Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me this opportunity to participate in the debate on the free trade agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia.
My colleagues have made it quite clear that the Bloc Québécois is against this bill. As we all know, the bill will help a few large Canadian mining companies at the expense of local Colombian populations and their environment. This bill does not require Colombia to respect human rights. Yet somebody needs to tell Colombia that it has to respect human rights.
It is incomprehensible that a country like Canada would choose to sign a free trade agreement with a country like Colombia.
People have pointed out that our economies are not comparable, yet one of the basic criteria for signing a free trade agreement is that the signatories have similar economies.
Free trade agreements should do more than just foster trade. We need to be able to go visit our partner's country, travel by plane while there, drive on their roads, go out and meet people. We need to be able to get into government buildings. Even if we sign this treaty, we will not be able to go there. It is a shame that the government does not really understand what it is saying.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada's website has a page about Colombia with advice and warnings for travellers. One of the headings says “Exercise high degree of caution”. These are warnings issued by the Government of Canada to travellers about Colombia.
There is no specific information about future terrorist activities or threats against Canadian citizens in Colombia. However, the security situation remains unpredictable. Possible terrorist targets include military and police vehicles and installations, restaurants, underground garages, nightclubs, hotels, banks, shopping centres, public transportation vehicles, government buildings, and airports located in major cities.
How can we conclude a free trade agreement with a country where it is dangerous to travel to airports located in major cities? How can we conclude an economic free trade agreement with a country where there could be attacks on government buildings? How can we put money in banks in a country that we cannot travel to because it is dangerous? We are talking about terrorist attacks.
In the same section it says:
Canadians should be vigilant and avoid any unattended packages or parcels and bring them to the attention of security personnel.
This makes no sense. Can we recommend that the Conservative government avoid any free trade agreements with Colombia?
Under the heading, “Regional Warning”, it says, “Avoid non-essential travel”.
Under “Official Warning”, it says:
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada [the Conservative government] advises against non-essential travel to the city of Cali and most rural areas of Colombia, because of the constantly changing security situation and the difficulty for the Colombian authorities to secure all of its territory.
Who is going to sign a free trade agreement? What minister would want to go to that country after reading this?
The paragraph goes on to say:
The exception to this would be some parts of the coffee growing area southwest of Bogota (Risaralda, Quindio and Caldas), and resort areas with established tourist industries, such as the Rosario Islands off the Atlantic coast and the Amazon resorts near Leticia. In all cases, travel to rural areas should only be undertaken following the overland travel advice in the Safety and Security section of this report.
There is more. The third warning, “Avoid all travel”, begins like this:
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against all travel to the departments of Putumayo and Narino (excluding Pasto), located along the border with Ecuador, and to the departments of Arauca, Choco, Santander (excluding Bucaramanga) and Norte de Santander (excluding Cucuta), located along the border with Venezuela.
What follows is worth hearing:
The presence of armed drug traffickers, guerrilla and paramilitary organizations, including the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the ELN (National Liberation Army), poses a major risk to travellers. These groups continue to perpetrate attacks, extortion, kidnappings, car bombings, and damages to infrastructure in these areas. Landmines are used by guerrilla groups, especially in rural areas.
And we are being asked to enter into a free trade agreement with a country that has guerillas, armed drug traffickers and paramilitary organizations? There is said to be a high risk of attacks, extortion and kidnappings. Who wants to sign a free trade agreement with a country that has these sorts of problems?
You are also advised against all travel to the departments of Cauca, Caqueta, Guaviare, Valle de Cauca (excluding Cali) [earlier, the site said to avoid Cali] and Antioquia (excluding Medellin), to the southern parts of Meta department and to the city of Buenaventura, due to the presence of similar armed groups.
Signing a free trade agreement with a country we cannot even visit is insane. This very government says not to go there because it is dangerous. It says to avoid all travel to certain regions, to avoid all essential travel to other areas and to exercise a high degree of caution because of the possibility of terrorist attacks. I am going to list the places where attacks could occur. It is frightening.
Possible terrorist targets include military and police vehicles and installations, restaurants [Restaurants. Where will we eat? Should we bring a lunch?], underground garages, nightclubs, hotels, banks, shopping centres, public transportation vehicles, government buildings, and airports located in major cities.
We must not go to these places. This government is issuing warnings it is not heeding itself, because I imagine it is planning to go to these places.
According to the Vivre ensemble newsletter, published by Centre justice et foi, an organization that works to build a welcoming society for new immigrants:
—Canada is currently a leader in having Colombian refugees sponsored to settle permanently in the country. However, we must first look at the disturbing role Canadian companies have played in fueling the conflict, with the consent of the federal government. In 1995, the Canadian company Goldfields signed a contract to operate a gold mine with a rich local family. Until then, the mine had been artisanally mined by the inhabitants of the Río Viejo region. At the same time, paramilitaries massacred 400 people and drove more than 30,000 people out of the region. The soldiers who also participated in this atrocious carnage were known to have been trained at the School of the Americas.
This is from the Vivre ensemble newsletter. It is not pretty. It continues:
A second troubling fact is that the Ottawa Citizen recently reported that a Canadian aerospace company was working with the Colombian army to maintain its military helicopters. Vector Aerospace, a Newfoundland company, confirmed that it had received the blessing of the federal government [of Canada] to sign the $6.5 million contract. The government felt that there was no valid reason to believe that this armament would be used against civilians. [Come on. Who else would it be used against?] The Colombian army and its associated paramilitary organizations have been singled out by numerous international observers, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and found responsible for thousands of violent killings.
That was taken from last spring's Vivre ensemble.
This Conservative government does not care about the well-being of the Colombian people. A number of points make it blatantly clear that there is nothing in this agreement for the people of Colombia.
This agreement is about protecting investments. This agreement is about exploiting the local people and the Colombian environment. This agreement will not help Colombian citizens in any way.