OPSEU calls on members to step up e-mail and letter writing campaign to stop the Canadian government from pushing through this agreement. Debate starts today. Send your e-mail today! See the alert from Amnesty International below:
We have heard that the Government of Canada has pushed Bill C-23, legislation to implement the Canada Colombia Free Trade Agreement up to the top of its order of business when Parliament resumes on Monday, May 25. Debate on the bill is set to begin on Monday afternoon as part of the second reading.
Amnesty International Canada continues to be highly concerned about ongoing, systematic and widespread human rights violations in Colombia, many of them in areas of economic interest. In this context, it is deeply troubling that Stephen Harper has failed to comply with the recommendation made by the House of Commons Committee on International Trade that the government commission a credible third party human rights impact assessment and address its findings before considering implementation of the Free Trade Agreement.
The NDP and the Bloc Québécois are on board in supporting this recommendation. To date, the Liberal Party’s new leader Michael Ignatieff has not shown a willingness to join other Opposition MPs in pressing the Conservatives to exercise due diligence via a human rights study. A recent Open Letter signed by many prominent organizations and individuals, including Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada (English Speaking Branch) and his counterpart Béatrice Vaugrante of the francophone branch, called on Mr Ignatieff to make such a study a precondition for any Liberal support for the deal. Disappointingly, the Liberal Party"s Trade Critic Scott Brison was quoted in the press as dismissive and rejecting the recommendation out of hand. We have even heard disturbing statements coming from Liberal leadership that the human rights situation is much improved under the Uribe government. Such statements are no different than what the Harper government has to say and deny the realities documented in report after report by Amnesty International.
I. What you can do
Since Colombia and the FTA will be up for debate in the House on Monday, it is very important to write to your MP immediately, express your concerns again, and make it clear that you expect nothing less than that there is no implementation unless and until a third party human rights study is undertaken, with the findings then addressed in an adequate fashion.
How Liberals choose to vote on this issue will likely be the deciding factor. For this reason, it is particularly important to express your concerns to Liberal MPs and to Liberal Party leader, Michael Ignatieff (see contacts below). We have reason to believe that some Liberal MPs, who have heard from constituents, are trying to shift the position of the Liberal leadership.
Members of other organizations and trade unions are also mobilizing right now. It is a crucial time to put human rights front and centre in the debate and to ensure that trade and investment policy is put to the test to ensure it does not undermine human rights. Your letters are needed this weekend, if possible, ahead of debate on Bill C-23 that begins on Monday. If you are unable to find time this weekend, please try to send a message as early next week as possible. [Please note: Background information can be found at http://www.amnesty.ca/take_action/action
II. Possible sample wording
Personal messages in your own words work best but below is a sample of a message sent to a Liberal MP this past week.
I live in your riding and wish to share a matter of great concern to me — namely Bill C-23 to implement the free trade agreement that the Harper government negotiated with the government of Colombia, a country that has the worst human rights record in the hemisphere and the second largest number of internally displaced people in the world, after Sudan. It also has a reputation as the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade unionist.
As the bill goes to second reading, I believe it is imperative that MPs take seriously the recommendations made last year by Parliament"s Committee on International Trade and ensure, at the very least, that the Bill does not pass without an amendment to ensure that a credible, third party human rights impact assessment is carried out and any problems identified are addressed before implementation.
To my mind, the crucial question to be answered is why not an independent human rights impact assessment!
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this issue for the members of my household. We will be watching and listening carefully as to what happens next.
III. Who to write to
2. Also write to Michael Ignatieff, Liberal Party Leader at IgnatM@parl.gc.ca and send a copy to Liberal Members of the Standing Committee on International Trade: John Cannis, Scott Brison and Mario Silva at CanniJ@parl.gc.ca; BrisoS@parl.gc.ca and SilvaM@parl.gc.ca
3. If you have time, you may also wish to send copies to other Liberal MPs
Andrews.S@parl.gc.ca; Bagnell.L@parl.gc.ca; Bains.N@parl.gc.ca; Belanger.M@parl.gc.ca; Bennett.C@parl.gc.ca; Cannis.J@parl.gc.ca; Coady.S@parl.gc.ca; Coderre.D@parl.gc.ca; email@example.com; Crombie.B@parl.gc.ca; Cuzner.R@parl.gc.ca; Damours.J@parl.gc.ca; Dhaliwal.S@parl.gc.ca; DhallR@parl.gc.ca; Dion.S@parl.gc.ca; Dosanjh.U@parl.gc.ca; Dryden.K@parl.gc.ca; Duncan.K@parl.gc.ca; Easter.W@parl.gc.ca; Eyking.M@parl.gc.ca; Folco.R@parl.gc.ca; Foote.J@parl.gc.ca; Fry.H@parl.gc.ca; Garneau.M@parl.gc.ca; Goodale.R@parl.gc.ca; Guarnieri.A@parl.gc.ca; HallFindlay.M@parl.gc.ca; Holland.M@parl.gc.ca; Ignatieff.M@parl.gc.ca; Jennings.M@parl.gc.ca; Kania.A@parl.gc.ca; Karygiannis.J@parl.gc.ca; Kennedy.G@parl.gc.ca; Leblanc.D@parl.gc.ca; Lee.D@parl.gc.ca; MacAulay.L@parl.gc.ca; Malhi.G@parl.gc.ca; Martin.K@parl.gc.ca; McCallum.J@parl.gc.ca; McGuinty.D@parl.gc.ca; McKay.J@parl.gc.ca; McTeague.D@parl.gc.ca; Mendes.A@parl.gc.ca; Milliken.P@parl.gc.ca; Minna.M@parl.gc.ca; Murphy.B@parl.gc.ca; Murphy.S@parl.gc.ca; Murray.J@parl.gc.ca; Neville.A@parl.gc.ca; Oliphant.R@parl.gc.ca; Pacetti.M@parl.gc.ca; Patry.B@parl.gc.ca; Pearson.G@parl.gc.ca; Proulx.M@parl.gc.ca; Rae.B@parl.gc.ca; Ratansi.Y@parl.gc.ca; Regan.G@parl.gc.ca; Rodriguez.P@parl.gc.ca; Rota.A@parl.gc.ca; Russell.T@parl.gc.ca; Savage.M@parl.gc.ca; Scarpaleggia.F@parl.gc.ca; Sgro.J@parl.gc.ca; Silva.M@parl.gc.ca; Simms.S@parl.gc.ca; Simson.M@parl.gc.ca; firstname.lastname@example.org; Tonks.A@parl.gc.ca; Trudeau.J@parl.gc.ca; Valeriote.F@parl.gc.ca; Volpe.J@parl.gc.ca; Wilfert.B@parl.gc.ca; Wrzesnewskyj.B@parl.gc.ca; Zarac.L@parl.gc.ca
IV. What else can I do?
If you haven"t already done so, please make sure to contribute your face to our Photo Petition for a third party human rights impact assessment of the Canada Colombia Free Trade Agreement. By collecting photos, instead of signatures like a regular petition, we"re hoping to make visible that people from different communities and all walks of life are very concerned about the human rights situation in Colombia and want a third party human rights study to make sure the FTA doesn"t make the situation worse. You can read more at www.amnesty.ca/colombia (top item in the blog). All you have to do is take a digital photo of yourself against a neutral background, holding a sign written in large letters with a thick black marker indicating your name, where you live and your occupation (rather than institutional affiliation). We’re asking people to take photos of friends, family and colleagues too. Please send your photos to our campaigner Sarah Beamish at email@example.com
Thanks so much for your concern and your activism. Together we can make a difference!