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ACTION ALERT: Week of Action on Colombia-Canada FTA

MPS must defend human rights before trade

April 24 marks the beginning of a week of action against the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement, with special focus on convincing Liberal MPs that whether or not they support free trade, this is a bad agreement that can only worsen human rights violations, increase violence against labour and civil society actors, and weaken environmental protections in Colombia for the sake of boosting the profits of large Canadian mining and resource companies.

Foreign Affairs Minister Stockwell Day introduced Bill C-23, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, as well as two other side agreements on the environment and labour, on March 26, 2009 for first reading. It will come back to the House of Commons in early to mid-May.

So far the NDP and Bloc Quebecois have said they do not support the deal, while several Liberals have publicly endorsed it as a way to improve the human rights situation in Colombia. This is an untenable position for the Liberals to take, especially when their party has already demanded at the Commons Committee on International Trade that a full human rights assessment be carried out before any deal with Colombia is finalized.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Write, email or phone Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and other key Liberals (See the contact information below) to insist they demand a full human rights impact assessment be carried out before the government ratifies any free trade agreement with Colombia.
Organize a phone booth in your community where people can phone their MP right then and there to urge them to vote against the agreement. You’ll need a cell phone or two and a script that they can read out to the MP’s assistant in Ottawa or their voice mail. See below for a draft script prepared by the Canadian Labour Congress.
Print off (on card stock) postcards, also directed at key Liberal MPs. These can be handed out at farmer’s markets, left in strategic places around town, put into mailboxes and otherwise distributed at events you will be attending in the next week. You can find the postcards, which were shared with the Council of Canadians, by clicking here.
Send a letter to the editor using the text below and in our last action alert as a template. The news media has been silent on the resistance to the Canada-Colombia FTA. Letters help put important issues on the news agenda.
Thanks to all who have already contacted their MPs on this urgent matter. And good luck during this next week of action against the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement.

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KEY MPs

Name
Constituency
Constituency Address
Ottawa Contact Information

Michael Ignatieff
Etobicoke—Lakeshore
656 The Queensway
House of Commons

Etobicoke, Ontario
Ottawa, Ontario

M8Y 1K7
K1A 0A6

Telephone: (416) 251-5510
Telephone: (613) 995-9364

Fax: (416) 251-2845
Fax: (613) 992-5880

EMail: IgnatM@parl.gc.ca

Web Site:* www.michaelignatieff.ca

John Cannis
Scarborough Centre
1450 Midland Ave, Suite 211
House of Commons

Scarborough, Ontario
Ottawa, Ontario

M1P 4Z8
K1A 0A6

Telephone: (416) 752-2358
Telephone: (613) 992-6823

Fax: (416) 752-4624
Fax: (613) 943-1045

EMail: CanniJ@parl.gc.ca

Web Site:* www.johncannis.parl.gc.ca

Mario Silva
Davenport
1674 St Clair Ave West
House of Commons

Toronto, Ontario
Ottawa, Ontario

M6N 1H8
K1A 0A6

Telephone: (416) 654-8048
Telephone: (613) 992-2576

Fax: (416) 654-5083
Fax: (613) 995-8202

EMail: SilvaM@parl.gc.ca

Web Site:* www.mariosilva.ca/

Hon. Maria Minna
Beaches—East York
1912 Danforth Ave,
House of Commons

Toronto, Ontario
Ottawa, Ontario

M4C 1J4
K1A 0A6

Telephone: (416) 467-0860
Telephone: (613) 992-2115

Fax: (416) 467-0905
Fax: (613) 996-7942

EMail: MinnaM@parl.gc.ca

Web Site:* www.mariaminna.com/

Hon. Bob Rae
Toronto Centre
514 Parliament Street (Main Office)
House of Commons

Toronto, Ontario
Ottawa, Ontario

M4X 1P4
K1A 0A6

Telephone: (416) 954-2222
Telephone: (613) 992-5234

Fax: (416) 954-9649
Fax: (613) 996-9607

EMail: RaeB@parl.gc.ca

Web Site:* www.bobrae.ca/

Pablo Rodriguez
Honoré-Mercier
7450 Les Galeries d’Anjou Blvd, Ste 530
House of Commons

Anjou, Québec
Ottawa, Ontario

H1M 3M3
K1A 0A6

Telephone: (514)353-5044

Fax: (514)353-3050
Telephone: (613) 995-0580

Fax: (613) 992-1710

11965 Alexis Carrel Suite 103
EMail: RodriPa@parl.gc.ca

Montréal, Québec
Web Site:* www.pablorodriguez.ca

H1E 5K7
(in French only)

Telephone: (514) 648-1955

Hon. Scott Brison
Kings—Hants
360 Main St, Suite 12
House of Commons

Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Ottawa, Ontario

B4P 1C4
K1A 0A6

Telephone: (902) 542-4010
Telephone: (613) 995-8231

Fax: (902) 542-4184
Fax: (613) 996-9349

EMail: BrisoS@parl.gc.ca

Web Site:* www.votebrison.ca/

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DRAFT LETTER TO IGNATIEFF (OR OTHER LIBERAL MPS)

Dear Mr. Ignatieff (OR OTHER LIBERAL MP),

I am deeply concerned that the Liberal Party would abandon its values and its support of internationally recognized human rights by putting trade considerations above the lives of millions of displaced, impoverished Colombians.

According to the United Nations, the humanitarian crisis in Colombia is the second worst in the world after Sudan. Under President Alvaro Uribe’s watch, more than two million people have been displaced from their homes, while thousands of trade unionists, peasants, indigenous peoples, Afro-Colombians and activists have been killed by the state and affiliated paramilitary organizations.

In spite of Prime Minister Harper’s assurances that security has improved in Colombia, the murder count for unionized workers increased 25 percent between 2007 and 2008, while the conviction rate for these crimes remains at only three percent. With this level of impunity, there is very little incentive for the perpetrators to stop.

The Uribe government continues to denounce union members as guerrillas, false statements that only encourage paramilitary groups to continue putting workers in extreme jeopardy. At the same time, high ranking government members have been linked in court to corruption, electoral fraud and complicity with drug lords and death squad leaders.

Norway has put its own FTA with Colombia on hold for these reasons. What is our government’s rush? And how could the Liberal Party possibly support the Prime Minister’s free trade agreement with so many human rights issues left unsolved and in all cases worsening?

Let us be clear about one thing – a vote against this deal is not a vote against trade.

Experts have concluded that given the context of violence and displacement the trade measures in the Colombia FTA will exacerbate the human rights crisis, while the labour rights and environmental provisions in the deal are ineffectual. The environmental side agreement of the Canada-Colombia FTA does not even meet NAFTA standards, which are obviously weak considering the number of Chapter 11 lawsuits that have been filed against legitimate environmental protection rules in Canada.

Last June, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on International Trade recommended that an “impartial human rights impact assessment be carried out by a competent body, which is subject to independent levels of scrutiny and validation… before Canada considers ratifying and implementing an agreement with Colombia.”

Not only would it be undemocratic to ignore this reasonable recommendation from a parliamentary committee, as your party has already pointed out, but it would be irresponsible considering the ongoing controversy in Colombia.

We strongly urge you to postpone the ratification of the Canada-Colombia FTA until such an assessment can be carried out.

Sincerely,

YOUR NAME

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DRAFT SCRIPT FOR PHONE CALLS TO MPS

Hello, my name is __________________. I am your constituent calling from _________. I am calling to urge you, and the Liberal Party you represent, to stop the implementation of the Canada Colombia free trade agreement. I am hoping you will support efforts to halt its ratification.

By voting against this legislation, you would be demonstrating a commitment to human rights and against President Alvaro Uribe’s government, which has one of the worst human rights records in the world.

Harper’s introduction of Bill C23 constitutes a repudiation of Canadian values. It also rewards Uribe for the displacement of more than 2 million people and the killing of tens of thousands of trade unionists, women, peasants, Indigenous peoples, and Afro Colombians by the state and its paramilitaries in Colombia.

Our nation needs a leader strong enough to make trade fairer, not just freer.

My hope is that the Liberal Party will decide to do the right thing and oppose any deals with this regime. I urge you to oppose Bill C23.

Thank you for taking my call.

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