KAIROS and Colombian Partners Outraged At Canada-Colombia Free Trade Deal
Attention: National, Foreign, Business and Religion Editors
For Immediate Release Thursday, March 26, 2009
(Toronto) KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives today expressed outrage that the federal government has introduced legislation for a free trade deal with Colombia, ignoring the pleas of Canadian and Colombian activists for a human rights assessment in advance of any deal. The government’s action also breaks its own promise to take their human rights concerns into account before making this move.
The activists toured Canada last month at great risk to their personal safety to speak with Canadians and Members of Parliament about the human rights crisis in Colombia and why the proposed deal would exacerbate the situation. KAIROS, a national church-based organization that works on a range of social justice issues, including human rights in Latin America, co-sponsored their tour.
The four leaders of Colombian social movements representing women, Indigenous peoples, workers and faith-based communities urged the Canadian government to ensure the human rights of Colombians are upheld before Canada moves forward with this deal.
Among them was Franciscan Brother Omar Fernández Obregón who works with poor people on the outskirts of Bogota. The activists met with International Trade Minister Stockwell Day and Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas) Peter Kent.
“We were assured by Minister Kent that there would be exhaustive study by the Parliamentary Committee on International Trade and that he would take into account the testimony we provided about the increase in extrajudicial killings, death threats against social leader and killings of trade unionists,” says Friar Omar. “He also said that he would visit Colombia and meet with us. Naturally, we assumed this meant before the introduction of implementing legislation. We continue to be clear that now is not the time for this trade deal. We do not understand what is the rush.”
In a statement today Stockwell Day said the trade deal would be of mutual economic benefit to Canada and Colombia. KAIROS rejects this claim.
“The level of economic activity this deal will generate is highly questionable. And, more importantly, do Canadians and our government want to accept responsibility for what our partners are saying will lead to further deaths and human rights abuses?” says Executive Director Mary Corkery.
KAIROS urges the government to immediately undertake a thorough and independent human right impact assessment.
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KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
(416) 463 5312, ext. 223