IN THE HOUSE ~ Adjournement Proceedings – Julian exposes flaws in the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Deal

40th Parliament, 1st Session

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak on the issue of international trade.

I think it is fair to say that with the events that have transpired today and the hard ideological thrust of the government that we saw just a few short minutes ago that events may have gone much further than was foreseen when the finance minister rose to impose that ideological closure on the government.

I am rising to speak on another aspect of the government's ideological plan that came to light just a few days ago when the government pushed through the signing of the Canada-Colombia trade deal with the Colombian government.

As we know, this agreement has been widely derided because of the lamentable human rights situation in Colombia. Essentially we have a situation where the number of trade unionists killed, these are ordinary working people who simply want the right to be able to negotiate collectively with their fellow workers, has reached epidemic proportions.

Thousands of those who work in the labour movement, those simple workers who are getting together with their co-workers, having chosen to have an organized workplace, have been massacred by paramilitaries that have close ties with the Colombian government, with virtually no protection from the Colombian government at all.

What did the government choose to do? It chose to sign an agreement. This is the protection that is offered to Colombian workers who are being massacred. I should mention that the number of ordinary workers killed, massacred by these paramilitaries with the tacit approval of the government has increased this year. So we are not just talking about an epidemic, we are talking about an epidemic that is getting worse.

Essentially the government's plan is to put in place a fine system. They get a token fine if the murder of human rights activists or organized workers continues. In the Canadian government's wisdom, this ideologically-bent government has put in place a token fine system.

Those people can continue to be massacred and killed indiscriminately, and the government will then ask the Colombian government, politely, to pay a small fine to itself. In other words, there is a solidarity fund, and the Colombian government has to cough up a small token amount. I do not know if there is a volume discount, so that they pay $100,000 if five or six labour unionists or human rights activists are killed, but they pay that fine and then the Colombian government decides how to use it.

It is laughable. It is irresponsible. My question to the parliamentary secretary is simple. Does the Conservative tough on crime agenda include a government that has egregious and consistent human rights violations, and egregious and consistent violations of the fundamental right to organize the workplace? Can it simply get away with a little fine to themselves? Is that what they propose for Canadian criminals?