Prime Minister Stephen Harper is in Columbia today to talk free trade with the government there. He is on a four nation tour of South America and the Caribbean. He will be visiting Chile, Barbados and Haiti this week.

Many Canadians are pushing for Harper to address human rights during his visit.

There is no doubt that human rights needs to be addressed in many South American countries. Decades of corruption, influence from the drug cartels, intimidation and wide-spread violence has given a black eye to some governments.

However, addressing the issue of human rights is only addressing the symptom on the greater problem – Poverty. When the well-being of the people of these Nations are addressed and improved, they will be enabled to stand up and make the positive changes themselves.

The best example is Venequela and Bolivia. The grass-roots people have stood up and rejected the way their countries have been governed in the past.

In Venezuela, they elected Hugo Chevez and have embraced the principles of socialism and have taken over the oil industry for the benefit of all Venezuelan people, not just the elite.

In Bolivia, the indigenous people have risen up from poverty and oppression and have formed the government through democracy. The people have courageously elected President Evo Morales who has instigated a new era of social and government reform and addressing poverty.

If the Government of Canada is so concerned about human rights, first and foremost, they should focus their efforts in improving poverty in their own backyard – in First Nations communities. There are way too many stats to state here: abject poverty, unemployment, child poverty, overcrowding, unsafe drinking water, instances of HIV-AIDS, diabetes. All caused by third-world living conditions, cultural assimilation, residential schools. theft of land and resources and ignorance of legal obligations arising from the treaties. These are all human rights issues themselves. There is way too much to deal with right here in Canada before we start our righteous preaching throughout the hemisphere.

Canada should also focus on addressing the U.S. war in Iraq. Just today, another major car bomb exploded killing over eighty people. These events are an indirect consequence of this unjust war that doesn’t have a clear objective.

Each and every day the war causes the deaths of coalition soldiers. Sixty soldiers were killed just yesterday alone. Thousands of soldiers have been killed to date.

The war has caused the deaths of tens-of thousands of innocent men, women and children of Iraq. These people have nothing to do with Al Quada, Bin Ladin or the war on terror.

Without a doubt, this is a war that unjustly effects to human rights of the people of Iraq. Unfortunately, I’m sure Prime Minister Harper won’t be making a visit to Washington, D.C. anytime soon to address such human rights atrocities.