MASSE DEBATES PROPOSED CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE IN PARLIAMENT
September 14th, 2009 - 4:00am
Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I see that the House has already resumed with Conservative heckling from the very moment that we get going here again. Some things do not change.
Unfortunately we are seeing the bill re-emerge as well which is a big concern. Bill C-23 is a bill that would bring a trade agreement between Canada and Colombia.
The bill is about providing a privileged trade agreement to Colombia. It is not about the issue of fear of a trade in general and free trade. It is about providing privileged access to the Canadian markets and as well Canada entering into another deeper relationship with Colombia which on the surface we should pursue trade agreements there is no doubt about that. However what is disturbing about this bill is we are doing so with a country that has had a significant problem with murder, with crime and a series of problems related to even civil society and the economics of its nation that have not yet been addressed. Sadly, since the last time I spoke there has been approximately 27 more trade unionists killed in Colombia.
I had an opportunity to discuss this at committee, questioning the Colombian representation at that time about the number of different leaders who were assassinated in their actual state. We were not talking about union activists from forestry or mining. We were talking about people who were part of their civil society. They were leaders of their nursing association, their teachers association and university associations who were killed. I asked about specific cases. Interestingly enough everything was a crime of passion from a nation that has had thousands of assassinations of people who were just fighting for basic human and worker rights. A continuation of the explanation was that these were personal problems that delved into the actual fact of being assassinated, be it in their homes, be it in the streets, be it somewhere else and at work even. That is unacceptable.
This is why I am surprised that we are coming back to the bill at this point. I know that the Liberals have vacillated on this issue. At first they were very supportive of the bill, supporting the government in moving it forward. Then at the same time there was a big push back. Thousands of Canadians petitioned against this deal right now saying that we need to have some further resolve of the Colombian government's protection of its citizens before we would even entertain this type of deeper relationship.
Once again it is a privileged relationship. It would be different than we do for most nations. Then the LIberals changed their position apparently which is interesting because it was supposed to be a confidence matter. Now I guess they are showing more confidence in the government again. I do not understand how this place works any more. It seems every day there is a different story.
It appears the Liberals are going to support this measure which disturbing. What we would rather see is a resolution of some of these problems so that the trade organizations, civil society members and the Colombian people can be supported and the government could be rewarded eventually by a trade agreement but not before it resolved these very serious issues.
Some of the names may not mean much to some people but Tique Adolfo was murdered recently; Arango Alberto was murdered; Pinto Alexander was murdered; Carreno Armando was murdered; Franco Franco Victor was murdered; Rodriguez Pablo was murdered. This is interesting when we talk about someone like Rodriguez Pablo he was a teacher who was killed.
This is what really disturbs me about the way we are approaching this. I am glad I had a chance to read some of the names into the record because at least they will be remembered in that way in the context that my country would enter a privileged trading relationship with a government that continues to allow people in its civil society, including teachers, to be murdered for the beliefs and values that they stand for.
If we want to have an open and free democratic society and we want to have a fair trade agreement with Columbia I say it is time to tell its government no right now, clean up its house, get things in order, make sure that the people in its civil society and its working class can actually do the work that is necessary to make sure that it advances the country. Let us not reward Colombia first. We need to make sure that we stand strong right now.
Mr. Brian Masse: Mr. Speaker, I have nothing to apologize for or clarify. This nation has been too well versed in history and understands the seriousness of the nature of the problems there. There has been a continuation of public policy there that has not protected people who stand for ordinary citizens.
I am ashamed that Canada would defend that type of approach. I think it is extremely important for our country to stand strong. We are not just talking about mining and different types of industries that have had historical conflict. We are talking about people who are teachers and who organize society. The government is supposed to support them, yet they continue to have problems. I simply cannot stand by and witness that and pretend by a distance that it is not something serious. It needs to be addressed.
My response to the minister is that we should send a much stronger language back to them to show that if they are going to have a privileged trade agreement with Canada it is going to come with conditions. We have trade agreements with them. This is a privileged trade agreement. The conditions are that the people in their society are going to be protected.
Mr. Brian Masse: Mr. Speaker, it is shocking. We have obvious evidence of drug cartels tied with those who are part of the governing body. It is something that needs to have further examination.
It should not be one that the minister distances himself from. He should be further delving into that relationship and doing the work necessary to make sure that things are going to be approached in a very professional and appropriate manner. However, what we have here is an ideological drive by the Conservatives to bring in a trade agreement with Colombia.
Once again, this is a privileged trade agreement. Nothing right now would affect the trade agreements that we have and the trade that is happening between our two countries. This is a privileged trade agreement that we would bring in. Why would we not be working with other nations and have them progressing on human rights and moving forward in ways that are open for democracy versus that of rewarding a country and then hoping later on that they do something?
It is interesting. In this privileged trade agreement, we have sidebar issues for the environment, multinationals and trade unionism. That clouds the issue and provides a greater cover for those who do not want to follow the rules to break them and not have consequences. Why we would want to structure our agreement to a regime of that nature that has those connections is beyond me. It just shows how weak the Conservatives truly are on the drug issue.
Mr. Brian Masse: Mr. Speaker, one of the interesting things about the NAFTA agreement, our trade agreement with the United States, is that we have actually seen on their side of the border a progression to understanding that for us to compete in a global economy, often the environment as well as labour and other types of issues are used against us. They are used against us because other countries are able to exploit the environment, exploit workers, exploit women and exploit children. We have seen a progression in the United States to identify that if we are to compete in the world market, other countries have to raise their levels to be able to ship into and dump into our markets when they are exploiting children or exploiting labour, whether it be women, the activists or the environment, is something we should contest. There should be a voice raised against this because we are not doing ourselves any good and we are not doing those countries any good by allowing those conditions.
That is important, because our country still seems to be stuck in a rut, and if we deregulate everything and have no standards, we will actually do better. The reality is that deregulation is allowed , not only in terms of the poisoning of our food, we have lost companies because of that. They have gone to other districts where there is fair competition as opposed to those companies that want to use the environment or labour practises as a subsidy, and they do well. Other companies have moved away from that.
There is an understanding that the North American market has to shift. Once again, there needs to be more scrutiny on those products and services that not only come from here, but also those that are actually shipped and dumped into our markets that will have standards to them, because if we do not do that, we are not even helping the people from those countries. All we are doing is allowing the continuation of abuse and a pattern of behaviour that will not sustain this planet, nor will it sustain the workers and many people out there.
I say to the government, let us use this as an example to Colombia. The carrot and the stick approach is one thing we can do. If they raise their standards, if they solve these issues, if they worked on them and we monitored them and put them on an approach that will take these concerns away, then we can move into a privileged trade agreement. Why give them a privileged trade agreement right now when we know the abuses are still there? They are historic enough in this century and are significant beyond even just Canada; they are international. Why would we do that? Why would we send the message to the rest of the world that we are willing to do business under these regimes' terms and conditions, versus what we should be doing? Canada is doing the exact opposite.
Mr. Brian Masse: It speaks for itself, Mr. Speaker, in a sense. We are entering into a new agreement with the narco-economy. That is it. That is what we are asking our country to do right now. I oppose that. I think there needs to be other provisions and there has some work done to help Colombia progress to a better position, but it has not worked yet.
Why would we enter into a trade agreement with the narco-economy, I ask the Liberal member? Why would we want to engage in a narco-economy?