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May 17, 2012
For Immediate Release

The federal government tables a non-report on free trade and investment impacts on human rights of Canada-Colombia FTA

Toronto, May 17, 2012 -- Canada's first legally-required assessment of the human rights impact of free trade with Colombia, tabled in the House of Commons this week, is completely inadequate, validating widespread concerns that the Harper government prioritizes trade and investment flows over human rights in Latin America, says Common Frontiers.

"The Federal government’s first Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) presents no information on the existing human rights crisis in Colombia" says Raul Burbano, coordinator of Common Frontiers, a multi-sectorial network of unions, activists and faith groups. "The report does not reference ongoing displacement of Indigenous and Afro-Colombia communities from their land, or continued violence against labour unionists, or a continuing culture of impunity for perpetrators of threats, intimidation and murders, much of them related to the kinds of economic activities-- like extractive industries and mass agriculture-- that the federal government hopes to reinforce through its recent free trade deal.”  More trade unionists are murdered in Colombia than any other country in the world:  17 have been murdered since the agreement went into effect on August 15, 2011.

Common Frontiers actively opposed the CCOFTA on the grounds that the FTA was intended to give Canadian corporations more power at the expense of citizens and communities.  (See backgrounder on CF website)

The Federal Government is counting on our collective amnesia regarding a 2008 parliamentary trade committee study that concluded that the FTA with Colombia should not proceed until Canadians saw improvements in the human rights situation. The government continues to ignore the facts regarding inequality, land concentration, displacement, impunity and violence against human rights defenders and trade unionists that permeate all levels of government and society.

"The Federal governments might have fulfilled on its legal obligations of tabling something on May 15th but it has failed on its moral obligation to ensure that it is prioritizing human rights over trade and investment," says Burbano.  Regarding trade with China, Stephen Harper said in 2006:  “I think Canadians want us to promote our trade relations worldwide...but I don’t think Canadians want us to sellout important Canadian values, our belief in democracy, freedom and human rights.  They don’t want us to sell that out to the almighty dollar”.  But that’s just what the Federal government has done on Colombia.   

The question needs to be asked if the federal government is seriously committed to human rights at any level. 

For more information:
Raul Burbano
Common Frontiers
416 522 8615


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