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Harper does the predictable: tiptoes around human rights in Columbia

A couple of days ago, on the eve of Harper’s trip to Columbia and Haiti, I asked the question whether Harper would be consistent on his human rights lectures of countries and whether he would apply it to countries he considers friendly or friends of Canada and not just those he considers adversaries, such as China and Russia.

I was prepared to give him credit if he did so; unfortunately, it appears I was expecting too much from him. Apparently it’s ok to have massive human rights problems if you’re considered a friend:

Stephen Harper became the first Canadian prime minister to visit Colombia this week, and dismissed criticism that Canada is putting trade ahead of human rights…. “Around the country we have 30,000 that have been detained or disappeared in last 10 years, three million internally displaced people; thousands have been killed,” responded Lilia Solano, the director of Project Justice and Life. “So how can someone say, ‘OK, all this blood is running but business goes first’.”

This is the same Prime Minister who said with regards to China that he wouldn’t allow big bucks in trade get in the way of talking about and criticizing China over human rights, and that Canadians didnt want us to sell out our values.

Apparently, its different when the country in question is a friend who you want to sign a free trade agreement with. Once again, we see how Harper is almost exactly emulating his American Idol in Bush: criticize your enemies and adversaries human rights violations and act all pious about it, but when it comes to your friends, equivocate or dont even mention it.

Harper has shown himself to be a hypocrite on this issue – not a surprise unfortunately. He’s becoming all too predictable.


6 comments to Harper does the predictable: tiptoes around human rights in Columbia

  • Should we trade with China? We already are.
    Should we trade with Cuba? We already are.
    Should we trade with Columbia? We already are.

    Now, given all that, why is it  ok for Harper to publicly disparage China and jeopardize that trade and eliminate any influence we might have, put business dealings in danger? Because Human Rights are tantamount, right? Ditto for Cuba.

    So given that, why didn't Harper make the same remarks against Columbia, which, unlike China and Cuba, has right-wing paramilitary death squads roaming the country that are connected not only to the government, but to the President himself?

    His remarks can be completely separate from any actual trade issues, if he is principled and consistent.

    The other "nuance" is that Canada needs China more than China needs Canada, so that puts us at a power disadvantage – we must handle China differently without losing our principled position on human rights. Trade can be a carrot as well as a stick.

    Columbia, on the other hand, needs Canada more than Canada needs Columbia. That puts us in a different power position. We can, and should, from that position, demand more with respect to human rights in return for favourable trade.

    In short, Harper did it the exact wrong way around. He should have been more diplomatic with China and less so with Columbia. Instead he jeopardized trade relations and useful engagement with the largest market in the world to sound tough domestically, and then when he had the opportunity to actually be effective on human rights, choose to do nothing to ensure trade with a minor country with a poor record. But, I suppose that China is "communist" and therefore "left" and Columbia is not and therefore "right" (and are even fighting Marxist FARC guerrillas!) so Harper must always support the "non-communists" against the "communists", even if the non-commies are worse. In other word, like so much from this Gnu Government, this is based on ideological blinders rather than principle.

    Is that "nuanced" enough for you Paul?

    FWIW, as a libertarian and an anarchist, I don't like any government. I don't like any government that oppresses its people, whether its China or Columbia or anywhere in between (like Canada or the US). But I am enough of a realist to see when someone is being a hypocrite and using "human rights" as a domestic political tool instead of actually standing up for them. And right now that is Harper.

  • Scary Conservative

    So should we be trading with Cuba?

  • paul

    You liberals really need to be a bit more "nuanced" in your approach to trade and international relations.

  • "But in the case of Colombia it's not necessarily the government that is behind all those human right's violations"

    Actually there is a current scandal down there that links the government DIRECTLY with right-wing death squads – so much so that even the Bush Administration doesn't want anything to do with them.

    But I guess that's OK for Steve, so long as he can divert attention away from AFghanistan, eh?

  • Bailey

    But in the case of Colombia it's not necessarily the government that is behind all those human right's violations.  In China, the story is a little different. 

    I won't fault Harper from negotiating a trade pact with Colombia as it could benefit the country and help them create jobs other than being drug suppliers. 

    Plus, Canada definitely needs to look beyond the US as a trading partner.

  • Jeff

    OK Liberals – Make up your minds – Do you want Harper to bring up human rights or not? Come on now – Take a stand for once…..

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