within the scope of a trade agreement....I think the idea of a human rights... assessment is a great endeavour to be embarking on...

Mr. Gaétan Lavertu, a former deputy minister for Foreign Affairs for Canada and a former Canadian Ambassador to Colombia spoke about this human rights agreement. He said:

I think it's great that we have an opportunity to review the impact of the agreement. We should probably do that for all agreements. It's not enough to just sign agreements; we have to see once in a while what the implications have been, what the results have been, and I think that will be very useful. It will provide us with an opportunity to discuss human rights not only multilaterally but also bilaterally on a much more extensive basis.

Another former Canadian deputy minister of Foreign Affairs, Peter Harder, called the Liberal amendment a:

—significant innovation in free trade agreements in that it provides both the Colombian and Canadian legislatures the opportunity to annually review and assess the human rights implications of the agreement. I expect that future parliaments will build on this precedent when they consider proposed free trade agreements.

Colombians have also expressed support for this human rights treaty. For example, Dr. Leon Valencia, executive director of Arco Iris, a human rights organization, has stated:

I think it is interesting and useful...This will provide an important yearly forum to discuss the situation in Colombia, and will give Canadian citizens the opportunity to monitor human rights violations in our country.

Dr. Gerardo Sánchez Zapata, president of Colombia's textile and apparel industry trade union spoke on behalf of several Colombian unions, private sector unions, when he said:

This procedure is welcomed by Colombian workers and we are thankful...it helps strengthen a mechanism already in place that monitors and evaluates the progress in matters of human rights and freedom of association in our country...

Our Parliament has discussed this free trade agreement at length. Since 2008, free trade with Colombia has been the subject of well over 100 hours of debate at second reading and testimony at committee. In fact, the House of Commons has devoted more time to the Colombia-Canada FTA at second reading and committee than it did to each of the federal budgets since 2008.

Many witnesses on this FTA have appeared before committee two or three times already. The discussions that have taken place have been extensive and nobody can say that the ratification of this agreement has been rushed. Democracy requires a fulsome debate that makes every reasonable effort to ensure that all views can be heard, but this debate must be followed by a vote. It is time for that vote to take place.

It is clear that a majority of Colombians support this free trade agreement. Of all the Colombians mainstream political parties, only one opposes these free trade agreements, whether it is with the U.S., the E.U. or with Canada, the Polo Democrático Alternativo. In the congressional elections of May 14, the Polo Party garnered a paltry 6% of the vote. In the most recent presidential elections, the Polo candidate, Petro, won only 9% of the vote.

All of the other parties in Colombia, the Green Party, the Party of the U and all the others support free trade agreements. If there is to be sustainable progress, the people of Colombia know that they need legitimate economic opportunities to unshackle them from the violent narco-economy. This trade agreement, in combination with the Liberal amendment and the binding treaty on human rights, offers Colombia economic progress as well as human rights progress.

This agreement represents hope and opportunity for Colombians to have a better way of life. It also offers Canadians the opportunities to be a partner in progress with the people of Colombia in that progress. For these reasons, the Liberal Party is proud to support this amended FTA and its accompanying treaty on human rights.

Motions in Amendment
Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Kings—Hants for his support of the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement. I certainly thank him for his intervention on behalf of human rights in Colombia, because it has allowed this bill, quite frankly, to move forward.

I know that the hon. member was in the House when the NDP member was speaking. Beyond the fact that the NDP has never supported a free trade agreement at any time, in the current Parliament or in any other Parliament, part of what really bothers me about the NDP approach to this particular piece of legislation is that there has been some fundamental testimony at committee that has misled the committee.

I have one example. The hon. member was there, and I would ask him to recall it.

The NDP member in this place came into committee and said that there had been a massacre of 12 Awa citizens, indigenous people in Colombia, who had been murdered by the government. We later found out that they had not been murdered by the government. They had been murdered by the FARC, the socialist insurrection in the jungle. We still have not had that corrected. It has not been corrected at committee, nor has it been apologized for.

That is the type of opposition we have. I wonder if he would want to draw some comparisons from that.

Motions in Amendment
Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have been disturbed by the amount of misinformation that has permeated and dominated the important and legitimate debate on this issue. I have repeatedly corrected the NDP member of the trade committee when he has made incorrect and false testimony.

At the time of the murder of 12 members of the Awa nation, the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster actually accused the Uribe government of conducting the murders. Then, because the murders occurred when the hon. member for Toronto Centre and I were in Colombia, we were accused of condoning murder. That was the deeply personal and grossly biased and inaccurate type of argument made.

As it turns out, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has reported that the murders of the 12 members of the Awa nation were committed by FARC, because they were living on grounds contiguous with a FARC drug operation. It was not the Uribe government, so I think that the hon. member from the New Democrats should apologize to me and to the Uribe government.

Motions in Amendment
Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am appalled at the ignorance of the members who are not aware that there have been systematic massacres not only of members of the Awa nation in Colombia but of other aboriginal nations. Indeed, the government and paramilitary and military forces have been involved. It is a matter of public record.

I will turn to other issues, because it is obvious that there is not a very high level of understanding of the human rights situation in Colombia. How could there be? Liberals and Conservatives shut off debate on Bill C-2. They refused to hear from human rights organizations in Colombia who asked to come forward. They refused to hear from the Canadian Labour Congress, which asked to come forward. They refused to hear from some of the largest labour activist unions in Canada, which asked to come forward. They refused to hear from the free and democratic labour movement, which is over 90% of the labour movement in Colombia. The Liberals and Conservatives said that they did not want to hear from those organizations. If they had heard from those organizations rather than having cut off debate, their level of ignorance would have been improved.