Canada must live up to its stated values
in its relation to Colombia!
Our External Affairs minister, Ms. Chrystia Freeland stated in her speech on Canadian values underlying our foreign policy that “Our values include the unshakable commitment to pluralism, human rights and the rule of law” (Global Affairs Canada, June 6, 2017). However, despite our Free Trade Agreement and good relations with the Colombian government,
Canada did nothing about the situation described by JP Daniels in The Guardian, 2018-05-08: “These were cold blooded murders: Research finds over 10,000 were killed to boost numbers for military aid in the “false positives” scandal.” Canada’s voice on human rights violations by Colombian Authorities has yet to be heard.
“Colombia is the most dangerous country in the world to defend environmental rights,…..targeting Indigenous African descendants and defenders of the right to land, the environment and the implementation of the peace accords”. (Amnesty International, Colombia 2020).
Protesting the torture and murder by police of lawyer Javier Ordonez, videos presented by the mayor of Bogota, showed that police were firing indiscriminately at civilians causing at least 14 deaths (D Pardo in BBC, Mundo, 12/09/2020).
Canada signed a Free Trade Agreement with Colombia on November 21, 2008 and in Chapter 2018 stated the following objective: to improve working conditions and promote respect of Internationally recognized labour rights (Chapter 1603).
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC, CSI, IGB) Global report of 2020 states that the ten worst countries for workers include Brazil, Colombia and Honduras. The report says “Colombia remains one of the world’s most dangerous countries for trade unionists”
The most recent disturbances, starting on April 28, were triggered by President Duque’s pronouncement that the threshold for taxation of income was being lowered, threatening the income security of millions of Colombians.
The police used live ammunition to control the resulting demonstrations. As of May 5 Colombian government sources state that at least 23 civilians have been killed in the demonstrations and 1 policeman but Human rights organizations report 31 dead and 1443 victims of police violence (A Suarez, Los Angeles Times, 5/5/21.)
The UN Human Rights office expressed deep concern for the police violence where police in the city of Cali used live ammunition against civilian protesters (BBC Mundo, 12/09/2020). “650 civil society organizations call for exhaustive investigation of repression of protests and call on the IACHR to act” (Amnesty International report on Colombia, 2020/2021).
The Quebec National Assembly unanimously passed a resolution on May 6 condemning the violence against the demonstrators. It was also decided that this resolution would be forwarded to the Prime Minister of Canada and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The actions or lack thereof of the Canadian Federal government, done in the name of all Canadians, need to reflect our values, and these do not include looking the other way and business as usual with partner governments while their security forces repress and murder unarmed civilians. Our government needs to be serious about their stated goals of protecting human rights and promoting the respect of the rule of law, so we are demanding it to use its influence with the Colombian government derived from our free trade and diplomatic relationships to put an end to its brutal repression of its civilian population.
Colombia Action Solidarity Alliance (Toronto, Ontario)
Latin American & Caribbean Solidarity Network – LACSN (Toronto, Ontario)
Maria Páez Victor PhD (Louis Riel Bolivarian Circle, Toronto, Ontario)
Beatriz Santiago (Louis Riel Bolivarian Circle, Toronto, Ontario)
Maricarmen Guevara (ALBA social Movement, Ottawa chapter)
Luis Tapia (Victor Jara Cultural Group)
Edmee Franssen (Toronto, Ontario)
Jorge Garcia-Orgales (Toronto, Ontario)
Martha Blandon (CASA, Toronto, Ontario)
Casa Salvador Allende (Toronto, Ontario)
Plataforma Guatemala (Toronto, Ontario)
Miguel Lima (Toronto, Ontario)
Magdalena Diaz (Toronto, Ontario)
Carlos y Alicia Diaz (Toronto, Ontario)
Dario Esguerra (CASA, Toronto, Ontario)