TORONTO, March 31 /CNW/ - The United Steelworkers' (USW) Canadian
National Director says last week's announcement by the Harper government that
it has introduced legislation for implementing a free trade agreement with
Colombia is an appalling move and calls into question why this government is
providing legitimacy to a government that has been condemned around the world.
Colombia has the worst human rights record of any country in the
"Given its persistent human rights crisis in Colombia, it would be a
mistake for the Canadian Government to enter into a free trade agreement with
Colombia," said USW National Director Ken Neumann. "Such an agreement would be
utterly inconsistent with Canada's role as a defender of human rights on the
Neumann said the Canadian Government would be sending the wrong message
to Canadian corporations who clearly have investment interests. Investing in
Colombia, particularly in the resource sector, can and does lead to complicity
in grave and violent human rights abuses.
"The human rights climate in Colombia continues to be deplorable. We
think it is important to note some of the worst labour rights violations that
routinely occur in Colombia," Neumann said.
The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) continues to
declare Colombia the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists.
Since 1986, more than 2,500 trade unionists have been murdered there.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) has also repeatedly
criticized Colombia's failure to adopt laws consistent with ILO core labour
standards, which are considered the minimum labour rights that should be
guaranteed by all countries.
The USW also questions why a trade deal with this country was such a
priority for this government.
"Colombia is not a significant trading partner for Canada. Less than one
per cent of Canadian exports are directed to Colombia," said Neumann. About 80
per cent of existing Colombian trade imports into Canada are duty free. There
is no great need to remove trade barriers between Canada and Colombia."
Neumann also pointed out that the US is not going to ratify any agreement
with Colombia in the foreseeable future.
"The United Steelworkers urges the Government of Canada to put any
agreement with the current Government of Colombia on hold until such time as a
respected international human rights institution has conducted a full human
rights audit and can certify that the human rights climate in Colombia is
within accepted international norms and requirements," he said.
"Canada should only enter into a trade agreement with Colombia when we
know for sure that it will contribute to the advancement of democracy,
political stability, human rights and labour rights in Colombia and the
For further information: Ken Neumann, (416) 487-1571, (416) 558-2510;
Peter D. Birt (USW Communications), (416) 544-5966