Hour.ca | May 7th, 2009
Activists oppose Igantieff’s support of CCFTA
No fair trade
Igantieff inflames opponents of CCFTA
Despite calls from labour and human rights organizations across Canada, on May 1 Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff announced that the party would support the ratification of a proposed Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA). The agreement, tabled by the Conservatives on March 26, has met with widespread resistance because of human rights concerns.
"He’s basically slamming the door in the face of these concerned Canadians," says Sheila Katz of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).
In Colombia, more than 460 trade unionists have been murdered since President Álvaro Uribe took office in August 2002 - 49 in 2008 alone. The U.S. has so far resisted signing a trade agreement for that reason, and on April 29 the U.K. decided to end bilateral military aid to Colombia. The NDP and the Bloc Québécois have adamantly opposed the CCFTA.
However, Harper reportedly hopes to push the deal through by June, and has moved closer to that goal with the support of the Liberals, even with the exception of individual leaders like Bob Rae who oppose the CCFTA. MINGAS-FTA, a transnational coalition against the agreement, believes that the Colombian government is attempting to use Canada’s support as leverage in its stalled efforts to pass the U.S.-Colombia FTA.
"It’s Canada’s reputation in the world that’s at stake here," says Micheál Ó Tuathail, a member of MINGAS-FTA based in Vancouver. "This agreement is being drafted behind closed doors in the name of Canadians.... People are really angry about this."
At the Liberal convention in Vancouver, trade critic Scott Brison argued that it is "easier to engage a country on human rights issues when you’re engaged on economic issues."
"What about China?" retorts Katz. "How long have we had economic relations with China and not had any impact on the human rights situation?"
Groups across Canada have been mobilizing against the CCFTA for several weeks, holding demonstrations and using innovative methods to reach people, including a comic. Denouncements of Bill C-23, which contains the Canada-Colombia deal, were issued on behalf of millions of workers represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the National Union of Public and General Employees, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, and other unions.
Katz also encourages people to sign a petition and contact their local MPs via the CLC website.
"That’s really the only thing that will change the Liberals’ minds - if they hear from the people in their ridings," she says.