A Time Line of the Canadian Anti–Colombia FTA Campaign

Sheila Katz and Gauri Sreenivasan

June 2007
The government of Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper launches negotiations for a proposed Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA). The Liberal Party supports free trade but favors a delay to address human rights questions in Colombia.

July 2007
Harper travels to Latin America to kick off his Americas Strategy.

September 2007
Harper gives a speech at the Council on Foreign Affairs in New York warning that by not ratifying a similar trade agreement, the United States risks turning “its back on its friends in Colombia” (George W. Bush later quotes Harper’s “wise words”).ADD URL

January 2008
U.S. congressional Democrats send a letter to the Canadian Parliament. “No trade agreement with Colombia is acceptable at this time,” it says.

February 2008
Congressman Michael Michaud (D-Maine), one of the letter’s signers, visits Ottawa and urges Canadians to “stick with your strong tradition about human rights and labor rights and continue to be the leader you have been for so many years.”

May 2008
Parliament’s Standing Committee on International Trade (CIIT) begins work on a Colombia study and later travels to Bogotá.

June 2008
The Harper government announces the completion of trade negotiations. In Parliament, the CIIT tables its study recommending a human rights impact assessment (HRIA) of the trade deal.

October 2008
Harper wins another minority government in the Canadian election.

November 2008
Harper and Colombian president Álvaro Uribe sign the CCFTA on the margins of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Lima, Peru; the text is released.

January 2009
The Canadian Liberal Party replaces its spokesperson for international trade policy. This later translates into a new Liberal position favoring the CCFTA.

February 2009
Visiting leaders of Colombian social movements meet with the Canadian secretary of state for Latin America and denounce the CCFTA.

March 2009
Colombian senator Jorge Robledo, who opposes the CCFTA, visits Canada and addresses the CIIT. Bill C-23, the CCFTA’s implementing legislation, is tabled in the House of Commons.

May 2009
The government withdraws Bill C-23 from the Parliamentary order of business.

June 2009
Uribe visits Canada to press for the CCFTA. Citizens rally against him in both Ottawa and Montreal.

August 2009
Liberal Party officials visit Colombia and speak with Uribe and his officials, as well as selected pro-CCFTA unions and civil society organizations.

September 2009
Parliament reopens. CCFTA and Bill C-23 are the first order of business.

December 2009
Harper prorogues, or closes, the Parliamentary session. Bill C-23 dies on the agenda.

March 2010
Parliament reopens, and the CCFTA is resubmitted as priority legislation. The Liberal trade spokesperson offers a pre-negotiated amendment that would allow the Canadian and Colombian governments to write their own annual HRIAs.


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