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The Council protests the Canada-Colombia FTA on Parliament Hill

The Council of Canadians joined with hundreds of concerned individuals and numerous unions and groups this afternoon on Parliament Hill to protest against the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. People gathered on the Hill in advance of Colombian president Alvaro Uribe’s appearance before the House of Commons standing committee on trade.

The Globe and Mail reported this morning that, “Colombian President Alvaro Uribe will press Canadian MPs today to ratify a free-trade deal with his country, but his target is Michael Ignatieff’s Liberal Opposition, not the Harper government. Human-rights activists and unions in both Colombia and Canada oppose the free-trade agreement, but Mr. Uribe’s government has mounted a lobbying campaign in Ottawa because it sees the deal as a way to catch a bigger fish: free trade with the United States. … Mr. Uribe is to address the House of Commons trade committee today, and to meet with about 20 Liberal MPs, and then with Mr. Ignatieff.”

On April 30, more than 50 prominent individuals and organizations – including Maude Barlow and the Council of Canadians – sent Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff a letter urging him to help stop the ratification of the proposed Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement until a full and independent human rights impact assessment could be carried out.

“We the undersigned are deeply concerned that Canada would abandon its values and its support of internationally recognized human rights in order to gain economic advantage for its companies at the expense of millions of displaced, impoverished Colombians,” said the letter, which was signed by Maude Barlow, Stephen Lewis, Ed Broadbent, Claudette Carbonneau, Alex Neve, Paul Moist, Rev. Bill Phipps, Farley Mowat, Sarah Polley, Naomi Klein, and others, as well as organizations like the Council of Canadians, Greenpeace, the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec, the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, the National Union of Public and General Employees and many more.

At a press conference in Ottawa yesterday, Maude Barlow said, “It is undemocratic to ignore the reasonable recommendation from a parliamentary committee for a human rights impact assessment of this deal. Yet, Prime Minister Stephen Harper seems driven to push this bad deal forward, despite growing opposition from many Canadians.”

With the withdrawal of the implementation legislation for the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement on May 27, we have won four months (the House resumes sitting on September 21) to mobilize additional opposition against this agreement, but it’s crucial that we keep the pressure on our MPs. You will find the tools to do that, including draft letters and fact sheets on the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, at http://canadians.org/trade/issues/CCFTA/index.html.

Today’s Globe and Mail article is at www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/colombia-to-ask-mps-to-ratify-free-trade/article1175890/.