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‘Corporate profits or human rights?’ public forum

Toronto chapter activist John Barber sets up 'take action' signs at last night's event.

Toronto chapter activist John Barber sets up ‘take action’ signs at last night’s event.

Council of Canadians joined 200 activists last night in Toronto to rally support for the ongoing opposition to the Canada Colombia Free Trade Agreement. I joined Jasmin Hristov, author, Blood & Capital: The Paramilitarization of Colombia, Yhony Muñoz, OPSEU member, Peter Julian, federal NDP Trade Critic and Sid Ryan, President, Ontario Federation of Labour on a panel, specifically targeting MP Mario Silva. Mario Silva sits on the parliamentary International Trade Committee and will be soon deciding on supporting the ‘Brison deal‘.

The panel countered the government’s claims that a free trade agreement with Colombia will improve democracy and human rights in Colombia and spoke to realities on the ground through first-hand experience and documented statistics of ongoing violence in the country. I spoke of my recent experience in Colombia as part of a pre-electoral observation mission, and our work to support Colombian civil society and reject this Agreement. For more information, click here.

The engaged audience asked questions and commented late into the night, and were encouraged to take action by calling Mario Silva’s office before the night was through as well as pledging to talk to at least one person about the problems with the Canada Colombia Free Trade Agreement and convince them to take action. We NEED your support over the next few weeks as the ratifying legislation has been reintroduced by the government as Bill C-2. By raising our voices in opposition we can ensure that key members of the Liberal Party stand against the ‘Brison deal’ and ensure that Canada does not enter into this deal. As the final remarks of the report on the Canadian context of the pre-electoral observation mission report concludes: ‘The serious concerns raised by the pre-electoral mission combined with the ongoing human rights violations and the continued climate of impunity in Colombia further support the immediate halt of the CCFTA and the call for an independent and comprehensive human rights impact assessment. Canada entering into a free trade agreement with Colombia now not only sends the wrong message to Canadians and the Colombian regime, it also may make Canada and Canadian companies complicit or passive supporters of continued violence in Colombia.’

Carleen Pickard, Director of Organizing, The Council of Canadians