Canada’s first report on Human Rights Impact of Colombia Trade Agreement falls short
On May 15 the Canadian government tabled its first legally mandated report on the impact of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) on human rights in Parliament. Rather than reviewing and commenting on human rights, the report outlines the methodology that will be used to deliver a report in one year’s time. The report, in fact, is devoid of any detail regarding human rights in Colombia, a fact that has angered human rights groups and NGOs both in Canada and Colombia. The government defended the report saying that because the CCFTA has been in effect for less than a year there was not enough time to measure results or impact.
When the Canadian government first introduced their plan to enter into a free trade agreement with Colombia in 2007 there was concern raised regarding the ethics of signing a trade agreement with the worst human rights violator in the hemisphere. CoDev, along with many other Canadian international development organizations, labour unions and many individuals advocated that the Canadian government implement an independent human rights impact assessment prior to the CCFTA being signed. Such an assessment would not only help to illuminate what effect a free trade agreement would have on the ongoing human rights crisis in that country, it would also provide baseline date from which a future trade agreement could be measured. The Canadian Parliamentary Standing Committee for International Trade recommended the same thing in 2008 when they recommended not entering into the agreement. That resolution was overturned and the CCFTA passed through the Canadian Parliament in 2011 with a vague clause that committed each government to present a report on the impact of the CCFTA on the human rights situation in each country.
Canada’s first report, tabled in the House this week, falls far short of its mandate. By totally failing to consider the human rights situation in Colombia, the report leaves in doubt the usefulness of this mechanism.
In Colombia, meanwhile, 17 trade unionists have been assassinated since the CCFTA was signed. The Americas Policy Group (APG) of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC), of which CoDev is an active member, is working with Colombian partner organizations to support an alternative and community-based analysis of the CCFTA and its impact on human rights. As part of that collaboration, the APG published an excellent briefing note on the CCFTA human rights report with detailed concerns and recommendations.
CoDev will continue to follow the situation with the support and direction from our Colombian partners.
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