Colombian delegation makes visible a hidden crisis for Indigenous peoples
This week, two experts on the situation of Indigenous peoples in Colombia were invited to address the Canadian All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Prevention of Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity.
The presentation by a representative of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia and a Colombian Deputy Justice was part of an ongoing campaign to focus Canadian attention on a humanitarian crisis that Colombia's highest court has described as both grave and invisible.
According to the findings of the Colombian Constitutional Court, more than one-third of Indigenous nations in Colombia are facing an imminent threat of physical or cultural destruction. Caught in the cross-fire of an ongoing armed conflict over their lands and resources, the Indigenous peoples of Colombia have been targets of assassinations, massacres, and widespread forced displacement.
In addition to meeting with General Romeo Dallaire and others members of the Parliamentary Group for the Prevention of Genocide, the delegation has been meeting with MPs, government officials and important human rights organizations in Canada, as well as taking part in public events in Ottawa and Toronto.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo said of his meeting with the delegation, “The experiences faced by the Indigenous Peoples in Colombia are harrowing and I express my full support to raise awareness of their situation and join them as they seek justice for their peoples and their territories."
Canadian resource development companies are a visible presence in Indigenous territories in Colombia, particularly since the negotiation of a bilateral free trade agreement. Human rights and Indigenous peoples' organizations are calling for a thorough review of the human rights impact of Canada's support for such resource extraction operations. Assessments carried out to date have entirely ignored the grave situation of Indigenous peoples.
"Given the gravity of the situation in Colombia, there's a very real risk of Canadian companies inadvertently fuelling human rights abuses or even becoming complicit in these crimes," said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. “The world must not ignore the evidence that the Indigenous peoples movement of Colombia has presented. We must act now to prevent further loss of life and destruction of cultures.”
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