HomeCDHALCentro de Estudios del Carbón y la gran Mineria’s Letter for Stephan Harper

Centro de Estudios del Carbón y la gran Mineria’s Letter for Stephan Harper

Bogotá, 15 de Abril de 2009

Mister Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada

Allow me to call to your attention something that has been of great concern to us, and also to present some important information regarding this matter.

As you are aware, the Conservative government presented the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement to Parliament on March 26, 2009 for ratification, though many Colombian and Canadian organizations have been opposing the deal for some time. The New Democratic Party (NDP), the Bloc Quebecois, and several Liberal Members of Parliament oppose this deal as well. In response, the Harper government has claimed that this deal would help both the Canadian and Colombian economies as well as require the Colombian government to improve the human rights situation in Colombia.

We would like to express our disagreement with the arguments put forward by the Harper government, in the light of the following information:

Numerous studies have shown that signing the Canada-Colombian FTA would have dramatic consequences on work conditions in Colombia and Canada, and jeopardize fundamental collective rights recognized by Canadian democracy, without demonstrating any economic benefit. Also, the FTA-which amply favours Canadian mining companies, who have not always followed accepted social and environmental regulations-would result in a worsened balance of environmental and human concerns.

To sign this deal would not only make Canada complicit in the innumerable crimes committed by the Colombian government, which crimes have been denounced by the United Nations and the Interamerican Court of Human Right; it would also fail to recognize the work that has been done to defend human rights, to which an important part of the Canadian community has committed itself.

How is it possible to discuss improving the human rights situation in Colombia when the report published by Amnesty International on October 28th, 2008 indicates that 1400 civilians were murdered in 2007, and 1300 murdered in 2006? During the first part of 2008, close to 270,000 people were forcibly displaced, which is equal to a 40% increase compared to the same period in 2007. There are serious indications that discredit the process of paramilitary demobilization and lead to two conclusions: paramilitary forces continue to threaten and assassinate innocent people and almost all of their crimes remain unpunished.

At the end of 2008, the scandal of extrajudicial executions took place (or "false positives"): the army systematically murdered civilians for the purpose of inflating the numbers of the victories gained in anti-guerrilla warfare, a scandal that has lead to the Alvaro Uribe Vélez government’s legitimacy to be seriously questioned. During the last two presidential terms, at least 1200 defenceless civilians have been assassinated, which deaths have then been reported as "killed in action."

And these are only a few of the innumerable examples. It is important to note that the Congress of the United States rejected the ratification of a FTA similar to the one presented to the Parliament of Canada, given the deplorable situation of the government of Colombia in the matter of human rights violations.

We believe that in the course of the last few years, Canada has been losing its international reputation and its tradition as a leader in the defense of human rights. For this reason, it is vitally important for Canada to follow the example of the government of the United States and reject the ratification of the Canada-Colombia FTA.

Accordingly, we ask that you give the greatest attention to the situation that prevails at the moment in Colombia and to actively denounce the Free Trade Agreement in Parliament, and oppose its ratification.

We trust that you will represent your electorate and the consensus of Canadians with dignity, opposing the ratification of the FTA, which will likely occur in the following weeks. We would appreciate any correspondence from you informing us about your position and any actions that you will undertake after receiving this request.

Cordially yours,

Centro de Estudios del Carbón y la gran Mineria