Free Trade with Colombia
Colombia: The most dangerous country in the world to be a union leader
On August 15, 2011, the Canada Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) came into force despite significant opposition by the Canadian Labour Congress, its affiliated unions, human rights groups, churches and non-governmental organizations.
Colombia has the dubious distinction of being the most dangerous country in the world for unionized workers and union leaders. With a track record as one of the worst human rights violators in the Americas, and a country where more labour leaders are killed each year than in the rest of the world, opponents argued Canada had no business entering into a free trade agreement with Colombia.
In 2008, following the introduction of legislation to ratify the CCFTA, a study by the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade supported an independent, impartial and comprehensive human rights impact assessment by an independent body be carried out before Canada even consider ratifying and implementing a trade agreement with Colombia. In response, Prime Minister Harper insisted that "deepening both economic and political engagement between our countries is the best way Canadians can support the citizens of Colombia in their efforts to create a safer and more prosperous democracy." (November 21, 2009).
Instead of carrying out the Standing Committee's recommendation for an impartial and independent human rights assessment, the legislation to implement the CCFTA was amended in 2010, allowing the Canadian and Colombian governments to write their own annual human rights assessments - a far cry from a transparent and independent assessment supported by unions and civil society. Those reports are due annually by May 15. Canada's first report is unlikely to be comprehensive.
On May 15, 2012 the Canadian government submitted the human rights assessment report it was obliged to submit to the House of Commons. The report analyzed the treaty, but never mentioned human rights issues in Colombia.
Claiming there wasn't enough data to do a comprehensive analysis, Trade Minister Ed Fast promises a full report in 2013.
In the meantime, 20 Colombian trade unionists have been murdered since the Canada Colombia Free Trade Agreement went into effect August 2011.
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