Posted on 04 July 2012
Charlottetown Senator Percy Downe questioned the haste with which the Government was rushing the Canada Jordan Free Trade Agreement through the Senate (Bill C-23) last week.
“This is no way to conduct a serious review of the bill. Indeed, I would argue it is no way to run the Senate,” said the Senator as the bill passed the Conservative-dominated chamber.
Although the agreement between the two countries was signed in 2009, the bill to implement the agreement only reached the Senate just two weeks ago.
“The House of Commons had the bill (and its predecessor, Bill C-8 from 2010) for over 14 months and their committee held 12 committee meetings and heard from over 40 witnesses. The Senate held only one meeting and heard from only seven witnesses,” said Senator Downe, who asked “On what basis are we to support this legislation without proper hearings?”
While all acknowledge that this agreement will have a minimal economic effect on Canada, there are aspects of trade with Jordan that concern the Senator. Testimony before the House of Commons International Trade Committee revealed troubling details about the treatment of migrant workers – mostly women – in the Jordanian textile industry.
In particular, the testimony of Mr. Charles Kernaghan, the Director, of the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, was most disturbing. He told of fourteen hour days, with perhaps two days off a month, pay rates below even the paltry 75 cents an hour that is the official minimum wage in Jordan. But even worse than the long hours, low pay and generally harsh working conditions are the stories of verbal, physical and sexual abuse told by the women who work in this industry.
“What would the Senate have recommended if we heard similar testimony? What new areas would we have uncovered if we did a review of the legislation? Did we miss an opportunity to improve the lives of migrant workers and still have a trade deal? These questions remain unanswered because the Harper Government rushed the Senate to pass this bill,” concluded Senator Downe.
Speech Delivered in the Senate Chamber on Friday, June 29, 2012
For further information:
Senator Percy Downe: 613-943-8107
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