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More trade talks with Colombia but still no human rights assessment?

    May 21, 2013

    This week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper visits Colombia for talks hosted by Colombia’s President about a new trade bloc, the Pacific Alliance. The Prime Minister is reportedly “sounding out” what the trade bloc has to offer.

    In Canada, Members of Parliament are hearing concerns from Amnesty International and the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia about Canada’s human rights obligations under its existing free trade agreement with Colombia.

    What:             Press conference of Amnesty International and the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) with interventions by

                          Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International  and

                          Maria Patricia Tobón Yagarí, lawyer with ONIC’s Territory and Natural Resources Council

    Where:          Charles Lynch Room 130S, Parliament Buildings 

    When:            Wednesday May 22, 2013 at 10:30 a.m.

    BACKGROUND: The Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement requires the government of Canada to present Parliament with an annual report on human rights in Colombia by May 15 of each year. Last year, the government tabled a document that failed to report on human rights in Colombia. MPs are still waiting for this year’s report by the government.

    ONIC is deeply concerned about the expansion of resource extraction and its impact on an acute, yet hidden human rights emergency for Indigenous peoples. Colombia’s highest court ruled in 2009 that more than a third of Indigenous peoples are threatened with physical and cultural “extermination” amidst militarization of their lands and the imposition of resource projects. In February 2013, a judge in Chocó ordered the suspension of mining operations and permit applications in order to safeguard the rights and safety of threatened Indigenous communities.

    Amnesty International continues to document grave abuses against Indigenous communities that oppose resource extraction. Amnesty has repeatedly called for independent evaluation of the impact of the free trade deal and for corporate accountability. The human rights organization is also concerned about the implications of deepening cooperation with Colombia’s military since the launch of the free trade deal, and recent changes to export controls in Canada to allow for the sale of automatic firearms to Colombia.

    For further information:  Elizabeth Berton-Hunter (416) 363-9933 ext 332 email: