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Canada: Report on Canada-Colombia trade deal must not ignore violence against Indigenous peoples

    Monday, April 7, 2014 - 12:46

    The Canadian Parliament must take a close look at the extreme violence facing Indigenous peoples in Colombia.

    Canada has entered into a free trade agreement with Colombia which promotes investment by Canadian companies seeking to benefit from a resource extraction boom in the South American country. Under the agreement, the government of Canada is obliged to submit an annual report to Parliament on human rights effects.

    It's time for Canada to take this responsibility seriously.

    Amnesty International has documented a pattern of violence against Indigenous leaders and communities in Colombia who oppose the imposition of economic projects, including resource extraction, that will impact on their land.

    Here's Flaminio Onogama Gutiérrez at office of Amnesty International in Ottawa (Credit AI Canada)one example.

    Flaminio Onogama Gutiérrez is a prominent Indigenous human rights defender who visited Canada in 2010 to draw attention to the crisis facing Indigenous peoples in Colombia.

    Flaminio and other inhabitants of the Embera Chamí Indigenous community of La Esperanza, in El Dovio, Valle del Cauca, have opposed the arrival of powerful coal, copper and gold mining interests in the area, as well as paramilitaries seeking to use the land for the drug trade.

    In January, Flaminio had to go into hiding after two family members Berlain Saigama Gutiérrez and Jhon Braulio Saigama, also leaders in La Esperanza, were found stabbed to death.

    The two men had warned Flaminio to stay away because armed gunmen had arrived looking for him. Flaminio later received a written death threat from a paramilitary group called Aguilas Negras (Black Eagles). Many other community members have had to flee their land and livelihood amidst ongoing death threats.

    Canada must not ignore these human rights violations. It is crucial for Parliament to be able to assess what has happened in La Esperanza and other Indigenous communities confronting violence as they seek to uphold their human rights.

    TAKE ACTION

    Write a short, polite letter to the Minister of International Trade:

    • Request that the Canadian government’s upcoming report on human rights and the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement includes information about violations in the Indigenous community of La Esperanza in El Dovio, Valle del Cauca, including threats against Embera Chamí leader Flaminio Onogama Gutiérrez, the assassinations of Berlain Saigama Gutiérrez and Jhon Braulio Saigama, and the forced displacement of many others.
    • Urge that the report analyses evidence of widespread, serious abuses against Indigenous peoples seeking to uphold their human rights with respect to decision-making about their land and includes the perspectives of Indigenous organizations, including the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia.

    Write to:

    The Honourable Ed Fast
    Minister of International Trade
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

    Email: ed.fast@parl.gc.ca

    Fax: 613-996-9795

     

    BACKGROUND

    For the past two years, the Canadian government’s human rights reports under the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement have failed to say anything about the emergency situation for Indigenous peoples in Colombia and other communities suffering violence in areas earmarked for resource extraction.

    Click here to read what we had to say following the release of the 2013 government report. 

    Click here to read about concerns we made public in March 2014 

    Click here to learn more about Indigenous peoples and the right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).

     

    Photo above: Indigenous human rights defender Flaminio Onogama Gutiérrez during an event with Amnesty International in Ottawa in 2010. Credit: AI Canada