Mr. Speaker, Stephen Colbert has a word for Republicans in the United States basically making up facts. The word he uses is “truthiness”. What Colbert has said in The Colbert Report is, “Truthiness is just feeling something in the gut, rather than doing your do diligence and looking at your facts”. That is what the NDP has actually done. It has looked at the facts and done its due diligence and not relied on truthiness, which is what we have seen from the Conservatives in this debate so far on Canada-Colombia.
I know many Canadians have written to the leader of the Liberal Party and the Prime Minister. Thousands of letters have gone to the Leader of the Opposition's office because so many Canadians deplore how the Liberals have sold out human rights on the issue of Canada-Colombia. Those thousands of Canadians have been watching the debate and what they have seen is one side simply presenting whatever emotional poll it has and another side presenting the facts.
Because the NDP effort is fact based, what I will do is talk about the facts of Colombia and this trade agreement. Hopefully I will have enough time, though not a lot of time, to talk a bit about the NDP approach on fair trade. As you know, Mr. Speaker, the NDP is the only party that actually does public consultations on trade policy.
We believe Canadians need to be engaged on trade issues. We believe Canadians actually need to discuss trade, that trade has implications and that bad trade policy can have as negative implications as good trade policy can have positive. Unfortunately, under the Liberals and Conservatives, we have seen very little good trade policy.
The first fact to talk about is what is actually happening in Colombia. The most important thing to look at is what has happened since these negotiations started with Canada-Colombia. What has happened over the last three years?
The Centre for Popular Education and Research, and that is citing a study rather than just saying things are better in Colombia, has shown that over the last three years there has been a marked increase in paramilitary killings, extrajudicial executions and the so-called false positives by the Colombian military. That has been cited. As we well know, the false positives are why the United Kingdom pulled out of its military arrangement with Colombia.
While the Canadian government is trying to push forward, other governments, like Norway and the United Kingdom, and even the U.S. Congress have pulled back. Obviously there is a problem.
The facts are the following. The number of trade unionists killed increased 18% from 2007 to 2008. It is up even higher this year. The number of disappearances has increased. The number of false positives, which is an innocent word that describes a horrible reality, has increased.
I will cite another source because it is important to get real facts out on the table, not just the emotions or the truthiness the Conservatives feel. I know they love President Uribe, but they cannot let their wild, whacky emotions, because he is an ideological soul brother, get in the way of the facts. The reality is that most people I know who even vote Conservative would be absolutely outraged with these ties with paramilitaries and the drug trade that has been fully documented.
Another fact is the comptroller general of Colombia mentioned recently that drug traffickers and paramilitaries now “own” almost half the agricultural land in Colombia. The concentration of land has intensified. Sixty-one per cent of agricultural land is now in the hands of 0.6% of the population.
We are trying to put in place a trade deal that enhances ownership rights of a very small proportion of the population. Changes in land tenure law as well would mean that those who have been forced off the land by the paramilitaries and forced into communities like Soacha, which I visited along with the trade committee a year and a half ago, once they stay away from that land because of fear of death, they lose their ownership rights. There are four million displaced citizens, the largest forced migration on the planet, and our trade agreement would enhance the strategy of paramilitaries and drug lords to run these innocent, hard-working people off their land.
The other thing I want to address is the whole issue of what human rights organizations are actually saying. Organization after organization has denounced this agreement.
Making a Bad Situation Worse: An Analysis of the Text of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement states:
Colombian civil society and human rights organizations have been clear: they do not want this agreement. President Barack Obama has indicated the United States will not proceed with their FTA with Colombia given continued and escalating violence against workers and the impunity with which these crimes are committed. What is Canada doing?
That was asked by an organization which is a coalition of national organizations.
Forever Solidarity: A Public Sector Trade Union Report on Colombia says: “Free trade will hurt, not help Colombians”.
All of this is available to members of Parliament if they choose to do their due diligence, if they choose to do their homework.
One might say the situation has not improved in Colombia and is getting worse, statistically, by every measure. That is very clear. However, that individual might like President Uribe. I understand the Conservatives' love for President Uribe but let us look at the facts.
We have heard testimony about what President Uribe's career has been like. Again, all of this stuff is available to the public domain. The Colombia Journal mentions that young Uribe rose in Medellin, supported by Pablo Escobar. He was removed from office after only three months by a central government embarrassed by his public ties to the drug mafia. When he became governor later on security forces and paramilitary groups enjoyed immunity from prosecution under governor Uribe.
A document that was obtained through Access to Information put out by the Defense Intelligence Agency, and again available to members of Parliament, mentions in terms of the top 100 narco-traffickers Alvaro Uribe Velez, a Colombian politician. It states:
--senator dedicated to collaboration with the Medellin cartel at high government levels. Uribe was linked to a business involved in narcotics activities in the U.S. His father was murdered in Colombia...Uribe has worked for the Medellin cartel and is a close personal friend of Pablo Escobar Gaviria. He has participated in Escobar's political campaign to win the position of assistant parliamentarian.
That information was corroborated by other agencies in the U.S. When the information came out, the Bush administration tried to move into high damage control mode, but that information is publicly accessible.
Now we move to the current day. Since the last time we debated this issue, we heard the BBC's breaking news about Diego Murillo, talking about his substantial contributions to the campaign of Mr. Uribe in 2002. Diego Murillo was the successor of drug lord Pablo Escobar in the city of Medellin.
As the Washington Post reported, “Scandals surround Colombian Leader--Top Aides Suspected in Secret Police Case”. I am quoting now from the story on May 16:
For weeks after the news broke, Colombians knew only that the secret police had spied on Supreme Court judges, opposition politicians, activists and journalists. Suspicions swirled that the orders for the wiretapping, as well as general surveillance, had come from the presidential palace.
This is the situation that Colombia is in. The Conservatives want to give a privileged trading relationship to this president and his administration. This is someone whose political career was tied to drug lords and later on tied to murderous paramilitary thugs who are responsible for the deaths of up to 100,000 people.
Any voters, whether they voted NDP, Bloc, Liberal or Conservative, who have the ability to look at both sides of this issue, would say in the case of that extreme violence, in the case of the impunity with which these crimes have been committed, that we should not give a privileged relationship to an administration that has very clearly fallen short of the fundamental norms and values that Canadians hold. I do not think any Conservative could go back to his or her riding and defend ties to an administration that was elected with drug lord money and has ties with paramilitary thugs. That is why the NDP is opposing this trade agreement.
What are we putting forward? We are saying quite simply that fair trade, something we favour, has to be built on a series of values. We have to respect democracy, respect the environment. We have to look at a fair trade approach that builds social, environmental and labour standards. This is what we put forward.
We also believe in doing our homework on every trade deal, whether it is the softwood sellout, the shipbuilding sellout or this sellout of human rights. We have analyzed and actually looked at the impacts, and that is why we have been able to speak up with such authority. Most Canadians agree and want to see this deal stopped.