Return to Home Page


March 10, 2010

A call to stop Bill C-2 - the renewed attempt to ratify the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement

On March 10, 2010, the Honourable Peter Van Loan, Minister of International Trade, and the Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of Veterans Affairs, held a press conference in Ottawa to discuss the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA). The Canadian government had already signaled its intention to re-introduce legislation in the House of Commons [based on a bill that had lapsed due to the prorogation of Parliament at the end of 2009 - Bill C23] - as Bill C-2. This move blatantly ignores the advice of opposition legislators and of many Canadian non-governmental organizations called to testify in last year’s hearings on the CCFTA, that Canada should first carry out a thorough human rights impact assessment (HRIA) as a prerequisite to ratifying any trade deal with Colombia.

There are now well over 4 million displaced people in Colombia mainly due to ongoing paramilitary violence. Extra judicial killings in the 2009 time period include the staggering statistic of 45 trade union leaders having been assassinated, the highest figure for any country in the world by far. “I find it unacceptable that the Canadian government intends to reward Colombia's rulers for the institutionalized violence that is being carried out with impunity on an almost daily basis” said Rick Arnold of the Canadian trade monitoring network Common Frontiers*.

The Canadian government has refused all along to acknowledge that Colombia’s President Uribe is part of the problem. Today, over 60 members of Congress, roughly 20%, have either been jailed or have come under criminal investigation for collaborating with paramilitaries. Nearly all of these individuals are members of President Uribe’s inner circle.

Now with Uribe out of the running for this May’s Presidential elections in Colombia, the Harper government seems intent in ramming through Bill C-2 in record time to reward an ideological soul mate before Uribe leaves office, otherwise why the hurry? Less than 1% of Canada’s exports go to Colombia. About 80% of existing trade imports from Colombia already gets to Canada duty free. The Obama administration has put off ratifying a deal with Colombia sighting human rights concerns. Several European Union countries feel the same way.

Bill C-2 calls into question why Canada would be providing legitimacy to what has been called one of the worst humanitarian disaster in the Western hemisphere. Common Frontiers calls on parliamentarians and other concerned Canadians to stop this free trade deal with Colombia from being ratified.

- 30 -

For further information please contact Rick Arnold, Common Frontiers coordinator at 905-352-2430

*Common Frontiers is a multi-sectoral network of organizations involved in research, education and political action on issues related to economic integration in the Americas. Members of Common Frontiers include faith groups, trade unions, environmental groups, international development organizations, as well as student and other social sectors, all with a national/international mandate.


Top of Page