Maybe my colleague from the NDP who made a comment should have been at the luncheon. Maybe he should have heard the minister. If he thought that the minister was lying, he would have had every opportunity to confront the minister, as the president was confronted last June by the NDP. Again I stress how tolerant the president, the head of state, was when he was literally bombarded with comments which I felt was an unprofessional approach. Nevertheless, the gentleman stayed, took the questions and he was gracious enough to respond.
Maybe those members do not like it when I present the facts, but I have to deal with facts. That is what Canadians must know, not the huffing and the puffing that comes from people on the extreme left who, if they had their way, there would be no way.
With respect to victims of massacre, in 2002 there were 680, and in 2009 there were 147. That again is progress.
In 2002 there were 1,645 terrorist attacks, and in 2009 there were 486. I believe they are going in the right direction.
With respect to displacements, there were close to 440,000 in 2002, and in 2009 there were 114,000. That is a success story in itself. Is the number of 114,000 alright? No, even that number is too high.
What these stats are showing us is that they are working on addressing this most serious problem.
I was visited by a gentleman by the name of Frank Pearl, who works with a government program that is investing millions and millions of dollars to reintegrate combatants into society, to reunite them with their families and retrain them so they can become progressive, constructive people within their society and work for a living as opposed to doing other unacceptable acts.
With respect to women's rights, there is an entire section on how they are addressing violence against women. On December 4, 2008, they approved law 1257 for raising awareness, preventing and penalizing forms of violence and discrimination against women. It is not as though they have neglected their responsibility towards women.
With respect to internally displaced persons, I have talked about how they have been reducing those numbers consistently.
I met Mr. Frank Pearl who was kind enough to share some information with me.
Let us turn to children, on whom we put such value here in Canada. I have often said in this House that unless we address the needs of our young men and women, their proper upbringing and early education, then our country will obviously miss out on the future. They are our future. Colombia is doing the same thing. They realize that as well. They are investing heavily in their young men and women.
Let me give an example regarding free education. As of October 2009, resources transferred to schools to subsidize education costs for vulnerable groups have provided benefits for 5,230,446 children. The goal established for 2009 was 4,670,000, so they have in essence exceeded their goal.
The Colombian government, as difficult as its past has been, is making a genuine effort to address the problems we are concerned about.
The way I see it that nation is going to trade with Europe. If it is not Canada today, it is going to be some other country tomorrow.
At the end of the day, my attitude personally, and I know I speak on behalf of my other colleagues on the Liberal side as well, is that we have a unique opportunity not necessarily to benefit by doing trade, not necessarily to go in there and sell them more goods and buy some of their goods as well, as that is secondary to me. We have a unique opportunity to go to this troubled spot, if I can describe it like that, a country that understands its shortcomings but wants to do the right thing. It is dealing with difficult circumstances. The most important thing I see for us is that we have an opportunity as a nation to go there and show them the Canadian way.
If we had taken this very aggressive attitude that we are hearing from the New Democratic Party and from the Bloc as well, we would not be doing any trade with China. We would not be trading anything with China. Just imagine how many jobs Canada would have lost over the years.
What did we do? We know now that human rights, labour violations, et cetera, have been addressed in China. Twenty or 30 years ago, we would not have been able to say that, but we went there. As former prime minister Chrétien used to say, “I will go there”, and he did go there. He did engage with China and he did create jobs and opportunities. Most important, we showed them that there is a responsibility to everything and that it is not just a matter of producing goods and services and making money. It is a combination of things. This is what we are trying to do with Colombia as well.
We were ready to sign the Central America free trade agreement. I would be misleading Canadians and my colleagues here in this honourable chamber if I said that there were no violations in Central America. I am not going to name countries because that would be unfair, but I will just talk about the region. We know very well there are some troubled spots in almost any country in that region, but we were not prepared to go there. By not going there, we hurt our textile and garment industry, our pork industry, our beef industry, and many other industries that have lost out. We could have been there and showed them how we do things here in Canada.
I mentioned Mr. Pearl who was here to visit. The president himself was here and came before the committee, which I chaired, and the senior minister that I referred to was here. It shows us two things. It shows us that Colombia is not walking away. It is not saying it does not have problems. They are the first ones to say, “Yes, we have problems and we want to address them, but we also need help”. If there has ever been a country on this globe that knows how to help, it is Canada. We have an opportunity to put our stamp on Colombia by engaging in this deal.
The United Nations has also put forth certain prerequisites. The United Nations is monitoring this engagement with Colombia very closely. It is not as though the UN is saying, “Go off and do your thing”. That is not how it is. That is how it is being portrayed right now by the NDP, and that is totally unfair and inaccurate. I do not like to use the word “lies”, but it is totally inaccurate, because the UN is on top of it. If the UN is there and if we do not respect it, we are also saying that we do not respect the UN.
I look forward to answering questions from my colleagues. The government's side, the Minister of International Trade and the secretary of state know what our position is. There is no room for low blows or rhetoric at this stage, given that we are more than prepared and happy to work with them to do the right thing.