Canada-Colombia Free Trade

Canada risks exporting more Canadian manufacturing jobs to Colombia under a free trade deal says Jack Layton, leader of Canada's New Democratic Party. The NDP is demanding Harper bring the deal before Parliament for a debate and a vote. Layton says his party wants to closely examine the agreement and insert conditions relating to human rights.

"Stephen Harper requires the support of Parliament before signing another Bush-style free trade deal. Multinational oil, gas and mining companies want this deal to lower the bottom line, and we will not let that happen at the expense of Canadian jobs," said Layton. "The NDP will not support this free trade deal because it will aggravate the manufacturing jobs crisis here in Canada, does not incorporate fairness for Canadian exporters and does not insist upon high standards of corporate accountability."

Layton added that he is also concerned about the unstable security environment in Colombia and the government's disregard for the rights of indigenous peoples, including regular and sustained disputes over rights to natural resources. Canadian corporations throughout Latin America are involved in conflicts with indigenous people who either oppose or want more input into foreign investment in their lands.

Layton reminded the prime minister about comments he made last November in relation to China. At the time prime minister said, "I don't think Canadians want us to sell out important Canadian values -- our belief in democracy, freedom, human rights. They don't want to sell that out to the almighty dollar."

Trade unionists are regularly killed in Colombia for nothing more than their collective organization, says Layton. Colombia's National Trade Union School documented 2,245 killings, 3,400 threats and 138 forced disappearances of trade unionists between January 1991 and December 2006.

"Yesterday the prime minister claimed that Columbia is 'making progress.' When workers are not free to organize without having their lives threatened, we should not be doing business as usual. This free trade deal reinforces the status quo in Colombia and that isn't good enough."

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