Courtesy Paul Thompson/Amnesty International Canada
Canadians deliver 65,000 messages in support of Indigenous Peoples in Colombia.

We Want the Truth: Activists Push Canada on Violations in Colombia

Rick Kearns

Canadian mining projects have led to severe human rights violations and environmental damage in indigenous Colombian communities; now Amnesty International (AI), along with First Nations activists, are calling on the Canadian government to include these facts in their upcoming human rights report for the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

On Tuesday, April 29, AI and Assembly of First Nations leaders held a press conference in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Ontario to urge the Canadian government to address the human rights emergencies facing indigenous Colombians and others who live in areas affected by Canadian mining operations.

The leaders pointed out that many indigenous Colombian peoples are facing extinction and that “the imposition of mining projects without human rights guarantees is a key factor in this emergency.”

“One significant consequence of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement is greater access to Colombia for Canadian extractives companies. To date annual human rights reports prepared by the Canadian government, as required by the trade deal, have failed to say anything about the human rights situation for Indigenous Peoples or to examine the record of Canadian resource extraction companies in Colombia,” stated AI in its press release.

“The Assembly of First Nations stands with the Indigenous Peoples of Colombia. Indigenous Peoples around the world are increasingly being pressured to develop the natural resources that their lands have been blessed with. We see this happening here in Canada as well. We stand in support of our Indigenous brothers and sisters from Colombia who are fighting for their lives and for the survival of their cultures," said AFN International Portfolio holder, Quebec/Labrador Regional Chief Ghislain Picard.

Regional Chief Picard shared testimony sent by Embera leader Flaminio Onongama of Colombia who was in hiding due to death threats, the assassination of two family members and the displacement of other members of the community. The violence and threats came after Onogama lead opposition to use of Embera territory by paramilitary groups and mining companies.

RELATED: A Call for Help; Paramilitary Death Squad Targeting Indigenous Leader

This public effort from AI and First Nations on behalf of indigenous Colombians comes in the wake of a publication of a report titled “The impact of Canadian mining in Latin America and Canada’s responsibility,” put together by the Mining and Human Rights in Latin America Working Group (MHRLAG) “…, with the intention of reflecting on and planning common strategies to deal with the effects of the transnational businesses in the region and the consequent human rights violations of the communities where the businesses operate.”

In 2010, a group of seven Latin American non-governmental organizations (NGOs) came together to form the MHRLAG in order to study the effects of mining in Latin America.  Soon after their formation the group--which includes lawyers, human rights advocates and environmentalists—discovered that between 50 to 70 percent of all mining activity in Latin America is done by Canadian companies.


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