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Message to the Liberals – no backroom deal with Colombia!

Common Frontiers Immediate release – March 31, 2010

Scott Brison, Liberal M.P. for Kings-Hants Nova Scotia, recently held a series of secret meetings in out of the way locations on three continents with politicians from Colombia. Together they have concocted a dangerous amendment to the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement (CCFTA) that would allow the Canadian and Colombian governments to write their own annual human rights reports.

Scott Brison’s backroom deal-making not only ignores telling testimony from Colombians and Canadians, but it also illustrates that Brison maintains a double-standard when it comes to the observance of human rights.

For example, in response to the Conservative government’s exorcising of any mention of gay rights from the 2009 handbook for immigrants applying to become new Canadian citizens, Brison took a principled stand and stated “When any Canadian’s rights are left undefended, all Canadian rights are compromised.”

However, as Rick Arnold of Common Frontiers-Canada points out, “When it comes to the ongoing history of killings and intimidation in Colombia, Brison’s principles have simply vanished.” Arnold adds “Brison is apparently fine with rewarding the Uribe government with a free trade agreement despite an appalling record of targeted trade union killings, and a brutal land-grab that has forced millions of rural Colombians into internal exile.”

If President Uribe had any intention of restoring democracy and human rights to Colombia in 2010, the March 14 Parliamentary elections would have been a place to start. However, instead of taking this opportunity to rid his party of suspect legislators, 10 of the 27 Senators elected while running under the Uribe banner were already under investigation for acts of violence and corruption.

Canadian Parliamentarians and civil society organizations have repeatedly called for a rigorous human rights impact assessment to be carried out by independent experts before any trade agreement with Colombia is ratified.

Common Frontiers calls on all federal politicians to reject Bill C-2, the CCFTA that the Conservatives are trying to ram through, as well as the Brison backroom amendment. Canadians need to send a strong message to Ottawa – when it comes to trade deals respect for human rights should always come first!

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For more information:
Rick Arnold. Common Frontiers-coordinator. 905-352-2430. comfront [at] web [dot] ca

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