Bogotá, April 20, 2009
Michael Ignatieff, Leader of the Liberal Party.
Jack Layton, Leader of the New Democratic Party.
Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada and Leader of the Conservative Party.
Gilles Duceppe, Leader of the Bloc Quebecois.
Copied to the Members of the Standing Committee on International Trade:
Liberal Party: John Cannis, Scott Brison, Mario Silva.
New Democratic Party: Peter Julian.
Conservative Party: Lee Richardson, Dean Allison, Ron Cannan, Richard M. Harris, Ed Holder, Gerald Keddy.
Bloc Quebecois: Serge Cardin, Claude Guimond.
Copied to all Members of Parliament.
Allow us to call to your attention something that has been of great concern to us, and also to present some important information regarding this matter.
As you are aware, the Conservative government presented the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement to Parliament on March 26, 2009 for ratification, though many Colombian and Canadian organizations have been opposing the deal for some time. The New Democratic Party (NDP), the Bloc Quebecois, and several Liberal Members of Parliament oppose this deal as well. In response, the Harper government has claimed that this deal would help both the Canadian and Colombian economies as well as require the Colombian government to improve the human rights situation in Colombia.
We would like to express our disagreement with the arguments put forward by the Harper government, in the light of the following information:
Numerous studies have shown that signing the Canada-Colombian FTA would have dramatic consequences on work conditions in Colombia and Canada, and jeopardize fundamental collective rights recognized by Canadian democracy, without demonstrating any economic benefit. Also, the FTA—which amply favours Canadian mining companies, who have not always followed accepted social and environmental regulations—would result in a worsened balance of environmental and human concerns.
To sign this deal would not only make Canada complicit in the innumerable crimes committed by the Colombian government, which crimes have been denounced by the United Nations and the Interamerican Court of Human Right; it would also fail to recognize the work that has been done to defend human rights, to which an important part of the Canadian community has committed itself.
How is it possible to discuss improving the human rights situation in Colombia when the report published by Amnesty International on October 28th, 2008 indicates that 1400 civilians were murdered in 2007, and 1300 murdered in 2006? During the first part of 2008, close to 270,000 people were forcibly displaced, which is equal to a 40% increase compared to the same period in 2007. There are serious indications that discredit the process of paramilitary demobilization and lead to two conclusions: paramilitary forces continue to threaten and assassinate innocent people and almost all of their crimes remain unpunished.
At the end of 2008, the scandal of extrajudicial executions took place (or “false positives”): the army systematically murdered civilians for the purpose of inflating the numbers of the victories gained in anti-guerrilla warfare, a scandal that has lead to the Alvaro Uribe Vélez government’s legitimacy to be seriously questioned. During the last two presidential terms, at least 1200 defenceless civilians have been assassinated, which deaths have then been reported as “killed in action.”
And these are only a few of the innumerable examples.
It is important to note that the Congress of the United States rejected the ratification of a FTA similar to the one presented to the Parliament of Canada, given the deplorable situation of the government of Colombia in the matter of human rights violations.
We believe that in the course of the last few years, Canada has been losing its international reputation and its tradition as a leader in the defense of human rights. For this reason, it is vitally important for Canada to follow the example of the government of the United States and reject the ratification of the Canada-Colombia FTA.
Accordingly, we ask that you give the greatest attention to the situation that prevails at the moment in Colombia and to actively denounce the Free Trade Agreement in Parliament, and oppose its ratification.
We trust that you will represent your electorate and the consensus of Canadians with dignity, opposing the ratification of the FTA, which will likely occur in the following weeks. We would appreciate any correspondence from you informing us about your position and any actions that you will undertake after receiving this request.
Central Workers’ Union - CUT
Union of Workers – USO
Colombian Action Network in Response to Free Trade - RECALCA
Colombian Federation of Educators – FECODE
National Indigenous Organization of Colombia– ONIC
Association of Campesinos of Cundinamarca - ADUC
Censat Agua Viva, Friends of the Earth Colombia
Sons and Daughters for Memory and Against Impunity
National Assotiation for Agricultural Preservation
Commerce with Justice Campaign, My rights are not Negotiable
Colombian Students’ Organization – OCE
Center for Studies of Work - CEDETRABAJO
Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca - ACIN
Center for Studies of Coal and Large Scale Mining
Seeds Group – Groupo Semillas
Raúl Eduardo Mahecha School for Union and Political Organizing
Federation of Miners of Santander - FESAMIN
José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective
Union of Energy and Mine Workers, El Paso Local
Association of Small and Medium Agricultural Producers of Cauca - AGROPEMCA
Association of Ranchers of the Municipality of Sucre - ASOGAN
Union of the Family Wellbeing Institute - SINBIENESTAR
National Union of Coal Industry Workers – SINTRACARBÓN
Colombin Committee for Struggle against the FTAA
Colombian Social Development Service Foundation
Popular Environmental Movement
Center for Teaching Studies and Research (CEID) of the Association of Instructors of Antioquia ADIDA
Local Cultural Council of the area Rafael Uribe Uribe
Environmental Roundtable of Bosa
National League of Users of Public Services, National League of Users and Defenders of Residential Public Services
Alternatives to Violence Program
Central Workers’ Union, Boyacá Local
Carlos Gaviria Díaz, President of Polo Democrático Alternativo (opposition party)
Carlos Bula Camacho, General Secretary of Polo Democrático Alternativo
Roberto Schmalbac, Member of Congress, Departament of Santander, Polo Democrático Alternativo.
Nestar Franco de Ferrer Member of Congress, Departament of Atlántico, Polo Democrático Alternativo.
Alonso Orozco Gómez, Member of Congress, Departament of Caquetá, Polo Democrático Alternativo.
Ramón Elí Támara Rivera, Member of Congress, Departament of Norte de Santander, Polo Democrático Alternativo.
Jose Ricardo López Caro – Senior Executive Member, Polo Democrático Alternativo, Boyacá Colombia.
Héctor Hernando Altamirano - Member of National Directors, Polo democrático Alternativo.
Roberto Serpa Florez, MD, University Professor, Profesor Universitario, Member of the Academy of Medicine of Colombia, Columnist in the Vanguardia Liberal de Bucaramanga.
Oscar Nascimento – Secretary of the International Assembly Peace in Colombia and the World, Aipazcomun Swiss Section.
Gonzalo Díaz Gaviria, Grassroots Academic Group, Polo Democrático Alternativo, Medellín. Member of the Municipal Executive Committee. Ex-Union Leader with TELECOM.
Isabel Caro López
Maria Fernanda Morales Garzón
Oscar Benavides Calvachi
Harold Alvarez Alvarez
José Antonio Vaca Bello
David Ricardo Rodríguez Navarro
Edgardo Antonio Jaraba Torres
Dora Mariela Moreno Mora
Lina María Muñoz Gallego
Rosario Rojas Robles
Claudia Joan Polindara Romero
German Castaño Cárdenas
Rafael Ospina Cuervo
Andrés Schmalbach Ávila
Juan Diego Hernández Montreal
Gustavo Diego Yepes Garcés
Álvaro Posada Díaz
Jairo Calderón Rueda
Francisco Sánchez Jiménez
Alexander Barrera Mondragón
Olga Yaneth Trujillo Lara
Orlando Loaiza R
Edwin Arturo Quintero Montoya
Lina María González
Santiago Colmenares Guerra
Nini Johana Bedoya Cevallos
Víctor Vásquez Quintero
Claudio Rodríguez Chaparro
Néstor Iván Gutiérrez González