IN THE HOUSE ~ Debate at Second Reading of Bill C-2 (formerly C-23), the enabling legislation for the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement

40th Parliament, 3rd Session
Context : Questions and Comments

Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, I know the member is sincere in his concerns about the human rights abuses that are ongoing in Colombia. I certainly hope he can make those views known to his caucus and his leader because we are very concerned in this corner about the deal that seems to have been concocted between the Liberals and Conservatives to try to ram this bill through, despite the egregious ongoing and growing human rights violations taking place throughout Colombia.

Just yesterday the Flanders government, another European government, rejected investment trade between Colombia and Belgium, saying in Colombia there is a huge gulf between the human rights rhetoric and the reality. Yesterday the Liberal trade critic said that what the Liberals are going to try to do with the Conservatives is have the Colombian government report on itself. Can anyone imagine? That is like allowing elementary school kids to give themselves their own grades or allowing criminals to choose their own punishments.

If we extend that ridiculous notion to other aspects of government policy, we can see that the government is very desperate to ram the bill through. Canadians oppose it and say no.

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Context : Questions and Comments
Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, the member has been front and centre on this issue.

In the U.S. the treaty will simply not go before Congress. It has been set aside. In the European Union, government after government after government has rejected a proposed treaty.

The Conservative government, with some Liberal allies, is trying to push this agreement through at the worst possible time. Colombia is in an election period where impartial observers have talked about widespread fraud, fear, coercion, being used by the government to try to ram through a puppet election and we have the Conservatives trying to reward them for bad behaviour on the electoral front.

The question that stands in the House is why the Conservatives, at this worst possible time, would try to aggravate the human rights situation in Colombia rather than standing up to the Colombian government and saying it needs to have free and fair elections, to stop with the fraud, coercion and causing fear in the population and there needs to be democratic elections in Colombia.

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Context : Questions and Comments
Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, the member for Nickel Belt has been speaking out very clearly and strongly against this appallingly bad judgment shown by the Conservative government.

Why is it pushing it forward at this time? When every other democratic government is taking steps back and trying to put pressure on the Colombian government to improve the human rights situation, why are the Conservatives rewarding bad behaviour, criminal behaviour, murder and the ongoing violence that exists?

I have to note that the Colombian Commission of Jurists talks about the military arm of the Colombian government, the sexual abuse of women and ongoing murders. We know about the so-called false positives, the growing number of killings that are taking place and the paramilitary's link to the Colombian government. Yet there is not a single Conservative member willing to stand up for human rights, not a single Conservative member willing to stand and say this is an appalling human rights situation and the Canadian government will stand with the people of Colombia rather than standing with a government that its hands stained with blood.

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Context : Questions and Comments
Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, the member has been very sensible on this issue. I know he has read the reports, and unlike a single Conservative MP he actually understands the situation.

We have Conservatives laughing in this House about the death toll in Colombia. It is absolutely inappropriate. If they feel it is somehow funny when trade unionists are killed or human rights activists are killed, well I think they should go and defend that in front of their constituents.

If they think it is somehow funny that 4 million people have been displaced by violent paramilitaries connected to the government and by gorillas, then they should go and talk to their constituents.

This appalling approach of the Conservatives, this disregard for human rights is something their constituents do not share. Their constituents believe in Canadian values. Their constituents believe in labour rights, in human rights, and their constituents, quite frankly, believe they are completely off-centre in trying to force through this bad deal with a bad government, when Canadian values are being repudiated.

I think it is fair to say that the Conservatives are embarrassing themselves today by trying to push this through when they should be aware of the egregious and ongoing human rights violations taking place in Colombia against human rights advocates, against labour activists, against Afro-Colombians and against aboriginal peoples throughout Colombia. They should be ashamed of themselves.

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Context : Questions and Comments
M. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NPD): Monsieur le Président, j'ai beaucoup aimé l'allocution de mon collègue de Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques. Il représente vraiment une force en ce Parlement lorsqu'il parle de cet accord de libre-échange avec la Colombie.

Je vais maintenant lui poser une question. Il sait très bien, comme tous les députés en cette Chambre devraient le savoir, qu'actuellement en Colombie, le processus électoral connaît beaucoup de problèmes. Les observateurs impartiaux et indépendants parlent effectivement d'une peur vis-à-vis de la violence, de la fraude électorale et de l'intimidation qui est pratiquée par le gouvernement auprès des Colombiens qui veulent simplement avoir un peu de démocratie dans leur pays.

Pourtant, aucun député conservateur ne s'est levé pour dénoncer ces pratiques du gouvernement colombien. Pas un seul député conservateur ne se lève pour défendre la démocratie dans ce pays!

Mon collègue peut-il me dire pourquoi à son avis les conservateurs sont tellement silencieux alors qu'il s'agit d'une violation des droits des personnes et d'une violation de la démocratie en Colombie? Est-ce parce que leur gouvernement est allié avec ce régime et qu'il a les mains tachées de sang?

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Context : Questions and Comments
Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, the member has been very sensible on this issue as well. I know that he has read the reports and that unlike a single Conservative MP, he actually understands the situation.

We have Conservatives laughing in this House about the death toll in Colombia. It is absolutely inappropriate. If they feel it is somehow funny when trade unionists are killed or human rights activists are killed, I think they should go and defend that in front of their constituents.

If they think it is somehow funny that 4 million people have been displaced by violent paramilitaries connected to the government and by guerillas, then they should go and talk to their constituents. I say so because this appalling approach of the Conservatives, this disregard for human rights, is something their constituents do not share. Their constituents believe in Canadian values. Their constituents believe in labour rights, in human rights, and their constituents, quite frankly, believe they are completely off-centre in trying to force through this bad deal with a bad government, when Canadian values are being repudiated.

I think it is fair to say that the Conservatives are embarrassing themselves today by trying to push this through when they should be aware of the egregious and ongoing human rights violations taking place in Colombia against human rights advocates, against labour activists, against Afro-Colombians and against aboriginal peoples throughout Colombia. They should be ashamed of themselves.

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Context : Questions and Comments
Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Madam Speaker, I have breaking news.

Just a few hours ago the Liberals floated this trial balloon about somehow letting self-monitoring take place, that the Colombian government would monitor itself. I would just to read the first of the press releases that seem to be coming in.

This one is entitled, Liberals sell out on human rights with amendment to Canada-Colombia free trade agreement. It is signed by the Council of Canadians, Canada's largest citizen organization with 100,000 members, 5 times more than the National Citizens Coalition that the former prime minister headed.

It says the following,
"A Liberal proposal that would fast-track the passage of a free trade agreement with Colombia would put Canada at odds with international allies and betrays a parliamentary commitment to perform an independent human rights impact assessment first", says the Council of Canadians.
"The Belgium government today rejected a new investment treaty with Colombia because of ongoing and often unchecked human rights violations, and spying on NGOs by the Colombian intelligence agency. Incredibly the Liberals are ready to ignore all this by letting the Colombian government monitor its own human rights violations. The Liberal proposal flip-flops on a previous commitment that the free trade agreement should not be ratified until an independent human rights impact assessment can be carried out first".

Carleen Pickard who is one of the several Canadian members of the pre-election monitoring group that went down to Colombia said,
"Canada entering into a free trade agreement with Colombia now not only sends the wrong message to Canadians, it also may make Canada and Canadian companies complicit or passive supporters of continued violence in Colombia".

I would like the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway to comment.

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M. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NPD): Monsieur le Président, j'ai écouté avec beaucoup d'intérêt le député de Brome—Missisquoi. Effectivement, je pense que la question la plus importante devant le Parlement aujourd'hui est le fait qu'on entre dans une période électorale où le gouvernement colombien est accusé, par des observateurs indépendants qui examinent la situation électorale en Colombie, de fraude, d'avoir causer de la peur auprès de la population, d'avoir essayé d'intimider la population. Tous ces éléments sont présents dans le rapport donné par la mission pré-électorale qui est allée en Colombie.

Étant donné cette situation anti-démocratique qui existe en Colombie, pourquoi le gouvernement conservateur refuse-t-il d'intervenir, de pousser le gouvernement colombien à agir d'une bonne façon, d'établir des règles démocratiques pour ces élections?

Deuxièmement, pourquoi ont-ils un prix de mérite avec cette entente que le gouvernement veut forcer à travers la Chambre des communes sans avoir le type de débat nécessaire étant donné les violations des droits humains existant dans ce pays?