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New Democrats say Conservatives used dirty tricks to force 1st vote on Canada-Colombia Trade Agreement

April 19, 2010

OTTAWA – NDP International Trade Critic Peter Julian (Burnaby-New Westminster) denounced the dirty tricks Conservatives used to force the first vote on Bill C-2, the controversial implementing legislation of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

“Bill C-2 was not on the government agenda last Friday. The Conservatives keep forgetting they are a minority government and must understand that dirty tricks undermine what’s left of their credibility and trust. Their unprecedented parliamentary maneuver is another example of their unwillingness to legislate in a transparent, democratic fashion and work co-operatively as Canadians expect of them,” said Julian.

On Friday April 16, the Conservative government forced a motion through Parliament which shuts down debate on Bill C-2, sending it to the Standing Committee on International Trade. The Conservative government wants to expedite the Committee’s review of Bill C-2 with the support of Liberal members of the committee.

“The government is pushing Bill C-2 at a highly inappropriate time, when free and fair elections are not possible in Colombia. An international pre-electoral observation mission just reported compelling evidence that elections in Colombia are compromised because of interference from illegal armed groups. In addition, the Liberal critic for international Trade Scott Brison is proposing an amendment to Bill C-2 which would let the Colombian government report on its own human rights. Rigorous committee hearings will be needed to study these serious issues,” stressed Julian.

Reports from independent and credible human rights, labour and civil society groups have consistently exposed the Colombian government’s links to illegal armed groups, and the role of the military in the murders of thousands of trade unionists, community leaders, and activists. Reports say that 48 trade unionists were murdered in Colombia last year alone. In the previous parliament, the Standing Committee on International Trade recommended that Canada not proceed with a trade agreement with Colombia until an independent human rights impact assessment of the deal is conducted.

A similar free trade deal between the US and Colombia has been held up since 2007 by concerned American legislators. The European Union, the UK, and many European governments have also voiced concerns about the ongoing abuses in Colombia.

“With 60 per cent of global trade-unionist murders occurring in Colombia, why are the Conservatives so eager to reward, with a privileged trade relationship, a regime continuously cited for human rights violations? This is a betrayal of basic Canadian values.”

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For more information, please contact: Office of Peter Julian, 613.222.4074

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