Layton slams 'kill-a-unionist-pay-a-fine' deal with Colombia

Outrageous idea will be issue when Canadian Parliament reconvenes this fall, NDP says


Ottawa (11 July 2008) - Federal NDP Leader Jack Layton says it's "simply outrageous" for Ottawa to sign a trade deal with Colombia with a clause calling for the South American nation to pay a fine to a special fund whenever a union activist is murdered.

It's not clear how the fund would work and the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has not released any details on the payment scheme, negotiated with the government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

"This shouldn't have even been allowed to cross the first bureaucrat's desk," said Layton. The NDP has launched a petition against the trade agreement. In Colombia, where the army has been linked to the death squads, 28 trade unionists have been reported murdered so far this year.

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), one of Canada's biggest unions, has campaigned for many years against human rights violations in Colombia, especially the continuing murder and harassment of union leaders. Colombia has long been one of the most dangerous countries in the world for trade unionists.

A delegation representing four of Canada's largest public sector unions, including NUPGE, will visit Colombia later this month.

NDP trade critic Peter Julian describes the proposal, written into the Canada-Colombia trade plan, as "kill-a-unionist-pay-a-fine." He predicts that it will become a significant issue during the fall session of Parliament.

The Harper government announced the trade deal in June – before a parliamentary committee studying trade with Colombia had completed its work. The committee later recommended against signing a deal with Colombia. NUPGE

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