October 10, 2009


Hello readers,

Please find below the text of the latest action alert put out by the Council of Canadians. It remains urgent that people in Canada voice their opposition to the Canada-Colombia FTA, as the agreement is moving through parliament and back to the committee phase. We have to stall this as long as possible.

With the possible calling of an election, C-23 (the implementing legislation of the CCFTA) will die.

This has to happen, and it can happen if parliamentarians remain aware of the importance of this issue to Canadians.

The conservative government is doing all it can to support the murderous regime of Uribe. The NDP and the Bloc Quebecois have done outstanding work from within parliament to stop it. Outside parliament, pressure must be kept up. Please participate in this action. It should only take a few minutes of your time, and it is extremely important.

La Chiva

The Council of Canadians message follows...

Dear chapters,

About a week ago we told you about Scott Brison’s statements in the House of Commons suggesting that paramilitary violence in Colombia was a thing of the past, and that the Liberals should no longer be concerned about passing Bill C-23 – ratification legislation for the Canada–Colombia Free Trade Agreement and related environmental and labour side agreements. Today, Council of Canadians Chairperson Maude Barlow wrote to Brison, Liberal trade critic, urging him to retract those statements and to adhere to his earlier statement from May 25, calling for “a full independent human rights assessment, as recommended by the committee… before we vote again on Bill C‐23.”


As mentioned in a news update earlier this week, Bill C-23 is still moving slowly through Parliament on its way to a second vote in the House of Commons, which would send the free trade agreement to the international trade committee for further study. An NDP sub-amendment to a Bloc amendment failed to pass this week, and MPs are still debating a Bloc amendment that would defeat the FTA on the grounds that democratic process was not followed (Harper rushed C-23 into the House of Commons while the international trade committee was still studying it).

From what we’ve heard, the Liberals are not entirely comfortable supporting the FTA with Colombia because of the human rights implications and ongoing violence, some of it linked to paramilitary groups with ties to President Uribe’s security forces. The ongoing investigation into Uribe’s spying on human rights groups, as well as his public campaign against the Supreme Court and proposed constitutional reforms that would remove a “parapolitics” investigation from its jurisdiction are also not endearing the Colombian government to Canadian MPs.

But even pro-FTA Liberals such as Bob Rae are committed to further studying bill C-23 if or when it reaches the international trade committee. It’s absolutely crucial they keep their word to hold an independent human rights impact assessment.

TAKE ACTION – Demand Brison retract his false statements!

Send the following letter or a version of it to Liberal Trade Critic Scott Brison at BrisoS@parl.gc.ca.

Make sure you CC your own MP and other key Liberals, including:
Michael Ignatieff (IgnatM@parl.gc.ca); Bob Rae (RaeB@parl.gc.ca); Marina Minna (MinnaM@parl.gc.ca); John Cannis (CanniJ@parl.gc.ca); Mario Silva (SilvaM@parl.gc.ca), and; Irwin Cotler (CotleI@parl.gc.ca).


Dear MP Brison:

I am writing to demand you retract your statements in the House of Commons from September 30, 2009 regarding paramilitary violence in Colombia. It was completely irresponsible to suggest that: “To say that paramilitary forces are murdering union leaders today is false, because everybody who has been studying the issue recognizes that the paramilitary forces have been disbanded...”

A recent report from Amnesty International found that paramilitary groups remain active, despite Colombian government claims that they have demobilized through a government‐sponsored process that began in 2003. “Paramilitaries continued to kill civilians and to commit other human rights violations, sometimes with the support or acquiescence of the security forces,” says the Amnesty report.

A 2008 Human Rights Watch report called “Breaking the Grip: Obstacles to Justice for Paramilitary Mafias in Colombia” also states that “the administration of President Álvaro Uribe is squandering much of the opportunity to truly dismantle paramilitaries’ mafias. While there has been progress in some areas, some of the administration’s actions are undermining the investigations that have the best chance of making a difference.”

Human Rights Watch states in its report that the Uribe government:

- Repeatedly launched public personal attacks on the Supreme Court and its members in what increasingly looks like a concerted campaign to smear and discredit the Court;

- Opposed and effectively blocked meaningful efforts to reform the Congress to eliminate paramilitary influence;

- Proposed constitutional reforms that would remove the investigations into the links between paramilitary groups and the Uribe government from the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

In the past 12 months, 27 trade unionists and 77 Indigenous leaders have been murdered in Colombia. The vast majority, if not all these murders, have been carried out either by government security forces or the paramilitaries. How can you deny these facts simply to support the Conservative government’s efforts to fast-track a free trade agreement with Colombia?

Mr. Brison, retract your September 30 statement and adhere to your May 25, 2009 call in Parliament for “a full independent human rights assessment, as recommended by the committee… before we vote again on Bill C‐23.” It is the only responsible action to take – action many Canadians would expect of a party that prides itself on its support for human rights. Sincerely,

[Your name]

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