VANCOUVER — Canada’s Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, Stockwell Day, downplayed concerns expressed during a protest today against the implementation of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Speaking to before addressing the ‘Dinner of the Americas’ organized by the Canadian Council for the Americas, Day also hinted that the Obama administration may soon be softening its opposition to free trade with the Uribe regime in Colombia.

“We have one of the strongest side accords of any agreement on labour, on human rights and on the environment,” Day said. “They have made strong progress on human rights, on their judicial system.”

When asked if the Conservative government in Ottawa was out of step with the new U.S. administration and the Democratic Party controlled U.S. Congress on the Colombia issue, Day responded, “All I will say on that is stay tuned.”

Earlier today Reuters carried a story in which Colombia’s trade minister suggested that he sees a “will to find a solution” in the U.S. administration. During the election campaign, Obama opposed ratification of the free trade deal with Colombia, citing human rights concerns.

Day’s comments came just hours after labour and solidarity activists held a protest opposing the Canada-Colombia FTA outside the federal Liberal Party’s convention in Vancouver. A press release issued by the Vancouver & District Labour Council outlined the organizers’ concerns:

“Forty-nine trade unionists were murdered in 2008, and another fifteen have been killed so far in 2009. Despite this, the Liberal Party refuses to stand in opposition to a free trade pact that is widely opposed in both Canada and Colombia due to that country’s human rights abuses.”

Opposition to Canada’s ratification of the FTA with Colombia has been building in recent weeks. In addition to the protest action, an open letter signed by over 50 prominent individuals and organizations urged the Liberals and new leader Michael Ignatieff to “put human rights before trade with Colombia.”




Derrick O'Keefe

Derrick O'Keefe

Derrick O'Keefe is a writer in Vancouver, B.C. He served as's editor from 2012 to 2013 and from 2008 to 2009.