Subject: Canada’s trade talks with the Bolsonaro government
We, the undersigned organizations, wish to take this opportunity to express our
concerns with the Canadian government’s insistence on negotiating a CanadaMercosur Free Trade Agreement in light of the 2018 Brazilian election results.
In 2018, the right-wing extremist candidate Jair Bolsonaro was elected as President of
Brazil. Shortly following his election, Minister Freeland congratulated him on his win.
Since then we have seen repeated meetings between Canada’s Minister of Foreign
Affairs and the Brazilian President, including the Mercosur negotiations and the Lima
Group emergency meetings on Venezuela.
As a network consisting of Canadian unions, environmental organizations, and civil
society groups, we are particularly concerned with the Bolsonaro government’s policies
as well as his publicly expressed positions on the following issues:
Bolsonaro’s policies will have serious impacts on the environment and represent
a major setback for tackling the climate crisis.
We are facing ever worsening impacts of climate change and science is confirming that
we need a transformational approach to respond to the climate crisis, from a social,
political, and economic perspective. The new president of Brazil has downgraded
Brazil’s climate diplomacy efforts, has transferred control of Indigenous reserves to
agribusiness interests, and represents a threat to clean energy progress and
international efforts to combat deforestation.
Bolsonaro poses a threat to organized labour.
During his election campaign, Bolsonaro repeatedly made threats to workers-party
supporters. A former military man himself, he referred to the military dictatorship era in
Brazil nostalgically, famously noting in an interview in 2016 that the dictatorship’s
biggest mistake in its repression of labour and Leftist activists was “to torture and not to
kill”. The 21-year military dictatorship in Brazil tortured thousands of union, communist,
and leftist organizers, and Indigenous peoples. Over 8,000 Indigenous people and 430
political dissidents were murdered.
Bolsonaro has also stated that Brazilian workers have an “excess of rights” and is
determined to deregulate the country’s labour protections. He has applauded labour law
reforms that erode historic rights in order to make Brazil more “open to investment.”
Bolsonaro is explicitly anti-feminist, anti-LGBTQ, anti-black, and anti-Indigenous.
Bolsonaro has used his position as president to publicly spread hate speech towards
vulnerable/marginalized groups. His statements have already produced material
impacts. We will not repeat the blatantly misogynist and racist commentary the
president has made over the past few years in order to not give them attention or space,
but a simple online search can demonstrate the kinds of hatred he is spreading. This is
dangerous and Canada should explicitly condemn such statements.
Bolsonaro’s position on natural resource extraction threatens communities and
Bolsonaro has expressed an aggressive intent to expand the extractive frontier in Brazil,
making it more open to foreign investment. In the short months he has been in office he
has committed to overhauling the regulation of the mining sector, including making
environmental permitting and assessment “less bureaucratic and more quick” for
potential investors. In light of the recent tragic Mariana and Brumadinho tailings spills,
we are concerned that deregulation will only exacerbate the excessive human and
environmental costs of mining in Brazil.
We are especially concerned given the ecologically and culturally sensitive nature of the
Amazonian regions where Bolsonaro has vowed to make expansion ‘inevitable.’
Bolsonaro has stated on numerous occasions that Indigenous and Quilombola (AfroBrazilian communities with autonomous territorial structures) populations in the Amazon
must and will cede to mineral exploitation.
Brazilians fear Bolsonaro’s “tough position on crime” will only serve to produce
more violence and justify repression of progressive groups.
International organizations Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both
produced reports which arrive at the same conclusion. The Brazilian police forces are
some of the most violent in the world, producing extremely high rates of extrajudicial
killings and incarceration. Despite this fact, Bolsonaro argues the police force is too
weak and should be killing more. Journalists fear that human rights NGOs and
organizations might become targets as a result of this expansion of criminalization of
Bolsonaro’s position is already producing real results. More land and rights defenders
have been killed in Brazil than in any other country. Amnesty International’s reports
suggest that this trend is worsening. Members of the large labour unions in the country
also fear repression for their political activities.
Further the government is attempting to pass an anti-terrorism law which will further
facilitate the criminalization of protest.
Canada should immediately cease negotiations with Brazil as part of the
We are concerned about the Canadian government’s commitment to maintaining
diplomatic relations with Brazil given this political scenario. We demand that the
Canadian government cease Canada-Mercosur FTA negotiations with Brazil. Signing a
Free Trade Agreement with this right-wing extremist regime will only exacerbate the
risks that these agreements present for people and the environment.
Canada should not, in good faith, be negotiating this agreement to promote its business
interests abroad and at home, considering these dangerous positions and precedents.
Canada has a moral obligation to ensure the protection of basic human and
environmental rights at home and abroad.
We look forward to hearing from you on this matter.
BC Teachers’ Federation
Committee for human rights in Latin America (CDHAL)
Council of Canadians
National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)
Public Service Alliance of Canada
Trade Justice Network