Is Canada-Colombia free trade deal off the table until fall?
This is the week the deal — or Bill C-23 — was supposed to be debated in the Commons. But there is cautious optimism today among non-governmental groups who oppose the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement over what appears to be the quiet withdrawal of the bill from the House of Commons Order Paper. The hope is it's off the schedule, at least until fall, giving opponents more time to fight in the court of public opinion.
A recent letter to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff from Dr. John C. Jones, Colombia coordinator for Amnesty International Canada, makes a strong case against the deal, arguing nothing should be done until a full human rights review can be carried out. More than 50 prominent organizations and individuals have endorsed the letter. It reviews allegations of unofficial/official support for the death squads that continue to butcher civilians in that country. Support for a human rights review was, after all, the all-party position of a parliamentary committee last fall until the Conservatives rather clumsily reversed themselves in the House.
Nobody has fought harder against the deal than the Canadian NGO, Common Frontiers and director Rick Arnold. The best analysis I've seen on may have happened this week is Arnold's own in a recent email to Decoder, part of which I share with readers.