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Canada-Colombia Free Trade: Another Human Rights Report without human rights

    June 24, 2013

    Amnesty International is deeply concerned that for the second year in a row, the Canadian government’s required report to Parliament about human rights and the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) fails to contain any analysis about human rights realities in Colombia.

    The Canadian government report fails to acknowledge widespread, grave human rights violations in Colombia – including ongoing threats and deadly attacks on trade unionists and community leaders seeking the return of stolen lands, as well as Indigenous peoples, Afro-descendent communities and rural farmers living in areas coveted for their natural resources.

    Notably, the report also excludes any information about Canadian investment in Colombia in the mining and oil and gas sectors.

    “There is an elephant in the room - Canadian companies which have joined a resource extraction boom in Colombia without human rights guarantees,” states Kathy Price, Colombia campaigner with Amnesty International Canada. “Canada has deliberately chosen to interpret its reporting obligation in such a way that excludes any examination of the impact of Canadian investment, including oil and gas and mining. This is a lamentable missed opportunity. It begs the question: why is the government evading scrutiny of the sector?”

    While the Canadian government has chosen to say nothing about resource extraction in Colombia and human rights, other institutions and organizations are sounding the alarm. These include an April 2013 report by the Contraloría General de la República (Controller General of Colombia) that identifies links between areas of resource extraction and both human rights violations and violence-driven forced displacement.

    In testimony to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission in March 2013, the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia denounced armed attacks on Indigenous communities in areas earmarked for resource extraction and testified that the intended goal is to dispossess Indigenous peoples from their lands in these areas, putting their physical and cultural survival at risk.

    A month earlier, a court ruling in the northern region of Chocó ordered the suspension of mining operations in order to protect the rights and safety of threatened Indigenous peoples.

    “It is imperative that Canadian companies moving in to Colombia do not contribute to or profit from human rights violations,” stated Price. “Yet the government’s report provides no analysis to inform Canadian companies on this score. In a context of ongoing, serious human rights violations in Colombia there is an inherent risk of companies and others getting caught up in and fueling these violations. This is the context that Canada is refusing to even acknowledge, much less assess.”

    Amnesty International Canada is also concerned about how the report was prepared and who was consulted. During the past year, government representatives in Ottawa and at our Embassy in Colombia failed to reply to our requests for information about opportunities for input by the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia and other human rights organizations. Yet the government says it consulted with stakeholders in the cut flower and sugar sectors in Colombia and made a public call via a website nine days before the deadline for submission of the report “to ensure the ability of all interest (sic) parties to provide input”. The gross inadequacy of this mechanism, which reportedly generated no submissions, raises concerns that the government was not interested in inclusive participation, including by the poorest and most vulnerable segments of the population and women, a benchmark for reliable human rights impact assessments.

    Immediate MP debate of the 2013 report was prevented by submission of the report as the House of Commons adjourned for the summer. In this context, Amnesty International is calling for MP hearings on the government’s human rights report when Parliament returns after the summer break, and for the opportunity for MPs to hear testimony from the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia and other organizations defending the human rights of vulnerable, affected sectors of the population in Colombia. 

    For further information, please contact Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations 416-363-9933 ext 332 bberton-hunter@amnesty.ca

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