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Independent human rights impact assessment needed before Canada-Colombia free trade, CAW says

Canadian Auto Workers | 26 March 2010

Independent Human Rights Impact Assessment Needed Before Canada-Colombia Free Trade, CAW Says

The CAW is calling for an immediate halt to any federal government plans to finalize a Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement without the guarantee of an independent human rights impact assessment in Colombia.

"Ongoing human rights violations in Colombia including intimidation, attacks and murder of trade union leaders mean that our MPs should abandon these talks immediately," said CAW President Ken Lewenza.

The recent move by the federal Liberals to support Canada-Colombia Free Trade without the guarantee of independent human rights assessment prior to signing a deal is a shocking betrayal of Canadians expectation that we don’t negotiate with human rights abusers, Lewenza said.

A Liberal party amendment to the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement introduced on March 24 doesn’t come close to meeting the standard of an independent human rights assessment being conducted before any deal is signed. Instead it gives each country the annual option of assessing human rights after a deal is reached and without any clear mechanism for the ongoing monitoring of the effects of free trade.

"This is a real disappointment" said Peggy Nash, assistant to the CAW President, "because the Liberal party committed in June 2008 to the all-party Commons Committee on International Trade that the free trade agreement should not be ratified until an independent human rights impact assessment is conducted."

For more than 10 years the CAW has been calling on the Canadian government to investigate human rights atrocities in Colombia, including the continued intimidation, physical threats and murder of trade union leaders. Despite these demands very little has changed over the last decade. In 2009 alone 45 trade union leaders were murdered. Colombia continues to be the most dangerous place to be a labour activist in the world.

The CAW has supported trade union leaders and their families forced into exile because of threats upon their lives for doing nothing more than carrying out normal everyday activities on behalf of Colombian workers.

 source: CAW