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Hundreds say no to the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement

National media blinked while Colombia took center stage outside the Liberal convention

by Dawn Paley Canadian Foreign Policy, →Free Trade & Gateway Projects

Standing up for Colombia at the Federal Liberal Convention, May 1, 2009
Standing up for Colombia at the Federal Liberal Convention, May 1, 2009

Also posted by dawn:

Activities around conventions of Canada’s major political parties pale in comparison to the mobilizations around the Republican and Democratic National conventions in the US, but the federal Liberal party still felt some heat during their three-day bi-annual convention in Vancouver.

On May 1st, more than 150 labour and grassroots solidarity activists mobilized outside the Liberal convention to reject the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. Labour groups set up coffins to symbolize the deaths of Colombian union members under President Alvaró Uribe's watch.

Activists gave out more than 500 leaflets to delegates at the convention, demanding that the Liberals keep their campaign promise to withhold support for the FTA with Colombia.

The Canada Colombia Free Trade Agreement was negotiated behind closed doors, and signed on November 21st in Lima, Peru.

The deal has come under fire by trade unionists, human rights organizations, and activists, who claim that if ratified, it will give legitimacy to a government responsible for grave human rights abuses.

The Canada-Colombia agreement was tabled in Parliament on March 26th, and requires a vote in order to be ratified. During the election campaign, former Liberal leader Stéphane Dion claimed that his party would not support the deal, but of late the Liberal position has become less clear.

“Shame on the Liberals,” said Micheál Ó Tuathail, a member of a Vancouver based Colombia solidarity group named La Chiva. “If they allow this deal to pass, it'll be even harder to tell them apart from the Conservatives.”

In June, an all party report written by the Standing Committee on International Trade recommended that Canada not sign a Free Trade Agreement with Colombia until an independent human rights assessment has been carried out. The New Democratic Party and the Bloc Quebecois have both since maintained their opposition to the deal.

"We say no to a trade agreement with Colombia," said Peter Julian, the NDP's Foreign Affairs critic, who addressed the crowd in Vancouver. "We say no because the murder rate for human rights activists, labour activists, is going up, not down."

During the rally for Colombia, an unidentified woman entered the Liberal convention and disrupted their policy session on "Canada and the World: Earning our Place at the Table."

The mainstream media completely ignored the demonstration, the first of its kind to be held outside Vancouver's new billion dollar convention center. They did, however, find it print worthy to note that while the demonstration for Colombia was going on, former PM Jean Chrétien was accosted and accused of being a "war criminal."

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