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Science for Peace objects to Free Trade Agreement with Colombia

May 26, 2010

Science for Peace is appalled by the recent decision of the Liberal Party to drop the requirement of a prior independent human rights impact assessment as advised by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on International Trade report of June 8 2008. The new Liberal policy expedites the passage of Bill C-2 with the wholly unacceptable arrangement of soliciting annual human rights impact reports only after the agreement has been implemented. The United States, Norway, and Belgium have delayed approval because of Colombia’s egregious human rights, environment, and labour record. President Obama has indicated the United States will not proceed with their FTA with Colombia given continued and escalating violence against workers and the impunity with which these crimes are committed. In its overall human rights and environmental policies, Canada shamefully persists in being a pariah nation.

The Canadian Council for International Co-operation and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives published a detailed assessment of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, “Making a Bad Situation Worse” (May, 2009). “The CCFTA will provide Canadian investors in Colombia with substantial new investment rights backed by a very powerful enforcement mechanism – the investor-state arbitral process. The agreement clearly provides increased security for the investments of Canadian companies. Unfortunately, human rights receive no such protection, as obligations on foreign investors to act responsibly are weak and generally unenforceable.” The document concludes that the “Canada-Colombia investment chapter would restrict the ability of governments to put in place the types of public policies and regulations needed to ensure that foreign investment contributes to development and that development benefits are shared more equitably. In certain respects, it goes further than previous investment treaties in restricting governmental ability to set policies that will benefit their citizens.”

At present, it is widely known that Colombia has the worst human rights record in Latin America. More than two million people have been displaced and people from all walks of life have been targeted for assassination by government-linked paramilitary death squads. Last year forty-seven trade unionists were murdered. It is also well known that the Uribe government allows almost unlimited environmental destruction. The latest publicized tragedy occurred only several days ago and is not untypical of Colombian state-sanctioned violence. On May 20, 2010, Amnesty International researcher in Colombia reported that Rogelio Martinez was assassinated by paramilitaries in collusion with security forces. Martinez was dedicated to exposing human rights violations and had long worked on ensuring that peasant farmers in the area could reclaim their lands stolen by these same paramilitaries.

Again, we see that the Canadian extraction corporations trump human rights and environmental protection with the collusion of the Canadian Government. Science for Peace strongly opposes Bill C-2 and strongly endorses Bill C-300. We hope that members of the Government can conscientiously recall that they are elected to represent people, not corporations.

For more information contact:
Judith Deutsch
President, Science for Peace
Phone: 416-929-8180

Chandler Davis
Professor Emeritus, U of T, Treasurer, SfP
Phone: 416-535-6670

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