May 22, 2009

Shame or Dignity: Canadians must act NOW to stop the CCFTA!

Hello friends,

We have learned that Canadian parliament will debate Bill C-23, implementing legislation for the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, this coming Monday, May 25. The Liberal Party of Canada, and its new leader, Michael Ignatieff, have expressed their support for the Harper Conservatives on this issue and are on the verge of making a serious mistake.

To convince you to act now, we are including here the words of a close friend, an excerpt from a letter to US Senator John Kerry, published on ZNet:

A "new direction" for the Foreign Policy of your country would entail engaging in a common global effort to transform what there is into what is needed. New winds are sweeping through the Americas. In peace, the poorest and most impoverished are proposing and weaving new ways, from recovered territories to new social relations into a new economy where wealth generation is at the service of life and justice. We invite you to listen, to talk to those weaving these new ways and, in the meantime, to stop the FTA with Colombia, to stop funding those who use terror and propaganda against their people and to help us resist war, wherever it may come from.

In Canada, there is also hope for meaningful change and a desire to join with the peoples of the hemisphere in constructing different economies and ways of living with each other. The first step is to oppose what is being imposed and entrenched right now.

Please, tell Mr. Ignatieff that, if he seeks to represent change, his party must unconditionally oppose the the FTA with Colombia.

We are providing below a thorough sample letter with ample documentation for you to forward to Mr. Ignatieff and the Liberal Party MPs. Modify it as you wish. We also include email addresses for your convenience. Please join us in this important moment.

Canada is once again being pushed to decide whether it will defend or condemn a regime responsible for untold terror against its own people. History will be the judge.

Thank you,
La Chiva

Sample Letter

Dear Mr. Ignatieff and the Liberal Party,

I am shocked and dismayed to hear that Michael Ignatieff and your Liberal Party have pledged to support the Harper Conservatives in pushing through parliament Bill C-23, implementing legislation for the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA), in spite of widespread popular opposition to the deal in both countries.

In a public response to critics, Mr. Ignatieff claims that "respect for human rights has improved under President Uribe" and that "engaging Colombia through free trade will give Canada more leverage to influence the Colombian Government in the area of human rights".

This position is neither based in fact nor in line with any serious observer of the situation in Colombia. Having studied the FTA with Colombia, Canada's own parliamentary committee recommended that the deal not proceed in its current form, a recommendation supported by your party at that time because of the Conservative Party's outright disregard for the work of the committee. Why the change of heart?

I urge you to reconsider this position and act now to stop the ratification of Bill C-23 because:
  • Contrary to Liberal Party statements on the subject, respected human rights organizations continue to denounce the daily horrors in Colombia. Mr. Ignatieff, by supporting the ratification of this agreement, you are willfully ignoring Colombia's reality. Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe continues to accuse human rights defenders as supporters of terrorists. Internationally respected observers such as Human Rights Watch, contrary to Liberal Party claims, have frequently condemned the human rights situation in Colombia and even warned against free trade agreements with the government. The Colombian army has been involved in uncountable atrocities, murdering thousands of civilians and displacing millions. Even members of President Uribe's close inner circle have colluded with paramilitary death squads, a scandal known in Colombia as 'parapolitica'.
  • Countries aware of these facts are revoking their support of the Colombian regime. Recently, the UK has ended military aid to Colombia because of the systematic crimes committed against the Colombian people. This comes as the horrors of 'false positives' has come to international attention, a practice of the Colombian army involving the dressing up of thousands of murdered civilians as guerrillas in the government's rush to show 'results' in the country's conflict. Is the 'bodycount mentality' of the Colombian army something Canadians would support?
  • The Harper government is leading the rush to defend Uribe's horrific regime. This flies in the face of Canada's international reputation. But it is even more puzzling why the leader of the official opposition is also offering the regime unconditional support in spite of having been made aware of the facts through countless rallies (in Montreal, Vancouver, and Ottawa), petitions, letters and phone calls involving thousands of individuals, civil society groups and labour and human rights organizations from Canada, Colombia and around the world. This CCFTA represents a serious contradiction in Canada's stance on the world stage: while the Chinese and Burmese regimes are condemned, the Colombian regime is given a political blessing? This obviously makes no sense to Canadians.
  • There are no precedents for Canadian investment improving human rights in Colombia. In fact, increased corporate access to Colombia's resources have resulted in the increased financing of actors in the conflict, massive displacement and disarray for the poor in many cases; a recent study by a well-respected Colombian organization shows that forced displacement has increased by 24.47% in 2008. That's 412,553 people displaced in one year! Their land is then made available to foreign investors. This is not a road to economic prosperity. The CCFTA is poised to expand this kind of economic havoc.
There is a sense that Canadians will soon be asked to choose who will represent them in government. Thousands of Canadians have expressed their opposition to this agreement. I encourage you to show Canadians how the Liberal Party might represent a real alternative to the Harper Conservatives by standing up for human rights in Colombia and the interests of average Canadians and opposing this deal pushed by a few corporations and an illegitimate government that systematically murders its own people.

Canada's complicity in atrocities in Colombia can and must be stopped. The Liberal Party's stance on the CCFTA is "for the record," and how history will judge Mr. Uribe will be the same as how it will judge those who stand by him.

I hope you keep this in mind as you debate Bill C-23 this Monday.

Thank you,

[Your City]

TO: Michael Ignatieff, Liberal Party Leader:

CC: Members of the Standing Committee on International Trade (CIIT): John Cannis, Scot Brison, and Mario Silva,,

BCC: All Liberal MPs:;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;


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