Madam Speaker, I could say I am pleased to rise here today, but the truth is, I am not.
I do not understand how a government can introduce a bill in the House of Commons that aims to implement a free trade agreement with Colombia. I find it shocking. It is appalling that a government should favour the mining industry at the expense of human rights in Colombia.
First of all, people here have spoken out to say that this agreement favours the mining industry in several ways. The agreement's provisions have been explained in a number of documents. Colombia is one of the main countries where the mining industry can still mine coal.
If a mine is established in the middle of a village, mining companies have no problem displacing all the people. As we all know, anyone who resists will be killed. Is that what we want? Does Canada want to send a message to the entire world that it cares more about an industry than about people? We want to protect those people. This kind of situation cannot be tolerated by Canadians.
Human beings have rights, workers have rights and children have rights, such as the right not to work and not to be exploited. We do not let companies break the rules here, but we are ready to help them do it elsewhere. I am dumbfounded by this. Moreover, so many crimes go unpunished in Colombia as a matter of course that human rights groups believe there is collusion between Colombian politicians and paramilitary forces. At this very moment, more than 30 members of the congress are under arrest in Colombia. I do not think that Colombian parliamentarians, as a group, are particularly trustworthy. I have said it before, and I will say it again: I do not understand how a country like Canada can pursue free trade with Colombia without a thought for the Colombian people. It is beyond comprehension.
The Conservative government would have us believe that things are much better than they used to be. But that is not what we have been reading and hearing about what is going on in Colombia. We have been hearing that in 2008 the number of crimes committed by paramilitary groups rose by 41%, compared to 14% the year before. That means that in 2008, the paramilitary crime rate surged by 55%. Is that what we want to be a part of? Are these the people we want to help?
Maybe everything is fine and dandy in Colombia, but there is one thing I do not understand. The Conservatives should listen carefully, because I did not make this up. It is right there on Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada's website. The website recommends that people avoid all non-essential travel to the city of Cali and most rural areas of Colombia because of the constantly changing security situation and the difficulty for the Colombian authorities to secure all of its territory. And where do these mining companies operate? In rural regions.
We are told that everything is fine and that we should trade with Colombia, but on the other hand, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada tells us that we should not go there because it is dangerous. It is dangerous for the people of Canada and the people of Colombia, but for the mining industry alone, it is not dangerous. That industry faces no danger, because it hires the paramilitary forces and does business with them. I will come back to Foreign Affairs later.
The government is going to tell us at some point that Canada does business with Colombia and that it does good things. I will tell hon. members what it does with Colombia. Canada buys only raw materials from Colombia. Energy products accounted for 31% of exports in 2007, while agricultural and agri-food products accounted for 58%. It is the mining industry that the government wants to protect. Canada buys a total of $138 million worth of coal and related products, $115 million worth of coffee, $72 million worth of bananas and $62 million worth of cut flowers. That is our trade with Colombia. Is it profitable for us? No, it is not. Can we do without it? Yes we can.
I repeat, and this is the important point in the free trade agreement with Colombia, the only thing we do not want is for Canada to take the people of Colombia hostage in an effort to promote the mining industry. That is what the government is trying to do. I totally disagree with giving even two minutes' thought to helping an industry to the detriment of a people. It is unfair. It is unthinkable.
I return to the subject of Colombian exports. They do not come from urban regions. They come, rather, from Colombia's most remote rural regions. It is here, in these remote regions, that the greatest wealth of natural resources is to be found, but it is here, too, that the most violence is to be found. To continue in this vein, it is here that 87% of the forced population displacements occur, as well as 82% of abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law and 83% of the murders of union leaders. Continuing on, according to the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, this would lead one to believe that there is substantial evidence that Canadian investment in these regions of Colombia is linked to human rights violations.
I am not making that up. It is taken from a report of the Standing Committee on International Trade of June 2008 on concerns over the effects on the environment and human rights in connection with the free trade agreement with Colombia. I can go even farther than that. It is clear and simple. A group from the Standing Committee on International Trade carried out studies to find out whether, through the free trade agreement, something could be done in support of human rights and the environment. Democracy here in this House is not the kind of democracy that should be copied around the world, and I will tell you why.
This government authorized the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development to go and see what was happening in Colombia in order to prepare a report, including conclusions on the free trade agreement. The members did not even get time to draft the report before the government signed the free trade agreement with Colombia. Is that the sort of democracy they want in this House? They ask people to prepare a report and then ignore it. Is this the government Canadians and Quebeckers want here? I do not think this is the answer.
I want to continue from where I left off. There was talk of areas where a high degree of caution is required. The exception to this would be some parts of the coffee growing area near Bogotá and resort areas with established tourist industries. People should avoid travelling to Colombia.