OTTAWA – NDP International Trade critic Peter Julian (Burnaby-New Westminster), and NDP Labour Critic, Libby Davies (Vancouver East) were joined today by Hassan Yussuff, secretary treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) to launch a public campaign to call on the Harper government to immediately halt free trade negotiations with Colombia. The campaign comes in light of the revelation of a major flaw in the labour protection clauses of the future Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

The flaws in the agreement were revealed when Julian questioned senior Canadian government trade negotiators at hearings of the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade.

According to the negotiators’ testimony, the Colombian government would be required to make a token monetary payment into a “cooperation fund“when a Colombian trade unionist is murdered.

“The weakness of this so-called labour protection measure amounts to the decriminalization of murder,” said Julian. “Fines are the type of penalty given out for speeding or parking violations, not for murder. This deal leaves the door wide open for continuing violence against workers and activists.”

With the support of the trade union movement and civil society organizations, the NDP is launching a petition campaign to block the Canada-Colombia free trade negotiations. Julian says that no further negotiations should take place until there is an effective human rights assessment framework and enforceable labour and environmental standards built into negotiations with Colombia.

“In the current context of ongoing human rights abuses, asking for a trivial monetary penalty to offset the killing of trade unionist would only add to the deplorable human rights situation in Colombia,” said Davies.

“The Canada-Colombia FTA betrays fundamental Canadian values,” said Yussuff. “I am appealing to labour activists and other Canadians concerned about human rights to join us in the fight to stop this agreement”.