Skip to content

Steelworkers to lobby against Canada-Colombia FTA as second reading and debate starts in House

The Canada–Colombia Free Trade Agreement hits the House of Commons floor at noon on Monday, May 25 for second reading and debate. I encourage all who can to watch the debate online on CPAC.

The United Steelworkers will be asking MPs next week to vote against Bill C-23 — the implementation bill for the CCFTA. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to call your MP in his or her riding (until Sunday) or in Ottawa on Monday morning. For a sample letter, see our last Action Alert.

The Liberals need the most talking to. They’ve been reproducing Colombian government propaganda claiming that Human Rights Watch thinks things are improving under Uribe’s administration. When writing or calling your MPs, you might remind them that many of Canada’s allies see things differently:

– On April 29, 2009 the Guardian UK reported that “Britain has quietly ended nearly a decade of military aid to Colombia’s armed forces after accusations of gross violations of human rights, including the murder of civilians who were shot and reported as guerrillas killed in combat.”

– The Government of Norway has suspended free trade talks with Colombia while a delegation explores the human rights situation on the ground. “We are not satisfied with the way human rights and fundamental labour rights are dealt with in this agreement,” said Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen to the Norwegian press.

– The United States government is also delaying ratification of its free trade agreement with Colombia while it explores “benchmarks for progress” on things like human rights and labour conditions, which could become enforceable under any eventual agreement.

It’s been asked again and again but here it is… again: What is Harper’s rush? And why are the Liberals apparently happy to help the Conservatives ram this through Parliament?

You can stop them, but you have to write or call your MP soon.

Here’s the USW press release from today:

Media Advisory – Daughter of murdered trade unionist in Ottawa: Steelworker lobby to caution against agreement with human rights violator Colombia

OTTAWA, May 22 /CNW/ – United Steelworkers’ (USW) National Director Ken
Neumann announced today that union rank-and-file members will come to Ottawa
May 25-29 to directly urge opposition MPs to vote against Bill C-23, which
would implement the Colombia trade agreement signed by the Harper government.
“We are asking all opposition MPs to renew their commitment to the 2008
all-party Standing Committee on International Trade,” said Neumann. “That
recommendation calls for an independent, impartial and comprehensive human
rights impact assessment before Canada considers free trade with Colombia.
“Nothing has changed since the Committee made its report. Human rights
continue to be violated and trade unionists continue to be murdered.”

Neumann added that a young Colombian lawyer, Yessika Hoyos Morales, will
join the Steelworker lobby. Hoyos Morales is the daughter of a murdered trade
unionist. Her father, Jorge Dario Hoyos Franco, was shot repeatedly in the
face eight years ago by two hired gunmen.

Hoyos Morales’ father is just one of 2,694 unionists and union leaders
who have been assassinated at the hands of paramilitaries over the last 20
years in Colombia.

“My father worked broadly with unions, student organizations, women’s
organizations,” said Hoyos Morales in a statement. “He worked to defend the
rights of communities. He was recognized and loved by the people for his work.
The murderers made good on their threats against my father. But my father made

good on his word – he never gave in to the demand that he stop fighting for the people.”

“Canada should not be legitimizing a regime with such a brutal record
through this international agreement. We should not proceed until Canadians
can be assured that they are not making a deal with the devil,” said Neumann.
Neumann added that trade agreements, once implemented, are no longer an
effective vehicle for pursuing human rights.

“Once the deal is made, there is no more incentive to make real and
lasting change,” he said. “Rewarding the Uribe government’s bloody record is
simply wrong.”

USW Legal Counsel Mark Rowlinson will testify at the Trade Committee on
Tuesday, May 26, on the other prominent Latin American trade agreement
legislation – C24, Free Trade with Peru.

The USW represents 250,000 men and women working in every sector of
Canada’s economy. The union has links with struggling and surviving unions in
Colombia and has conducted its own fact-finding missions.

For further information: Pat Van Horne, USW, (613) 731-6315, (613)