Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for sharing his time with me this morning, because many of us who wanted to speak on this trade deal are going to be denied that opportunity as a result of the government's time allocation motion. I really appreciate the member's sharing his time.
I am, of course, speaking to oppose this bill at second reading. I want to address something that keeps coming up again. I know that the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour addressed it as well. The NDP has said there are three criteria for assessing trade agreements. When those criteria are met, we will support these agreements.
First, we should ask ourselves if the proposed trading partner is one who respects democracy, human rights, adequate environmental and labour standards, and Canadian values generally. Second, is the proposed partner's economy of significant or strategic value to Canada? Third, are the terms of the proposed agreement satisfactory?
I believe this agreement fails all three of these tests. That is the reason I plan to vote against it.
I want to focus on the first criterion and the appalling human rights record of Honduras. International human rights organizations have documented serious human rights abuses, killings, arbitrary detentions of thousands of people, severe restrictions on public demonstrations and protests and freedom of expression, and interference in the independence of the judiciary. These are all well-established facts about the Honduran human rights record.
Honduras, as many have mentioned, has the highest murder rate in the world and is considered the most dangerous country in the world for journalists. Transparency International ranks it as the most corrupt country in Central America. We all know it is a major drug smuggling centre, and it has the worst income inequality in the region.
Why has Canada chosen to negotiate a trade deal with Honduras, a country with a seriously flawed human rights record and a history of repressive, undemocratic politics?
The democratically elected government of left-leaning president Manuel Zelaya was overthrown by a military coup in 2009. The Honduran army carried out this coup under the pretext of a constitutional crisis that was actually a dispute about the president's progressive social and economic policies. This move was widely condemned around the world, including by all other Latin American nations, the European Union, the United States, and the UN General Assembly.
Canada has refused to consider any sanctions against the regime that succeeded president Zelaya, and has refused to condemn the systematic abuses of human rights that occurred in its aftermath. Instead, we have chosen to pursue a closer economic relationship with Honduras without conditions. It is interesting to note that the same time we are pursuing free trade with Honduras, we broke off free trade talks with El Salvador when it elected a progressive government. I think there is an agenda here that seems quite clear: we will do deals, but not with people who are too progressive.
In January 2010, the current leader, Mr. Sosa, assumed the presidency through what almost all have called undemocratic and illegitimate elections. Most foreign governments and election monitoring agencies refused to even send observers to these elections, and almost all countries, I guess apart from Canada, have rejected the results of these elections.
The leading Honduran human rights group has documented the killings of at least 16 political activists and candidates from the main opposition party since June 2012 and attacks on 15 more. On August 25, 2013, three leaders of the indigenous Tolupan of Honduras were shot and killed. There are extensively documented cases of police corruption and documentation of 149 ex-judicial killings of civilians by the police reported between January 2011 and November 2012 alone.
Earlier the Minister of International Trade suggested that Honduras is coming out of a difficult period, but the facts paint a very different picture.
Let us look at what international human rights organizations have to say about the situation in Honduras now. Let me quote from Amnesty International's written statement to the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council just a few days ago. The statement was called “Honduras: Deteriorating human rights situation needs urgent measures.” It says:
Amnesty International is increasingly concerned about the human rights situation in Honduras, in particular about human rights violations against human rights defenders, women and girls, Indigenous, Afro-descendant and campesino (peasant) communities, and LGBTI people. These violations take place in a context where impunity for human rights violations and abuses is endemic and where organized and common crime is high. In 2011, according to UN figures, the homicide rate in Honduras was the highest in the world.
It is a pretty damning indictment of the current human rights situation and not an indication that Honduras is coming out of some dark period.
Human Rights Watch recently issued a similar report. For the sake of time today, I will not read through that report but it says essentially the same things as the Amnesty report.
I want to draw attention today to two groups that continue to be subject to extreme levels of violence in Honduras, journalists and transgendered Hondurans. According to Honduras' own National Human Rights Commission, 36 journalists were killed between 2003 and mid-2013. That is about one journalist every four months, and many others have suffered threats, attacks, and kidnappings, including the kidnapping and murder of the most prominent TV news anchor in June 2013.
The authorities have consistently failed to investigate all of these crimes. No charges have been laid in the murder of the TV news anchor. Attacks on journalists and opposition candidates are of course attacks on democracy and should be a serious concern when they take place in a country with whom Canada is contemplating signing an international agreement of any kind.
There has been less publicity about attacks on the other group I want to draw attention to, but who have been subject to even higher levels of violence in Honduras. This is the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community, but in particular the transgendered community. Again, why would Canada seek an agreement with Honduras in view of its appalling record of violence against the LGBTQ community, especially when the Minister of Foreign Affairs has made strong statements in defence of gay rights in other forums?
In May 2009, Human Rights Watch published a report on human rights abuses against transgendered people in Honduras called “Not Worth a Penny”. This report documents the murder of 17 transgendered people in public places, in broad daylight, in Honduras in the five years leading up to its report. Not one of these killings led to a prosecution or a conviction.
Lest we be misled by the Minister of International Trade's assertion that things are getting better, let me provide some updates on how things are actually getting worse for transgendered Hondurans.
Since the release of the 2009 human rights report, 34 more members of the LGBTQ community have been murdered in Honduras. The one bright spot is that there has been one prosecution and one conviction: 39 more attacks, one prosecution and one conviction.
On January 31, 2011, Human Rights Watch sent a letter appealing to President Porfirio Lobo Sosa to investigate the murders of six transgendered women in a 60-day period. None of those deaths has been investigated and, obviously, there have been no arrests.
Transrespect, the group that intends to document violence against the transgendered community around the world for the annual Trans Day of Remembrance, has documented eight more trans murders in Honduras in 2012, and 12 more in 2013. This gives Honduras the distinction of having the highest per capita transgender murder rate in the world. Not only is it the highest rate in the world, but it is also twice the rate of the country with the second highest rate, and three times that of the country with the third highest rate.
This brings the total number of trans murders up to 60 in six years. This includes the January 9, 2009 assassination of Cynthia Nicole Moreno, a widely known Honduran transgender rights leader who worked as a spokesperson for Colectivo Violeta, the transgender rights organization. She was often seen on the streets helping to provide information about HIV and AIDS and basic human rights to transgendered sex workers, and she often represented the transgender community in the media. There has been no prosecution of anyone for her death.
The North American Congress on Latin America, another observer of the sad events in Honduras, also documented the murder of Walter Trochez , a young health promoter for the Association for a Better Life for Persons Infected and Affected by HIV/AIDS in Honduras. Again, he was shot in broad daylight by two men on a motorcycle. Although human rights groups have demanded an investigation, no one has been prosecuted for his killing to this date.
What is most disturbing is that pattern of transgender murders indicates that security forces have often been involved, and that even where they have not been directly involved, they have consistently failed to investigate and follow-up with prosecutions of those responsible.
I have chosen to focus on that first criterion of the three that the NDP says are those ones by which we must evaluate countries before entering into trade deals. Honduras is by any measure an undemocratic country, a serious human rights violator.
Canadians expect our federal government to set a good example on the world stage by seeking out partners that respect fundamental human rights and share our sense that all citizens are entitled at the very least to the right to life and not being subject to attack by their own security forces.
This deal fails to defend fundamental Canadian values on the world stage and fails to aid Hondurans who are seeking to protect their fundamental human rights.