A human rights side-agreement to the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (Bill C-2), developed by Liberal trade critic Scott Brison over steak dinner with his Colombian counterpart and tabled by the Conservatives in the House of Commons, is toothless, insufficient, and would allow the Colombian government to assess its own human rights violations, says the Council of Canadians.
“If this is the so-called breakthrough human rights agreement Mr. Brison developed with the Colombian trade minister over steak dinner and a night of dancing then it is not very well done,” says Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “The only thing rarer than the meat in this flimsy agreement is any real protection for human rights and workers in Colombia.”
Mr. Brison has been assuring his Liberal colleagues that an amendment he proposed in the House in March to the Colombia free trade agreement would satisfy widespread and longstanding calls for an independent human rights impact assessment of the deal before it is ratified – calls that his own party made in an all-party report to the government on the free trade deal in June 2008. The ‘human rights side-agreement’ dated May 27 and tabled yesterday betrays that promise.
Meanwhile Canadians have been shut out of on-going trade committee hearings and have yet to see the details of the amendment to the ratification legislation for the free trade agreement (C-2) because the Conservatives went in camera last Thursday and today.
“First the Committee recommends a human rights impact assessment, then they ignore it. Next the Liberals agree to comprehensive and in depth committee hearings but they go in camera and consider supporting motions to end the hearings when there are still more witnesses to hear. And now Scott Brison’s so-called human rights amendment is watered down through a meaningless side agreement. Clearly the rationale for this deal has collapsed,” says Council of Canadians Director of Organizing Carleen Pickard.
Last week, the Council of Canadians discovered a forged email sent to all Liberal MPs in the name of Council chairperson Maude Barlow professing support for the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement.
“I find it very unfortunate that not one of the Liberal MPs who received this fake email raised a single question about it, given that by now they have received thousands of letters from Council of Canadians members and constituents in their ridings opposing this deal. Our position is clear,” says Barlow.
The Council of Canadians has contacted Ottawa police to investigate the fraudulent email given that the IP address indicates it was sent from Ottawa.
A copy of the agreement is available upon request.
Dylan Penner, Council of Canadians, Media Officer, (613) 795-8685; firstname.lastname@example.org