May 16, 2009

Rally supports Colombian trade unionists, opposes trade deal

Written by Samantha Bayard, Straight Goods News

May 6, 2009

Union leaders and MPs say Canadians will have to compete against people who face death if they try to improve working conditions.

Hassan Yussuff of the CLC explains the dire consquences Colombian workers face if they form unions.

Ottawa, May 6, 2009 — A Parliament Hill demonstration today protested the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, which is being fast-tracked for ratification by the Harper Conservatives. Trade unionists in Canada are upset that Canada is signing a labour deal with Colombia, where serious violations of human rights such as the assassinations of union leaders and widespread repression of indigenous movements have taken place.

Representatives from the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP spoke against the ratification as well.

Hassan Yussuff, Secretary-Treasurer for the Canadian Labour Congress said "It is fitting that we should come to Parliament Hill with this message because it is in this house where a decision could be made, to say no, we are not going to support the Colombian Free Trade [Agreement] or, on the opposite side, [where] if the Conservatives should have their way, with the support of the Liberals, there will be ratification to the Colombian Free Trade Agreement."

He continued, "This [Colombian] government, the previous government and the para-militaries continue to murder trade union[ist]s with impunity, without any regard for human life,"

Millions of Colombians, he said, have been displaced, and thousands have died in order to exploit the country's mineral wealth.

Yussuff condemned Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff for supporting the government's deal. "How is it possible that a leader who … prides himself on an understanding of human rights can support an agreement that would perpetuate repressing human rights in another country? This is simply unacceptable."

The protesters want to prolong Parliamentary debate on the legislation and convince the Liberals to vote against the ratification. They say the deal must be rejected to assure a better quality of life for Colombians and to ensure Canadian workers will not have to compete against workers who must accept terrible employment standards and who face persecution and even death if they complain about their working conditions or form unions.

Posted: May 12, 2009

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