Current Activity Updates (2009)
December 18, 2009
Documents Show Corruption and Intimidation by Canadian Mining Firm Blackfire in Its Mexican operations:
Ottawa Must Investigate Immediately
Harper government must adopt legislation to punish corrupt practices by Canadian-based mining corporations
JOINT RELEASE ISSUED BY:
Council of Canadians
Nov 25 - Dec 2, 2009
Honduras Human Rights Observers Daily Reports
A bi-national delegation of Canadian and US representatives from labour, human rights, and faith-based organizations is in Honduras from Nov 25 to Dec 2 to conduct human rights accompaniment and observation at the time of the country's controversial elections on November 29. The delegation's members hope that their presence will mitigate human rights violations by the Honduran military and police, and that they will be able to document any violations that occur. The team is posting regular reports back to Canada. Follow the link below to read their on-the-ground updates.
UPDATE - NOV 29
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Canadian Human Rights Observers in Honduras witness violence and intimidation during the controversial Nov. 29 elections
November 26, 2009
Message to Ottawa: Nov. 29 Honduran ‘Elections’ are a Threat to Democracy in the Hemisphere
By Rick Arnold, Common Frontiers Canada
Will Canada be recognizing these elections? All signs indicate that the Harper government will try and get away with arguing that it was a free and fair exercise of the will of the people, and that it is the only route open to restoring peace and stability. If Canada recognizes these elections it will not only be turning its back on the long suffering people of Honduras who are now well organized and will continue to resist after November 29, but will also be distancing itself from most other countries in our hemisphere.
November 25, 2009
For Immediate Release
Delegation to Conduct Human Rights Accompaniment and Observation in Lead-Up to Controversial Honduras Elections
Representatives of Canadian Labour and Human Rights Groups available for Interviews from Honduras, November 25 – December 1st
Toronto/Vancouver & Hyattsville, MD – A bi-national delegation of Canadian and US representatives from labour, human rights, and faith-based organizations will be in Honduras from November 25 to December 2, 2009, to conduct human rights accompaniment and observation at the time of the country’s controversial elections on November 29. The bi-national delegation has been co-organized along with the Quixote Centre in the U.S. (that has organized 7 previous delegations since the June 28 military-backed coup). The delegation’s members hope that their presence will mitigate human rights violations by the Honduran military and police, and that they will be able to document any violations that occur.
November 10, 2009
National Work Stoppage in Mexico
A national work stoppage has been called for Nov. 11 in Mexico in support of the Electrical Workers (SME) and against the recent militarization of Luz y Fuerza electrical instalations in Mexico City. Canadian Energy unions, Common Frontiers and RQIC have sent a letter to the President of Mexico. We expect that a portion of this letter will be read out in the Mexico City Zocalo on Nov 11. Below is an excerpt and links to the full letter:
President Felipe de Jesús Calderón Hinojosa,
Last Friday, Nov 6, 2009, we met in Montreal , to follow up on the agreements we made with trade unions and social organizations from Mexico and the United States during the Third North American Encounter of Organizations from the Energy Sector held in Mexico City from the 16th to the 18th of March, 2009. We trade unions and social networks involved in energy in Quebec and Canada affirm the following with respect to recent events in Mexico:
1. We condemn the actions of your government on October 10th and 11th when you ordered the takeover by force through the intervention of federal police of the installations of the Central Light and Power Company (Luz y Fuerza del Centro), in order to later issue a decree announcing the liquidation of that company which is protected by the Constitution and without the necessary Congressional authorization.
November 3, 2009
Harper's Colombia cover-up
How the PM betrayed his own MPs to sign trade deal with unionist-murdering regime
The latest issue of Toronto's Now Magazine features an article by Andrew Cash, the NDP candidate for the federal riding of Davenport. In it, he talks to many different people about the federal government's actions in proposing and signing a trade deal with Colombia. One of those quoted is CF's Rick Arnold:
Colombia, says, Rick Arnold of Common Frontiers, an umbrella of civil society orgs, has one of the worst human rights records in the Western hemisphere. There’s plenty of evidence that paramilitary organizations with ties to President Alvaro Uribe’s government have instituted a reign of terror over Afro-Colombian and indigenous groups in rural areas as well as unionists.
According to recent human rights reports, 474 of the latter have been murdered since Uribe came to power in 2002, over 40 of them in the first eight months of 2008.
“While the killing of unionists is well documented, others point to the fact that so many more indigenous people have been murdered,” says Arnold.
Any investigation would probably show, he says, “that lands of interest to foreign resource companies are being cleared of the indigenous population. There’s a total of 4 million displaced people in the country [of 45 million] already.”
October 30, 2009
Free Event -- Afta NAFTA: Competing visions for North America
Monday November 2, 2009, 7:00 pm
Trinity St Paul's United Church
427 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Manuel Perez Rocha, director of The NAFTA Plus and the SPP Advocacy Project
at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies, and executive committee
member of the Mexican Action Network on Free Trade (RMALC).
Katherine Ozer, executive director of the National Family Farm Coalition who also
sits on the boards of the Citizens Trade Campaign, Community Food Security Coalition
and the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture.
John Foster, co-founder of Common Frontiers, Research Associate with the North-
South Institute, and former head of OXFAM-Canada (1989-1997).
Moderated by Stuart Trew, Trade Campaigner, The Council of Canadians
October 14, 2009
Common Frontiers letter to Mexican President Felipe Calderón
Dear President Calderón,
I write to protest the Federal Police occupation of the electrical plants, the liquidation of the Light and Power Company (LyF), the firing of 45,000 workers, and the attempt to destroy the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME).
October 7, 2009
Scott Brison's comments on Colombia "beyond the pale" - letter from CF
Dear Mr. Brison:
"Your comments in the House of Commons this week related to Bill C-23, the proposed Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, went well beyond the pale of reasoned argument. In fact I and anyone I have talked with who has heard about your comments are outraged by the falsehoods that they contained."
October 02, 2009
Letter to Minister Peter Kent re:
Canadian policy on Honduras
Following OAS talks on September 28th, Reuters reported that Canada and four other OAS members sought to drop President Zelaya's return to office as a precondition for holding future elections in Honduras. If that media report is correct, it puts Canada clearly and shamefully on side with the plans of a de facto regime that forcefully and illegally ousted the democratically elected President of Honduras on June 28, 2009.
September 22, 2009
Letter to the Prime Minister:
Honduras situation critical: Canada needs to step up and support the return of Manuel Zelaya to the Presidency of Honduras
Yesterday Honduran President Manuel Zelaya returned to Tegucigalpa where he is currently a guest of the Brazilian Embassy. Zelaya has again called for negotiations with the de facto regime as a first step towards the peaceful resolution of the crisis brought on by June 28 military-backed coup.
For Immediate Release
September 17, 2009
Colombia is exporting paramilitaries to Honduras, and has become a security threat in the Americas.
The Canadian government made another attempt during the week of September 14 to pass the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) through second reading in Parliament. Conservative MPs rose one after another over a period of three days to praise the Uribe regime while trotting out the usual arguments in favour of 'free trade' with Colombia - the magic bullet to solve all poverty and human rights problems. However, the Harper government free traders likely didn't have in mind Colombia's newly found vocation of 'exporting' paramilitaries to serve as mercenaries in other counties like embattled Honduras.
Colombian media is reporting that illegal armed groups in that country are recruiting demobilized paramilitaries to work as mercenaries in Honduras, and that recruitment has taken place on lands belonging to the Colombian government. - Read some of those media reports
As a selling point for going ahead with the CCFTA, some Liberal and Conservative MPs claimed this week that a free trade deal between Canada and Colombia would also provide a measure of 'security' by serving to counter the intentions of neighbours such as Venezuela's Chavez. These MPs failed to mention that Colombia has the largest standing army in South America, and with the recent agreement with the United States for the use of seven military bases, it is Colombia that has become the destabilizing factor in South America.
On the 15 of September at a meeting in Quito, Ecuador, the South American Council of Defence of the union of South American nations, known as UNASUR, asked Colombia for an explanation regarding the new US military bases. Colombia refused saying that the agreement's terms were confidential. Brazil's Foreign Minister Celso Amorín summed up the feelings held by most UNASUR countries at the Quito meeting, "Colombia hasn't understood the unease that it has caused because of this agreement on military bases".
It would appear that the Harper government hasn't understood that in proceeding with a free trade agreement with Colombia, Canada is not only turning a blind eye to massive human rights abuses in that country, but would also be complicit in aiding and abetting a pariah state bent on intimidating all its neighbours in South America.
September 11, 2009
Challenging the G-20’s Agenda of Corporate Globalization
Wednesday, Sept. 23 and Friday, Sept. 25 - Pittsburg, USA
The G-20 is almost here, and there are some incredible events that the are being organized in partnership with many local, national and international allies. Common Frontiers will be present for the three days of events in Pittsburg as the Canadian member of the Hemispheric Social Alliance (HSA). The HSA and its US representative, the Alliance for Responsible Trade (ART), are key members of the organizing committee responsible for putting on several grass roots/high profile events in parallel to the official G-20 gathering in Pittsburg, such as:
- discussion circles leading to a peoples tribunal;
- a panel with leaders from Latin America;
- an exchange with G-20 representatives from the Global South and;
- speakers including Joseph Stiglitz, Leo Gerard and many others.
August 6, 2009
Leaders Summit in Guadalajara must tackle the NAFTA link to swine flu
Only a few days before the next “three amigos” Summit in Guadalajara, Mexico, and information has only been released drop by drop. There is not any official information yet about its agenda. This contrasts starkly with promises made by Obama during his campaign of greater transparency and involvement of civil society and labor in such summits:
August 6, 2009
An Open Letter To Harper
Re: North American Leaders Summit
On behalf of Canadian civil society organizations we urge you to take North American relations in a new direction when you meet Presidents Barack Obama and Felipe Calderon on August 9 and 10 in Guadalajara, Mexico. While this meeting is no longer described as a continuation of the Security and Prosperity Partnership initiated by President George W. Bush, President Vicente Fox and Prime Minister Paul Martin, we have yet to see any evidence concerning how it will differ from the secretive SPP process.
July 18, 2009
Fact-finding delegation to Honduras
Listed below are some links to photos and videos from Ben Beachy, a member of Witness for Peace, who was part of the first fact-finding Hemispheric Social Alliance delegation that was in Honduras from July 12 to 17.
A second HSA mission to which CF members and other delegates from Canada and Quebec have been invited, is scheduled to be heading to Honduras the week of July 27.
The photos can be found here (click on "Show Info")
Anuncio de COFADEH de 1,161 violaciones a los derechos humanos:
Hondurenos cantando el himno nacional a la embajada gringa:
Posicion de Carlos H Reyes, candidato presidencial, sobre el papel de los EE.UU.:
Conferencia de prensa del Frente Nacional en medio de la calle 1:
Conferencia de prensa del Frente Nacional en medio de la calle 2:
Expresion de solidaridad de Enrique en representacion del ASC:
July 7, 2009
CF to PM: Canada must support calls for reinstatement of Honduras President
Dear Prime Minister Harper;
Canada stands virtually alone among the countries that make up this hemisphere in refusing to call for the immediate and unconditional reinstatement of Manuel Zelaya as president of Honduras. In 2007, when your government announced its new policy focus on the Americas, it promised to promote Canadian values such as human rights, democracy, prosperity and security for all. The recent coup in Honduras has shattered these values by putting the population there at risk, by gutting democracy, and by denying the majority of the population their hopes and dreams for leaving behind a history of poverty and neglect that were raised as a result of the modest reforms instituted under President Zelaya.
July 2, 2009
Civil Society groups question Senate's haste in passing Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement
Dear Senators Le Breton and Cowan:
On June 11, shortly after the killings that took place in the Amazon area of Peru, our three civil society organizations wrote to you urging the Senate to halt Bill C-24, implementing legislation for the Canada - Peru Free Trade Agreement. We had every reason to expect that the Senate, often referred to as Canada’s court of sober second thought, would have taken the time to investigate the reasons for the Indigenous protest in Peru that was dealt with harshly by authorities. The resulting deaths of protesters and police led to a serious political crisis in Peru including the resignation of the prime minister, the sudden revoking of controversial Amazonian development laws, and a nationally broadcast apology from the president.
However, with unseemly haste, the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade issued a press release on June 17 announcing that the Senate had passed Bill C-24, which then received royal assent on June 19. With so much reason to delay ratifying the Canada-Peru FTA, we are left wondering what went wrong at the Senate.
June 18, 2009
Taskforce on NAFTA Renegotiation:
Letter to Harper,Obama, Calderon
Dear Prime Minister Harper and Presidents Obama and Caldéron:
Fifteen years since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) entered into effect, it has become obvious that many of the promised benefits of the agreement have not come to be. As Members of our Parliaments and Congress in Canada, Mexico and the U.S., we ask you, on behalf of our constituents as well as civil society organizations, to consider a new, people-centered fair trade model; we wish to ensure fair trade with quality-of-life for our peoples and environmental protection as first principles of the Americas. We must reshape trade agreements in North America to ensure rising standards of living for our peoples. Unfortunately, NAFTA has aggravated poverty across the continent. It is clear that NAFTA is not working for the vast majority of inhabitants of North America. It has failed on the bottom line. As lawmakers in our respective chambers, we have voiced concerns about NAFTA promoting a “race to the bottom” rather than equitable development in all three countries.
June 15, 2009
Letter to the President of Peru Alan Garcia Perez
On June 12, 20 organizations published a letter to the President of Peru protesting the human rights abuses and killings in the Amazon area of Peru.
We are writing to express our deepest concern over the recent police attack on peaceful Indigenous protesters in Bagua, northern Peru. Eyewitness reports indicate that the police fired tear gas and live bullets that resulted in the deaths of both protesters and police officers. We strongly urge your administration to stand down immediately and refrain from using additional deadly force on Indigenous demonstrators.
The news of these deaths is of great concern to Canadians given that our country is close to implementing a free trade agreement with Peru. Canadian people and legislators are watching to see if your government will take immediate steps to defuse this situation while showing proper respect to the many thousands of Indigenous peoples currently exercising their legitimate rights to demand prior consultation or consent over development on their territories.
June 11, 2009
No-Colombia-Canada FTA rallies held in Montreal and Ottawa on June 10, 2009: Uribe is persona non-grata!
At rallies held on the same day in Montreal and Ottawa, protesters denounced the presence of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe in Canada, and called on the Harper government to immediately halt the implementation of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Colombia. The protests were colourful, creative and noisy as hundreds turned out to show their opposition to the passage of this deadly trade deal.
We have photos from both demonstrations. Just click on the links below.
June 11, 2009
ACTION ALERT: Canada must halt free trade agreement with Peru
Indigenous communities in Peru have been holding peaceful protests since April 9 to condemn new laws that would allow for the rapid industrialization of the Amazon rainforest. These laws were put in place by the Peruvian government to further facilitate its proposed free trade agreements with Canada and the United States.
Over 30,000 Indigenous protesters have blocked roads, rivers and railways to force the repeal of these new laws, which would make way for intensified oil, mining, logging activities and massive agricultural projects, and to demand that they be consulted on all development planned on their land.
But at dawn on Friday, June 5, 600 Peruvian police in helicopters and on foot opened fire on protesters blocking a road near Bagua in the Peruvian Amazon. Conservative estimates indicate that 60 Indigenous and police have been killed. Police are accused of burning bodies then hiding them in the river and of removing the wounded from hospital to hide the real number of casualties.
Should Canada really be signing a free trade agreement with the Peruvian government when this is how they respond to legitimate protests against oil, mining and forestry projects that threaten to displace local and indigenous communities and further despoil Amazonian ecosystems?
Many of our elected Members of Parliament seem to think so.
The Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement gives Canadian resource companies new legal powers to challenge what few Peruvian laws stand in their way, while paying only lip service to labour rights and environmental protection. The House of Commons has already passed Bill C-24, the implementing legislation for the Agreement, without adding even a mention of human rights; it is currently before the Senate.
But the deal can still be stopped!
We need you to write to the Senate immediately and ask them to send the Canada—Peru FTA back to Parliament for reconsideration. The Senate cannot be allowed to rubber stamp this deal, which legitimizes state repression for the sake of boosting the profits of Canada’s oil patch and major mining companies. By using the form below, your letter will be copied to all the major party leaders so they know Canadians stand in solidarity with the Peruvian Indigenous protesters and oppose the free trade agreement.
The Council of Canadians
Protest against Colombian President's visit to Ottawa
The Canadian government wants
to quickly wrap up a free trade
deal with Colombia, a country
with the worst human rights
record in the Americas.
Canada is now Colombia’s top trade target. If Canada gives its
seal of approval for “business as usual” with Colombia it undercuts the struggle for human rights improvements.
Canada says it’s committed to promoting democracy, respect
for human rights, and the rule of law in the Americas. Ratifying a free trade deal with a murderous regime sends the wrong message!
Demonstration set for Wed, June 10 at 1:00 PM
Canadians say "No" to a deadly trade deal!
Canadians stand up for human rights!
May 25, 2009
Letter from Amnesty International to Michael Ignatieff
Dear Mr Ignatieff:
Since 1978 I have been the Colombia Coordinator for Amnesty International Canada (English Speaking) and in this capacity I wish to make you aware of why I have grave concerns with respect to an initiative that will soon be discussed and voted on by the Parliament of Canada.
May 22, 2009
New trade directions explored at Trinidad summit
"We in Canada under NAFTA would figure out we have to compete with the U. S., so let's see how we can outdo them and get part of their market. In Bolivia, the Indigenous thinking throughout history has been to look at how everybody in the community can progress together. If I specialize in producing some particular thing, why not acknowledge that in your trade with me, rather than try to produce it as well and beat me at it, or sub-produce it in China and sell it to me." - Rick Arnold, quoted in a story in Northumberland Today, May 21, 2009
April 30, 2009
For Immediate Release
Prominent Canadians ask Ignatieff to put human rights before free trade in Colombia
Vancouver - Over 50 prominent individuals and organizations have sent Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff a letter urging him to help stop the ratification of the proposed Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement until a full and independent human rights impact assessment can be carried out. The letter was sent today, the first day of the Liberal Party convention in Vancouver.
“We the undersigned are deeply concerned that Canada would abandon its values and its support of internationally recognized human rights in order to gain economic advantage for its companies at the expense of millions of displaced, impoverished Colombians,” said the letter, which was signed by Maude Barlow, Stephen Lewis, Ed Broadbent, Claudette Carbonneau, Alex Neve, Paul Moist, Rev. Bill Phipps, Farley Mowat, Claire Mowat, Sarah Polley, Naomi Klein, Bruce Cockburn, Nancy White and others, as well as organizations like the Council of Canadians, Greenpeace, Common Frontiers, the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec, the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, the National Union of Public and General Employees and many more.
The letter notes that the government of Colombia has one of the worst trade union and human rights records in the world, and that according to the United Nations, the humanitarian crisis in Colombia is the worst in the hemisphere.
“Under President Alvaro Uribe’s watch, more than two million people have been displaced from their resource rich territories, while thousands of trade unionists, peasants, indigenous peoples, Afro-Colombians and activists have been killed by the state and affiliated paramilitary organizations,” the letter reads. “At the same time, the government is mired in corruption, electoral fraud and complicity with drug lords and death squad leaders.”
On March 26, 2009, Canada’s Conservative government tabled legislation that would lead to the ratification of the free trade agreement with Colombia. But last June, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on International Trade recommended that an “impartial human rights impact assessment be carried out by a competent body… before Canada considers ratifying and implementing an agreement with Colombia.”
To date, the NDP and Bloc Québécois have opposed the ratification of the free trade agreement on the grounds that it does not take into account severe human rights violations in Colombia, and that the labour and environmental side agreements are ineffectual. The letter to Ignatieff notes that while trade can support development and the realization of human rights, neither the political conditions in Colombia nor the terms of the free trade agreement meet the criteria that would allow that to happen.
Some of the signatories of the letter will join a noon rally on May 1 outside the downtown Vancouver Convention Centre where Liberals are meeting this week. The rally was planned by civil society and labour groups, to draw attention to how signing a free trade agreement would tarnish Canada's reputation and impose even greater levels of hardship on millions of innocent Colombians.
IV Peoples' Summit complete in Trinidad and Tobago
The IV Peoples' Summit of the Americaswas held in Trinidad and Tobago, April 16-18, 2009. As we did during the III Peoples' Summit in 2005, Common Frontiers hosted an information website (www.commonfrontiers.ca/IVpeoplessummit/)for Canadians who attended the event or wanted to keep up to date on what was happening. The site includes information about the event, registration information and the latest summit news, including on-site commentary and pictures.
- April 18 update - Read Rick Arnold's latest report, a new message from summit participants and see some pictures from the unauthorized public rally held Saturday morning.
- Message to North American Leaders attending the V Summit of the Americas
- Read Rick Arnold's first report from the Summit in CF Journal
- Visit the IV Peoples' Summit site
February 13, 2009
Canadians to Harper: Renegotiate NAFTA with Obama
OTTAWA – On the occasion of the first visit to Canada by US President Obama, major organizations from across Canada representing diverse sectors of the population have signed a letter to the Prime Minister calling on him to demonstrate a positive change in course for Canada’s trade policy by publicly committing to a transparent and thorough renegotiation of NAFTA. The organizations also back a call for an immediate moratorium on all bilateral free trade agreements involving Canada, and an end to the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.
February 11, 2009
Obama's Canada Trip May Spell Change for NAFTA
By Rick Arnold, CF Coordinator
(This article originally appeared in Foreign Policy in Focus)
Canadians are looking forward to Barack Obama's February 19 visit to Ottawa — the president's first trip to a foreign country since he took office. Many of us here dare to hope Obama's "change" agenda will inspire some fresh thinking among our own politicians. Ironically, Canadians concerned about our country's economic future (along with the well-being of our social programs) may now find a more sympathetic ear in Washington than in Ottawa — particularly when it comes to the subject of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
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