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 ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2009 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is right in saying that it is all the same and that these two parties have concocted it, if you will. My colleague for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie gave a brilliant speech on the specifics of this bill.

My colleague knows perfectly well that in developing countries such as Colombia, where the people are poor but the country is rich, the only way for the people to have real power and development is through their government institutions, their government and the people they elect.

By signing the free trade agreement with Colombia, by including a provision similar to NAFTA's chapter 11—which gives real power not to the people, not to the government institutions, not to the public representatives but first and foremost to investors—and by allowing investors to go back to the government at any time to obtain financial compensation, the Canadian government will weaken the government in power to such an extent that we can truly speak of exploitation and colonization.

I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about that.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2009 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is quite right. The power of governments must not be eroded, especially by trade agreements. We must ensure that governments have complete freedom of movement in order to pass legislation. That is the problem with chapter 11. But some Liberals and Conservatives will say that side deals on the environment have been signed that, they believe, supposedly have as much weight as the trade clauses of NAFTA. That is nonsense.

We must guarantee that governments will be able to introduce legislation and regulations when they believe that the well-being of their people is at risk. In this case, we must ensure, as I mentioned earlier, that the Colombian government will have guarantees and that it will be able to enact labour and environmental legislation. That is not necessarily the case with this agreement because it allows major multinationals to challenge future labour and environmental regulations in court.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2009 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the speeches given by my colleagues from Quebec and British Columbia. I agree: we must consider the well-being of the people of Colombia. There is no question.

As a lawyer, I received a letter from a lawyer from Colombia a few years ago. He said he was afraid of appearing in court and that it was dangerous because of the inequalities, problems and conflicts in Colombia.

I have a question for my colleague from Quebec. What should we do? If we do not make a commitment to the people of another country, we will not have the opportunity to improve the situation. I know there have been many improvements in Colombia.

Between 2002 and 2008, kidnappings have decreased by 87% and homicide rates have dropped by 44%.

I am convinced that we must look at the situation not through a still camera, but through a video camera. Things are improving and we must encourage the people of Colombia.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2009 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to be perfectly clear. We are not against international trade agreements. We are not against globalization.

But when we sign international agreements on human rights and International Labour Organization conventions, international trade agreements should take them into account.

The same is true of the environment. We have nothing against the free trade agreement between Canada and the United States or other countries, but we must take into consideration the international protocols we have ratified, such as the Kyoto protocol. Conventions on biosafety have been signed, and other agreements have been signed at the International Labour Organization. When we sign trade agreements with other countries, we have to recognize the value of these conventions with respect to the environment, human rights and labour rights.

Otherwise, what happens? We sign international agreements, such as the convention on the rights of the child, that carry less weight than trade agreements, including the one between Canada and Colombia. We need to ensure that these agreements that have been signed with a view to protecting our children, the environment and workers' rights not only can have a benefit, but are at least as valuable as the trade agreements being signed.

The problem at present is that even though the biosafety protocol and the Kyoto protocol exist, these international protocols do not carry any weight with the courts when a complaint is filed with the WTO, for example.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2009 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased speak to Bill C-23, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia.

I have a number of people who are concerned about this agreement, therefore I think a bit of historical information is important.

A year ago the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade tabled its report on the free trade agreement with Colombia. Out of respect for Parliament, the government ought to have responded to this. Concerns were expressed by the Standing Committee on International Trade, specifically the recommendation which asked for an independent comprehensive rights impact assessment. I believe a full independent human rights assessment, as recommended by the committee, should be provided by the government to Parliament before we vote on Bill C-23.

Colombia has faced years of internal conflict, where violence and human rights abuses have been perpetrated by paramilitary groups in the ongoing battles between the paramilitary and the gorilla organizations. These battles have been funded largely by the narco-economy, that is drug money.

In the last several years the Colombian government has made significant progress under President Uribe towards achieving security for the Colombian people. There have been significant reductions in violence and human rights abuses. The general murder rate has fallen dramatically and the International Crisis Group has noted, “since 2003 Colombia has witnessed a substantial decline in violence and kidnappings”.

This increase in security has helped pave the way for a stronger Colombian economy. From 2002 to 2007, the Colombian economy has grown an average of 5.3% per annum. However, we know there are still significant problems in Colombia, for example, violence and its root causes, poverty, the paramilitary groups and the illicit drug trade still remain.

It is a problem that in our trade and our aid policy with Colombia, Canada has a responsibility to engage and to work in partnership with the Colombian government to address these issues.

The recent economic progress that Colombia has achieved has been impressive in many ways, but it is incomplete and fragile. It is fragile for the basic reason that it still relies heavily on narco-economy. If Colombia is to achieve sustainable progress in human rights, it must expand its legitimate economy. A strong legitimate economy is required to fund social infrastructure, which will help to address the root causes of violence and to wean the Colombian people off the narco-economy.

Advancements in institutional building must carry on, whether at the political, judicial or administrative levels. On this front, concerns have been expressed regarding the suggestion that President Uribe may seek a constitutional amendment to secure an unprecedented third consecutive term as president.

In its May 14 issue, The Economist magazine ran an article entitled “Uribe edges towards autocracy”. The opponents of the third term extension argue that checks and balances in the constitution are designed for a four year presidential term and that an erosion of the separation of powers under Mr. Uribe would be aggravated by a third term.

The same article also recognizes President Uribe's accomplishments in the past, including the fact that, “Many Colombians credit Mr. Uribe with transforming their homeland from a near-failed state to a buoyant, if still violent, place”. The magazine concludes that, “If he doesn’t quit while he is still ahead, history may judge that Mr. Uribe began to undo his own achievement”.

It is important to ensure that there be no erosion in the progress that has been made so far, that there be no constitutional amendment. Respect for the constitution is paramount for any democratic state.

There has been progress made. There has been movement to demobilize the paramilitary, the economy has improved and people are themselves stating that President Uribe has transformed Colombia from a near failed state to a buoyant place, though not as non-violent as they would have expected.

As we move forward with Bill C-23, we should ensure we emphasize that this free trade agreement helps improve the living standards of the poor, particularly in the rural areas. To ensure lasting progress, Colombia must ensure that its economic opportunities and jobs are there for impoverished Colombians. If it does not happen, then the only jobs they might get are through the narco-economy or paramilitary. We have seen classic examples of this in Afghanistan.

To help the legal economy grow, we need to think of a broader range and a free trade agreement is an important aspect. Trade and investment and the right free trade agreement could help the people of Colombia diversify and strengthen its economy and society.

If we look at Canada's involvement in Afghanistan, for example, we have realized that development is one way of getting that economy out of its dependency on the poppy trade and the Taliban. Two-way Canada-Colombia merchandise trade in 2008 was valued at $1.35 billion. Approximately half of it was exports.

Canada and Colombia are not exactly each other's biggest trading partners. However, by putting in place a free trade agreement with Colombia, one has strong investment protection measures. A free trade agreement could act as an international signal that Colombia could attract and leverage legitimate foreign investment from all over the world. Therefore, it is a significant agreement to the people of Colombia and it is important that we send the right signals.

Increased international economic engagement with Colombia and the potential for increased political pressure that comes with it could have the capacity, with the right free trade agreement, to incentivize the Colombian government to pursue further reforms in support of increased security, human rights and economic growth. In other words, the right free trade agreement can help the Colombian government promote peace, stability and the rule of law.

As we discuss the ratification of this free trade agreement, we should recognize what role Parliament plays and what is not in the terms of trade agreements. It is our responsibility as parliamentarians to determine whether Bill C-23 in fact represents a solid, sound free trade agreement. Does this agreement adequately address the legitimate concerns of Canadians regarding human rights abuses, labour laws and environmental standards? Are these measures relative to the side agreements on labour and the environment robust enough?

We know, for example, that the labour co-operation agreement requires that each country protect its right of freedom to association, the right to collective bargaining, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour, and the elimination of discrimination. We know that this agreement includes a complaint and dispute resolution process.

Would this process be legitimate and accountable? Those are the types of questions that we need to consider as a Parliament.

The government states that this process would, for example, allow a member of the public to file a complaint or request an investigation if Canada or Colombia failed to or was purported to have failed to live up to the agreement. Furthermore, the agreement would create an independent review panel that could impose fines on the offending country of up to $15 million.

The question we need to ask is this. Are these provisions sufficient? We need to as parliamentarians review and thoroughly analyze this.

As we study the legislation, we ask to call before committee recognized experts in these fields in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the labour and environmental provisions in this free trade agreement and its side agreements.

The Government of Canada, not the Parliament of Canada, negotiates trade agreements. The Government of Canada, not the Parliament of Canada, has negotiated this specific free trade agreement. It is not the role of parliamentarians to sit down with other countries to negotiate the free trade agreements. Trade negotiations are a function of the government and our public officials, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

However, our job as parliamentarians is to carefully consider the trade agreements before us and to determine whether or not they are in our national interest and whether or not the trade agreement, as written, reflects our values.

Therefore, the questions to ask are these. Is the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement, as the government has presented, which we are considering through Bill C-23, in Canada's best interest? Does it reflect our shared values, particularly in the areas of human rights? Will it achieve greater peace, prosperity and security for Colombians? Will it help us, as Canadians, partner with the Colombian people to develop and build their economy?

The U.S., our largest trading partner, has yet to ratify its free trade agreement with Colombia. It may in fact seek a renegotiation. The Obama administration has indicated an openness to a free trade agreement with Colombia but that may require a renegotiation and more robust agreements on labour and the environment.

How would this impact our position vis-à-vis Colombia and the U.S.? Should this affect the timing of our consideration of Bill C-23? These are the questions that must guide our deliberations during the debate today.

The Conservative government has still not formally responded to the report of June 2008, a year ago, of the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade. It is important that the government respond to the recommendations of the standing committee's report before it expects Parliament to vote on this out of respect for all parliamentarians.

The issue of violence in Colombia merits special attention and the resources available to the international trade committee ought to consider and assess the expected impact of this free trade agreement on the human rights situation in Colombia.

Proponents say that it would help, that in fact weaning the Colombian people off the narcotic economy with real economic opportunities is essential to moving forward. Some of the opponents, including some of the human rights organizations, say it will not help. In fact, it would make the situation worse.

We have a responsibility to drill down on the facts and to not be guided by ideology, either the ideology that free trade at all costs is the word of the day or the position sometimes taken by others that every free trade agreement is bad. We have to be guided not by ideology but by the real concerns expressed to us by the human rights community, the labour movement and others, and the concerns and support from people such as the agriculture and business communities, who see this as being an important opportunity for Canada.

Given recent developments, it would be important for the Standing Committee on International Trade to perhaps go to Colombia and see the situation on the ground firsthand, meet with the Colombian government and have these discussions. We need to have clearer discussions regarding the constitutional amendments. As parliamentarians, we must be able to satisfy that this free trade agreement and its side agreements will enable and not hinder progress on human rights, labour rights and the environment before we can support its ratification and send this legislation to the other place.

As we proceed with our deliberations, we must be very careful not to confound the issues of commercial trade with development aid. As parliamentarians, we must be clear that pursuing free trade with Colombia does not reduce the Government of Canada's responsibility to provide development aid to that country. We have to continue through CIDA to invest in and help the people of Colombia. A combination of trade policy and aid policy is important.

Canada is a country of great freedoms. The citizens are protected by laws that many governments do not extend. While we strive to protect the individual rights of Canadians at home, our efforts abroad are limited to leading by example. In order for us to engage Colombia on human rights issues, we need to do it through dialogue. Globally, Canada's experience has been that it is through a broader dialogue that human rights can be inculcated in those countries and their civil societies.

We in the Liberal Party have built our foundation on social justice and equality. This ethos is ingrained in our party, the party that is the party of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As members of Parliament, we must look at these broader terms of engagement before we make our decision.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2009 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, given the comments made by the member for Don Valley East, it is obvious that she is prepared to support our amendment.

When we were in Colombia and the committee was working on the possible free trade agreement, the government practically accepted and endorsed the principle of this agreement. Hence, the committee was not able to complete its work. Even if the member wanted to make changes to the agreement it would not be possible because it has been signed. We are now considering the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act. Therefore, we do not need to refer the implementation bill. We can simply stop the process, have the government go back to the drawing board and include, in the next revised version, those elements that have led to disagreement in this House with respect to the free trade agreement.

There are parallel agreements but the fact is that they are mutually exclusive. New free trade agreements should cover all aspects of human rights, labour rights and environmental law.

Based on her speech, I presume that the member will support the amendment we have presented today.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2009 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I looked at the history behind this trade agreement, I understood that the government did not do its due diligence and did not respond to the recommendations made by the committee, specifically that there be an independent, comprehensive rights impact assessment. I agree with the frustration that is being faced by many members as they look at this agreement because human rights are critical.

Labour movements are quite upset over this issue. However, in order for us to move forward globally, we need to look at what other avenues are available. Countries such as China and India used to have human rights violations. We opened up trade with them. We did it with Mozambique and South Africa. Remember the Frelimo fighters? We need to ensure that we move in a logical direction. I would be willing to look at the amendments before I make any comment on them.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2009 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the problem with the Liberal Party position that somehow this is like trading with South Africa is that in this case it would be like trading with South Africa under the apartheid regime. We are well aware of the criminal nature of the Uribe regime. We know of the evidence and the testimony and every single legitimate, reputable human rights organization in Colombia and Canada have denounced this agreement.

The CCIC said that the agreement makes a bad situation worse. Colombian civil society human rights organizations have all been very clear and so has the leader of the Liberal Party. The leader of the Liberal Party said the Liberals are going to prop up the Conservatives and support this agreement. So, it is disingenuous for Liberals to stand in the House and say that their leader is supporting this agreement with whatever, we do not care about the ramifications for Colombia, we are just going to help the Conservatives ram this through, and then have Liberal members try to pretend that they have not made that decision.

Can the member confirm that the leader of the Liberal Party said very clearly that he is propping up the Conservatives and supporting this agreement?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2009 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, as far as I know, President Uribe was democratically elected and I do not interfere in that country's democracy and the way it chooses its president.

When I do a comparison of the narco-economics and the poppy trade of Afghanistan, and I look at the similarities that are taking place of the reliance of the Afghans on the Taliban, because that is the only way they can get money, it is important that we open up the venue of legitimate trade. Yes, we have problems. This is not a perfect agreement. There are many issues, but we cannot teach human rights to anyone without leading by example. Opening up the door, allowing the Colombians to have dialogue with us on a broader base will slowly but surely address some of the issues.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2009 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member talked about comparing Colombia to other countries where we have seen human rights violations. I believe that the argument can be made that since we engaged in trade, by no means have these human rights violations ended. As Canadians, we should be looking at some of the human rights violations against first nations and people within our own country before we start talking about how our free trade agreement somehow put an end to human rights violations in other countries.

I would like the member to comment on the catastrophically unique situation that Colombia finds itself in. On so many markers of human rights abuse, Colombia ranks number one, number one in terms of the attack on trade unionists, the murders of trade unionists, and the disappearance of trade unionists. And such egregious violations for what? For the right to organize, for the right to stand up and call for fair wages, for equality for workers, something that we take for granted and benefit from here in Canada, and looking to internal displacement. The UNHCR has said on numerous occasions that Colombia ranks extremely high as a country with such a high number of internally displaced refugees.

When we are talking about comparing Colombia to other countries, I would like the member to note some recognition or give some thought to the fact that Colombia is a very different country than the other ones we are dealing with and that is why Canada's position has to be very clear. The Government of Canada cannot allow such human rights abuses to go under the watch of our agreements. We hope that the Liberals will recognize that a stand on human rights means voting against this free trade agreement.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2009 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am a citizen of the world. I was born in Africa of Indian parentage. I have lived in Britain. I now live in Canada. I think I know the world a lot better and I know where human rights violations are taking place. I know that we have traded with them and it has helped those countries.

The member mentioned the important aspect of the aboriginal communities in Canada, that we have to talk about them before we talk about human rights. It was the member's party that went to bed with the Conservative government and killed the Kelowna accord. The member cannot speak from two sides of her mouth. The member either believes in one thing or she does not.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2009 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member must be aware of the evidence and testimony regarding President Uribe's connections with paramilitaries, his role in the massacres in the Antioquia province and his direct ties with the Medellin drug cartel and Pablo Escobar.

Given all of that evidence and testimony and the fact that the Conservatives seem to think it is okay to do business with people linked with the drug trade and the Medellin cartel, does it not make the hon. member just a little uneasy to prop up the Conservatives on this issue?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2009 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, that does not justify the member's course of action nor the course of this House of Commons. Just because evil is propagated against others and that should justify us entering into an agreement where clearly there are significant problems with human rights activity and there is an organized, orchestrated campaign to intimidate those of the citizenry population who want to better their society and have done so in an open and accountable way, which has led to much suffering. Having had a chance to question some of the Colombian delegation at committee, I have not been satisfied with their response.

I mentioned four specific cases of civil liberty union organizers. They were not, for example, from the mines where we would expect some activism or from the farming community where there have been issues with the drug cartels. I mentioned the cases of the school teacher's union, the nursing association and the universities where even in Bogota and other places like that where there is that type of structure, those citizens who had become union organizers to defend the interests of their neighbours, their friends and their families were killed.

The response I got from the people at the Colombian embassy was rather unique. The vast majority of those cases were never brought to trial in Colombia, which they admitted and claimed that they were all crimes of passion. What they meant by crimes of passion was that those individuals were in relationships that somehow did not work out and the spouses, partners or people in their lives had killed them because of that dispute.

I found that response a condemnation of justice. It was a condemnation of a parliamentary committee trying to get to the bare bones of things and investigate things. It is a very dismissive approach that those cases would not be respected. I could not believe that was the response they gave.

However, we need to step back from some of this, from our side here in Canada, and hear from some of the individuals from Colombia. I have an interesting quote from an individual who states:

“If Canada were to assess the real impact of a trade deal on the lives of Colombians, I believe it would change its mind on the advisability of continuing negotiations,” says Bishop Juan Alberto Cardona, leader of the Methodist Church of Colombia.

Because the government is using it to justify its approach and to gain credibility in the international community, he goes on to say:

“So, naturally, the government is desperate for a deal with Canada. It’s like a stamp of approval,” says Bishop Cardona. “But we say, stop the killing of innocent Colombians, disarm the paramilitaries, and protect human rights before any deals are made.”

Given the massive investment by the United States government and of Canada through CIDA in other types of trade, which are actually occurring, surely the situation has not gotten to the point where we should just give it a free ride. It is important to note that we are trading with Colombia and were trading with Colombia during a time of record assassinations of its citizens.

What we are saying is that this free trade deal right now is wrong and we need to have that independent analysis that the committee has requested. The reasonable approach here is to ask whether it has been able to bridge the gap successfully to allow these issues to be part of an overall structure and plan, not side deals. Side deals on the environment and on human rights abuses are just that. They show the real fact, which is that they do not matter because if they really mattered they would be in the deal to begin with and they would be conditions to which we could actually hold the government accountable, and we could ensure that those people with whom we are supposed to be growing a relationship will get the natural defence and the rule of law applied to them and their families. Those are the ones we are talking about.

The Methodist bishop from Colombia was quite right when he pointed out that the interests of this deal were really thrust upon an elite group of citizens and the corporate agenda of large corporations that would benefit from it.

The least we can do in this respect is to pursue accountability through our actions. We need the independent assessment report that we are calling for right now and which we have been calling for for over a year.

I do not want to be too hard on my Liberal friends but the Conservatives continue to rub their noses into the ground on this. They have totally dismissed this approach as a reasonable way to come to a resolution here in the House on a Colombia free trade deal. They cannot even provide that element to the Liberal Party and yet the Liberals will support them without having that report completed. This shows the contempt that the Conservatives have for the issue of human rights, which is a priority for Canadians and important for our trading relationship. It is not a hard thing for the government to deliver. The assessment has been validated by a number of organizations, including Amnesty International.

I want to point out that there is some motivation and we saw that today in a press clipping on the Hill entitled, “Colombia may accept beef”. The Minister of Agriculture is pushing hard for Colombia to open its markets. In 2003, Colombia shut down the beef market because of mad cow disease, thereby shutting down Canadian access. The government sees this agreement as a portal to getting beef products back into that country. Interestingly enough, that would not happen until the summer, so Colombia is watching whether or not this deal happens. Maybe the deal is a sell-off for this Parliament.

There is no doubt that we all want trade but there is nothing wrong with following through on the will of Parliament through the committee to have that independent assessment.

The minister talked about a science based approach. If that were the case, then it would have opened the market a long time ago because nothing has changed since 2003 with regard to the science around this issue.

I want to touch on how things really matter in the House of Commons and in committee. Amnesty International pointed out this serious issue in a letter to the Minister of International Trade. I want to read from that letter because it tells us how real this issue is and how we can take either positive action or negative action.

People who came from Colombia to appear before committee put their lives at stake by coming forward but they wanted to make changes for themselves, their families and their communities.

In the letter to the Minister of International Trade dated March 27, 2009, Amnesty International stated:

Ten years ago, Canadian MPs heard compelling testimony about the devastating impact of a hydroelectric project that received US$18.2 million of Canadian financing assistance from the Export Development Corporation, in support of work on the project by a Canadian corporation. Embera Katio Indigenous leader Kimy Pernia Domico told a Canadian parliamentary hearing that members of his community, whose access to food and to a healthy environment was negatively impacted by construction of the dam, had never been consulted about the project in violation of their rights under the Colombian constitution. Kimy was subsequently disappeared by army-backed paramilitaries. His people continue to live in fear. Other communities do too. Last month, a delegation of human rights defenders from Colombia met with you and testified about the fear generated by the arrival of scores of soldiers in an area of Indigenous opposition to a foreign mining project.

Minister, Canada owes it to the memory of Kimy Pernia Domico, to his family, his community and to all Colombians to ensure that this deal will not exacerbate the already deeply troubling human rights situation in Colombia.

It is important to note that people like Kimy who came forward and testified here in these halls about the issue paid the price for that testimony.

Once again, all we are asking for is an independent assessment on the field.

The interesting thing about this case is it is not just a single one-off; a historic pattern has evolved. The current president, President Uribe, has been part of this problem in many respects, as has been noted by many in the international community.

Back in 2007, Jairo Giraldo, of the national fruit-workers union, and Leonidas Silva Castro, of the teachers union, were murdered in separate incidents. Jairo was part of an organized trade union that had to deal with the land property conflict with the drug trade. We do not know much about the situation involving Leonidas, except that he was murdered at his home. He was a member of the teachers union. That is important to note, because it is not just about those who have conflicts with the drug cartel. There is compelling evidence that connects the Government of Colombia, in the past and in the present, with the cartel and some of the problems they have had with cocaine and other types of commodities.

I find it interesting that we would be soft on those individuals yet in our country, the jargon out there is that we are tough on crime. However, it seems that it is okay if it is in somebody else's backyard.

With regard to the teachers union, it is disturbing that union leaders of civil society organizations end up being killed because they represent the workers of those organizations. Nurses associations and others have been affected by that.

Groups and organizations, not just from the Parliament of Canada but also the United States Congress, have travelled to Colombia, and have challenged the Colombian government on these issues. Despite that, there are murders to this day. Last year was a bad year. The pressure has been mounting. According to the February 2008 Reuters news article, “USW Delegation Visits Colombia to Meet Union, Political Leaders”, 40 Colombian trade unionists were murdered last year, more than all the union activists killed in all of the countries of the world combined.

It is incredible, in looking at the small geography of Colombia and looking at the other nations of the world where there have been active attacks on trade unionists, that there would be that concentration of murders. We should be talking about the mere fact that Colombia would actually be allowed to have a privileged trade agreement. Let us define this. That is what we are talking about today. We are not talking about ending all trade to Colombia. We are not talking about reducing trade to Colombia. We are not talking about the fact that Canada is trying to increase its trade to Colombia. We are talking about a privileged state of trade that Canada would want to enter into with the Colombian government that has a history of corruption, a number of issues tied to cartels and a number of issues related to killings where the government has not gone after those individuals to any significant success rate. We have not put any type of markers in this trade deal to deal with that.

In fact the issues that have been raised consistently are that of the environment and labour. It is critical to note the environment is also connected to the land conflict uses that could destroy communities and the people who have lived there for generations. They are side agreements.

We are talking about entering into a privileged trade relationship, and we would do so with a country that continues to have that type of record. The Reuters article states:

In the meantime, death threats against trade unionists in Colombia persist, with more than 200 occurring last year, and one union with which the USW works closely in Colombia, Sinaltrainal, received numerous death threats against its leadership last year from the extremely violent “Black Eagles” of the AUC paramilitaries.

Not only are individuals being slaughtered for representing their family members, friends and community members, we also have another series of intimidations. Let us be clear about this. When 40 people, trade unionists, at that point, basically half the year, in Colombia have been killed, we can imagine the level of severity and concern the 200 death threats that were recorded would actually have. These are not small things.

I wrap up—

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActRoutine Proceedings

March 26th, 2009 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Conservative