Small victory in fight against Bill C-23, Sara Falconer
June 4th, 2009
Newsfeed: Controversial Colombian trade bill stalls
Small victory in fight against Bill C-23
Opponents of the proposed Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) celebrated a victory last week when the Conservative government removed Bill C-23 from the legislative agenda pending an independent human rights assessment. But with Colombian President Álvaro Uribe scheduled to visit Montreal on June 8, human rights activists say that the struggle is far from over.
"Unless ordinary citizens let their voices be heard before June 19, the Conservative government, with the complicity of the Liberals, might still ratify this agreement," explains Manuel Rozental, a long-time international solidarity activist and surgeon who toured Canada in 2008 to speak about human rights abuses in Colombia. More than 460 trade unionists have been murdered in Colombia since President Uribe took office in August 2002.
Liberal leaders including Michael Ignatieff and International Trade Critic Scott Brison have released statements supporting the agreement, but the party now appears internally divided on the issue. The NDP and the Bloc Québécois have adamantly opposed the CCFTA, and a grassroots campaign of letters, phone calls and rallies has spread across the country in recent weeks.
"Canadians face a historical test with this visit," Rozental says. "President Uribe and his government are linked to human rights violations, horrendous crimes against humanity committed directly by the Colombian
armed forces or in collusion with death squads... links to drug lords and drug trade at the highest levels of government and much more. Uribe is seeking clearance for his illegitimate regime, through Canadian support and through a free trade agreement with this country."