Education International
Education International

Concerns Raised over Canada-Colombia FTA

published 21 January 2009 updated 21 January 2009

Labour unions and civil society organizations in Canada are expressing outrage over the recent announcement that the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has reached a free trade deal with Colombia.

“Colombia is the country where more trade unionists are killed than in the rest of the world combined,” said Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress. “Four hundred union officers and rank-and-file members have been brutally and systematically murdered during the administration of President Alvaro Uribe Velez. Of these crimes there have been only 7 convictions.”

Amnesty International and the Canadian Council for International Co-operation have also expressed deep concerned that the free trade agreement was signed without regard for human rights violations in Colombia and the documented links between state security forces and paramilitary death squads.

“Going ahead with the Canada-Colombia free trade deal without meaningful action to address these concerns risks making the human rights situation much worse,” the two groups said in a statement. “It is vital that the Government of Canada proceed no further towards implementation until an independent human rights impact assessment is carried out and the resulting concerns addressed.”

A draft free trade agreement between the United States and Colombia has been stalled by the U.S. Congress. President-elect Barack Obama, during the election campaign, vowed to oppose passage of the deal.

“The history in Colombia right now is that labour leaders have been targeted for assassination on a fairly consistent basis, and there have not been prosecutions,” he argued during the third presidential debate.