Colombia: Canadian free trade agreement advances —despite rights concerns

The Conservatives tabled the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement in Ottawa’s Parliament last week, reviving a deal opposed by labor and human rights activists. “International trade is critical to our economic recovery,” said Minister of International Trade Peter Van Loan in a press release. “As we move beyond stimulus spending and diversify opportunities for Canadian business abroad, this free trade agreement will help Canadians prosper.”

The agreement, which was being fast-tracked in parliament as Bill C-23, was sidelined when Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued parliament in Dec,ber. Critics of the Canada-Colombia FTA are urging Micheal Ignatieff, the leader of the official opposition, to vote against the deal, now dubbed C-2.

News of the tabling of the agreement came with the latest grisly figures on the murder of union members last year. Colombia’s National Labor School reports that 45 unionists were killed in 2009. “In the face of these serious, ongoing abuses it is unacceptable that Ottawa would even be talking to the Colombian government, let alone fast-tracking an agreement,” said Paul Moist, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, in a press release. (Media Co-op, Canada, via UDW, March 11)

The US-Colombia FTA is advancing despite continuing grave human rights concerns. Colombia’s main labor federation put the number of unionists killed in 2009 at 40—a slight improvement following a dramatic increase in 2008.

See our last posts on Colombia and Canada.

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