NEWS ~ Letter from Prominent Canadians calling on Ignatieff to put human rights before free trade
April 30th, 2009 - 4:00am
Over 50 prominent individuals and organizations have 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 can be carried out. The letter to Ignatieff notes that while trade can support development and the realization of human rights, neither the political conditions in Colombia nor the terms of the free trade agreement meet the criteria that would allow that to happen.
Liberal Party Leader and Representative for Etobicoke—Lakeshore
House of Commons
April 30, 2009
Dear Mr. Ignatieff,
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.
The government of Colombia has one of the worst trade union and human rights records in the world.
According to the United Nations, the humanitarian crisis in Colombia is the worst in the hemisphere.
Under President Alvaro Uribe’s watch, more than two million people have been displaced from their
resource rich territories, while thousands of trade unionists, peasants, indigenous peoples, Afro?
Colombians and activists have been killed by the state and affiliated paramilitary organizations.
In spite of Canadian government assurances that security has improved in Colombia, the murder count
for unionized workers increased 25 percent between 2007 and 2008. In fact, over 60 percent of trade
unionists killed globally are killed in Colombia, while the conviction rate for these crimes remains at only
three percent. With this level of impunity, there is very little incentive for the perpetrators to stop.
The Uribe government continues inaccurately to denounce union members and other human rights
defenders as guerrillas, statements that only encourage paramilitary groups to continue putting workers
and other civilians in extreme jeopardy. At the same time, the government is mired in corruption,
electoral fraud and complicity with drug lords and death squad leaders. For these reasons, the
International Criminal Court in The Hague is assessing whether representatives of the Colombian
government are guilty of crimes against humanity.
Mr. Ignatieff, despite growing opposition from many Canadians, ongoing opposition in the United States
Congress to a similar agreement with Colombia, and Norway’s recent decision to put their own
Colombian deal on hold pending improvements in human rights, Prime Minister Stephen Harper seems
driven to push this bad deal forward.
Let us be clear – a vote against this deal is not a vote against trade.
Experts have concluded that given the context of violence and displacement the trade measures in the
Colombia FTA will exacerbate the human rights crisis, while the labour rights and environmental
provisions in the deal are ineffectual. The environmental side agreement of the Canada?Colombia FTA
does not even meet NAFTA standards. Trade can support development and the realization of human
rights, but neither the political conditions in Colombia nor the terms of this FTA meet the criteria that
would allow that to happen.
Last June, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on International Trade (CIIT) recommended that in the
case of Colombia an “impartial human rights impact assessment be carried out by a competent body,
which is subject to independent levels of scrutiny and validation.” It further stated that “the
recommendations of this assessment should be addressed before Canada considers ratifying and
implementing an agreement with Colombia.”
Not only would it be undemocratic to ignore this reasonable recommendation from a parliamentary
committee, as your party has already pointed out, but it would be irresponsible considering the ongoing
controversy in Colombia.
If, as Prime Minister Harper says, conditions and rights violations have substantially improved in
Colombia, then an assessment would make this perfectly clear to the public. We strongly urge
leadership from the Liberal party to help postpone the ratification of the Canada?Colombia FTA until
such an assessment can be carried out.
Stephen Lewis, Professor, McMaster University
Maude Barlow, National Chairperson, The Council of Canadians
Sarah Polley, actor / director
Naomi Klein, author, The Shock Doctrine
Bruce Cockburn, O.C., musician
Farley & Claire Mowat
Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada (English Speaking Branch)
Paul Moist, Presidnet, Canadian Union of Public Employees
Béatrice Vaugrante, Directrice générale, Amnistie internationale Canada (Francophone)
Claudette Carbonneau, Présidente de la Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN)
Réjean Parent, Président de la Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ)
Khaled Mouammar, National President, Canadian Arab Federation
James Clancy, National President, National Union of Public and General Employees
Judy Rebick, CAW Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy, Ryerson University
Gerry Barr, President?CEO, Canadian Council for International Co?operation
Mary Corkery, Executive Director, KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
Bruce Cox, Executive Director, Greenpeace Canada
Robert Fox, Executive Director, Oxfam Canada
Very Rev. Bill Phipps, Moderator, United Church of Canada, 1997?2000
The Very Rev. the Hon. Lois M Wilson, CC
Jim Stanford, Economist, Canadian Auto Workers
Tony Clarke, Director, Polaris Institute
Bruce Campbell, Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Patricia Rebolledo Kloques, Executive Director, Horizons of Friendship
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union
Irene Lanzinger, President, B.C. Teachers’ Federation
Sid Ryan, President, CUPE Ontario
Barry O’Neill, President, CUPE B.C.
Darryl Walker, President, B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union
Larry Hubich, President, Saskatchewan Federation of Labour
Pierre Beaudet, Founder, Alternatives
Steven Staples, President of the Rideau Institute, Founder of Ceasefire
Kerry Pither, author, Dark Days
Nancy White, artist
Dr. Denise Nadeau , Interfaith Summer Institute for Justice, Peace and Social Movements,
Simon Fraser University.
James J. Brittain, Ph.D., Department of Sociology, Acadia University
Jim Sacouman, Ph.D., Department of Sociology, Acadian University
Gordon Laxer, Political Economy Professor, University of Alberta
David Eggen, Executive Director, Friends of Medicare (Alberta)
Robert Chernomas, Professor of Economics, University of Manitoba
Kim Elliott, Publisher, rabble.ca
Michèle Boisclair, 1ère vice?présidente de la Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du
Québec – FIQ
François Vaudreuil, Président de la Centrale des syndicats démocratiques (CSD)
Luce Leblanc, 1ère vice?présidente de l’Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la
santé et des services sociaux (APTS)
Francine Néméh , Directrice du Centre international de solidarité ouvrière (CISO)
Marie?Ève Rancourt, Coord. nationale du Mouvement d'éducation populaire et d'action
communautaire du Québec (MÉPACQ)
Pierre?Yves Serinet, Coord. national du Réseau québécois sur l’intégration continentale (RQIC)
Rick Arnold, Common Frontiers
Normand Gilbert, La Table ronde des organismes volontaires d'éducation populaire de l'Estrie
Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario
Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee)
Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network
Christian Peacemaker Teams Canada
Développement et Paix
Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ)
Projet Accompagnement Solidarité Colombie (PASC)
Regroupement autonome des jeunes (RAJ)
La Chiva Collective
Lawyers Rights Watch Canada
Manitoba Federation of Labour
Rainforest Action Network
Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine (CDHAL)
CC: Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada
Jack Layton, Leader, New Democratic Party of Canada
Gilles Duceppe, Leader, Bloc Qu?b?cois
Elizabeth May, Leader, Green Party of Canada