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Emergency Tweet-In 4 Colombia TONIGHT as trade committee cuts off witnesses, heads straight to clause-by-clause

If you are in Ottawa or on Twitter we need you tonight for an emergency Tweet-In 4 Colombia starting at 6:30 EST. What we’ve been predicting for a few days has finally happened — The Liberals have voted with the Conservatives on a motion by Gerald Keddy to stop hearing from witnesses on the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement and head straight to six hours only of clause-by-clause consideration and voting. After six hours, c’est tout, debate over, the FTA goes onto next steps and democracy suffers a major setback in Canada. So we need you online from 6:30 p.m. onwards to re-tweet messages from @CouncilofCDNS.

If you’re not on Twitter, you could send a letter to Liberal members of Parliament asking them to reconsider the fast-track option and do what they said they would do: give the CCFTA a comprehensive and thorough analysis at trade committee — not rush it through as they appear to be doing tonight.

Click here to read our press release from today on the inadequacy of the Brison human rights side-agreement, which the Conservatives tabled last night.

Click here to access our Action Alert: Let the experts speak on Colombia! You can copy and paste some or all of my letter below, which updates the situation at trade committee.

Thanks and good luck!

Dear Liberal members of parliament,

I’ve just been listening to a live stream of the international trade committee hearings, which have been for the past two meetings, quite inexplicably, in-camera. It will resume at 6:30 p.m. tonight. This means the Conservative motion by Gerald Keddy to stop hearing from witnesses and head straight to an abbreviated clause-by-clause consideration of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement has passed with Liberal support.

My question to you is: What is your rush? The Liberals promised to give this free trade agreement a thorough study at trade committee. How does not listening to the remaining witnesses on the list and rushing through clause-by-clause in six hours fit with your promise to be thorough and comprehensive? The answer is that it doesn’t, so the actions of Liberal members of the trade committee need explaining.

I would also appreciate hearing from you about the vanishing Liberal amendment to the Colombia FTA. Liberal trade critic Scott Brison assured Canadians and the Liberal party that his amendment to the Colombia FTA would answer any concerns about a human rights impact assessment being carried out before the deal is ratified, as an all-party trade committee report recommended in June 2008.

Having read the sparse agreement this morning – the one that Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon tabled in the House yesterday – it appears that there may not be any amendment, just a toothless side agreement that sets up no methodology for how rights assessments are to be carried out while allowing the Colombian government to do its own assessment.

This is not credible and it is not what Mr. Brison promised when he urged the Liberal party to vote on second reading to send the FTA to committee for debate. Why are the Liberals working with the Conservatives right now, today in trade committee, to speed through that debate, doing damage to the democratic process?

The actions of Liberal members of trade committee, and the complete inadequacy of the side agreement with Colombia, raise serious questions about the Liberal party’s commitment to human rights. There is no reason whatsoever that I can see to rush this trade agreement, or any piece of legislation for that matter, through Parliament now before the summer.

Canadian civil society, labour, student, environmental, development, human rights and ecumenical groups have unanimously called on the government to seek an impartial and comprehensive human rights impact assessment before the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement is ratified. Those opposed to this include the Conservative government, a handful of business lobbies and, it now appears, the Liberal party.

It doesn’t have to be this way. I sincerely hope and urge you to side with human rights, democracy and simple caution on this by insisting the remaining witnesses be heard at committee and, if they cannot be, do whatever you can to make sure an impartial human rights impact assessment is done before the agreement is ratified.

I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Stuart Trew
Trade Campaigner
The Council of Canadians