FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
VANCOUVER, April 27, 2009 – Civil society organizations and individuals from across the Americas and Europe are calling on Canadian parliamentarians to halt the ratification of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. MINGAS-FTA, a transnational coalition of individuals, academics and organizations opposed to agreements like the Canada-Colombia FTA, faxed today a letter with over 400 signatures to the offices of more than a dozen Liberal Members of Parliament in advance of the Liberal Party Convention to be held in Vancouver later this week. The letter arrives as groups from diverse sectors plan demonstrations for the May 1 convention.
“The idea is to apply pressure on the Liberal Party in particular,” says Micheál Ó Tuathail, a member of MINGAS-FTA based in Vancouver. “Liberal politicians have flip-flopped between supporting and condemning the Colombian regime, one of the most brutal violators of human rights in the world. What the Liberals do on this issue will define their new leader’s vision for Canada, whether they will meaningfully stand by the Canadian values they once helped to promote and project in the world.”
The MINGAS-FTA letter states that the Colombian government is attempting to use Canada’s international reputation as political leverage in its failed attempts to influence US Congressional members to pass the US-Colombia FTA, stalled primarily due to human rights concerns.
It also urges politicians to stand by the recommendations of the Canadian Parliament’s Standing Committee on International Trade, which last year called for an independent human rights assessment and recommended that Canada not sign the agreement with Colombia.
In Colombia, human rights defenders and labour activists are persecuted and murdered with impunity. As US Congressional representatives have noted in a recent written statement to US President Barack Obama, “More than 460 unionists have been murdered in Colombia since President Álvaro Uribe took office in August 2002, including 49 in 2008 alone. This is a twenty-five percent increase from 2007, even as Colombia faced high levels of scrutiny related to the FTA."
On March 26, 2009, Canada’s Conservative government tabled legislation that would ratify the free trade agreement. The MINGAS-FTA argues that the Canada-Colombia FTA is not intended to benefit the average Canadian; rather, the Harper government is attempting to push the agreement silently through Parliament in order to provide President Uribe with the moral and political blessing he needs to address a backlog of numerous stalled agreements with other countries.
“We are joining with labour, indigenous and ethnic organizations, social movements, and literally thousands of average people from across North America, Europe and Colombia calling for an end to these so-called agreements made entirely behind closed doors,” says Ó Tuathail. “How is it that Canada is now running to the defense of the criminal regime in Colombia? Does this reflect the views and interests of average Canadians?”
To date, the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois have fiercely opposed the Canada-Colombia FTA.
To see the MINGAS-FTA letter and signatories, please see:
For more information, please contact:
Micheál Ó Tuathail, Mingas-FTA
Angelica Quesada, Mingas-FTA
Social Sciences Professor, Mingas-FTA
University of California, Irvine
MINGAS-FTA (www.mingas.info) is a group of individuals from across the United States, Canada and Colombia who are concerned with promoting sovereignty and economic development, strengthening democracy and improving labour conditions in Colombia. The organization is integrated within the Hemispheric Social Alliance, a coalition of social movement organizations across the Americas, and is active in North America, where it works in coordination with the Washington-based Alliance for Responsible Trade.
Members of MINGAS-FTA are united in their support for social movements and rejection of terrorism, kidnappings, extortion and all acts of violence that have plagued Colombia. They are also unanimous in their rejection of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement and similar agreements and the neoliberal model of economic development.