Photo-journal of 8-day solidarity tour by Colombian human rights defenders from CCALCP and CREDHOS to Canada
Colombian human rights defenders Julia Figueroa and Andrea Nocove from the Luis Carlos Perez Lawyers’ Collective (CCALCP) and Ivan Madero from the Regional Corporation for the Defence of Human Rights (CREDHOS) accompanied by Javier Garate from Peace Brigades International-Colombia and Brent Patterson from Peace Brigades International-Canada have just completed an 8-day solidarity tour of Canada.
Saturday November 2 – Toronto
The delegation arrived early in the morning at Toronto Pearson International Airport after an overnight flight from the El Dorado International Airport in Bogota.
The Colombian delegation was interviewed by Melissa Tessler, a Toronto-based lawyer with expertise in international human rights and international criminal law, board member of Lawyers’ Rights Watch (Legal Research) Canada, and an active member of the Colombia monitoring group for Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada.
The delegation celebrated the 25th anniversary of PBI-Colombia with PBI-Canada Board members Luis van Isschot and Paul Bocking, past accompanier Scott Pearce, and numerous friends and allies (including from Amnesty International, Kairos and the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network). Further reading: PBI-Colombia and CREDHOS, 25 years of accompaniment and defending human rights and profiles of past PBI volunteers from Canada to Colombia including Scott Pearce, Luis van Isschot, Heidi Mitton and Stephen Law.
Sunday November 3 – Toronto
The delegation met with Angela D’Elia Decembrini, a Toronto-based lawyer with First Peoples Law, a law firm that provides legal support to First Nations across Canada. Angela is also a board member of the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project (JCAP), a volunteer-driven transnational, collaborative, community-based legal clinic that assists in holding corporations and states to account by offering legal knowledge to communities that are negatively affected by natural resource extraction. One of the issues discussed was Indigenous opposition to fracking in Colombia. Further reading: Indigenous communities in Colombia want to protect the Amazon rainforest from fracking.
The delegation visited the office of Frontera Energy at 333 Bay Street to highlight that Toronto-based company’s minority-share ownership of the 483-kilometre long, 236,000 barrel per day Magdalena Valley to Coveñas oil pipeline that could be used to transport fracked oil. Further reading: CSPP and COSPACC take concerns about Toronto-based Frontera Energy to the United Nations and What Canadian companies might be involved in fracking in Colombia?
The delegation visited the office of Brookfield Assets Management at Brookfield Place, 181 Bay Street to highlight the company’s ownership of the controversial Sogamoso Hydroelectric Dam in Colombia. Further reading: Canadian owned dam on the Sogamoso River in Colombia impacts human rights and CCALCP helped stop Toronto-based Brookfield Asset ‘Piedra del Sol’ hydroelectric project in Colombia.
The delegation traveled by VIA Rail from Toronto’s Union Station that evening and were greeted by friends at the Ottawa train station.
Monday November 4 – Ottawa
The delegation met with Anna-Louise Pentland, Deputy Director of Human Rights and Eric Bertram, Deputy Director/Political at Global Affairs Canada. This discussion focused on the “Voices at Risk: Canada’s Guidelines on Supporting Human Rights Defenders” document. Further reading: Global Affairs releases “Voices at Risk” guidelines for Canadian diplomats to support human rights defenders.
The delegation attended a “lunch and learn” gathering convened by Louise Casselman of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) Social Justice Fund. The strategy session was attended by numerous PSAC staff people as well as Kelti Cameron from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and Kathy Price from Amnesty International.
The delegation spoke at a well-attended public forum at Amnesty International House in Ottawa. This event was co-sponsored by the Americas Policy Group of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, the PSAC Social Justice Fund, Amnesty International, MiningWatch Canada, and Peace Brigades International.
Tuesday November 5 – Ottawa
The delegation along with Kathy Price from Amnesty International met with representatives from Export Development Canada (EDC), Canada’s export credit agency and a state-owned enterprise wholly owned by the Government of Canada. This article on the Export Development Canada website highlights opportunities in Colombia related to “the development of unconventional resources, like fracking and deep-water exploration.”
The delegation met with Jean-Francois Bastien, Senior Desk Officer, Colombia (Political & Trade) and numerous members of the Latin America division at Global Affairs Canada. This meeting focused on many aspects, including the Annual Report that is produced in relation to the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. Further reading: Human rights concerns and the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
The delegation took a short moment to see Parliament Hill and the Prime Minister’s Office before heading to the airport to travel to Vancouver.
Wednesday November 6 – Vancouver
The delegation presented to a Latin American Studies course at Langara College taught by Jessie Smith. They presented both a historical context and overview of the current political situation in Colombia. The delegation was met at the college by PBI-Canada Board member Heather Neun.
After the presentation at Langara College, the delegation was interviewed by Lina Chung for an article in The Langara Voice newspaper.
The delegation met with lawyer Kate Gunn of First Peoples Law who is also a board member of the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project. The discussion provided an overview of the current situation in Colombia and began to explore the legal issues in that regard. Further reading: CCALCP seeks the implementation of T-880 and the right to free, prior and informed consent in Colombia, CCALCP calls for the implementation of T-361 and protection of the Santurbán páramo and CCALCP, the defence of Bari territory and Judgement T-052.
The delegation visited the office of Eco Oro Minerals Corporation which is involved in a $764 million investor-state challenge against Colombia over its proposed Angostura open-pit gold and silver mine in the Santurbán Páramo that provides drinking water to 2 million people. Further reading: Vancouver-based Eco Oro sues Colombia for $764 million through the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
The delegation met with Nastenka Calle, Program Manager of the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions at Simon Fraser University. Fracking in Colombia could unleash up to 7 billion barrels of oil which puts it on the frontlines of the global struggle against climate breakdown.
The delegation spoke to a well-attended public forum at Simon Fraser University’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue. The delegation was visibly moved by the welcome to the territory by Musqueam land defender Audrey Siegel. This public forum was co-sponsored by the SFU Institute for the Humanities, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, MiningWatch Canada, Amnesty International and Peace Brigades International.
Thursday November 7 – Vancouver
The delegation met with lawyers Laura Best and Lobat Sadrehashemi at Embarkation Law Corporation as well as other immigration and refugee lawyers and refugee support staff to discuss the current context in Colombia and the implications for refugee claims in Canada. In July 2019, the Toronto Star reported, “According to Canada’s refugee board, the number of Colombian refugee claimants tripled to 2,582 last year from 820 in 2016, with another 671 seeking asylum in the first three months of 2019 alone.” This Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada website states that 458 of the 2,582 claims were accepted in 2018.
The delegation met with Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) board members with expertise in international human rights law, Gail Davidson, Grace Woo and Heather Neun (also a member of the PBI-Canada Board and the Colombia monitor for LRWC).
The delegation then participated in a discussion of the Colombian human rights context which was convened by Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada and that brought together Ontario and B.C.-based lawyers, among them: Joe Fiorante Q.C., who led the six-year long legal battle between a group of Guatemala protestors and Tahoe Resources winning a public apology for the infringement of the human rights of protestors, and Matt Eisenbrandt, a specialist in business and human rights cases and a special advisor to the Canadian Centre for International Justice, as well as LRWC board member Brian Samuels, Q.C. and Lawyers Rights Watch (Legal Research) Canada board member Margaret Stanier, and other members of the British Columbia bar.
The delegation was interviewed by Filiberto Celada-Alejos, co-host for the CFRO Radio 100.5 FM program América Latina al Día. They then joined a social gathering with Ola Pazifica, a solidarity organization that draws together members of the Colombian community in the Lower Mainland.
Friday November 8 – Nanaimo
The delegation traveled early in the morning from Vancouver to Nanaimo across the Strait of Georgia via a BC Ferries ferry. Some members of the delegation saw a whale spout during the 90-minute journey to Vancouver Island. They were greeeted in Nanaimo by PBI-Canada Board member Fiona Meyer Cook.
The delegation was introduced by Fiona Meyer Cook (also a Professor in the Social Work Department at Vancouver Island University) to Dr. Philip Oxhorn, the Dean of the Faculty of International Education and Dr. Lynda Phillips , Associate Dean, Faculty of Health and Human Services at VIU.
The delegation had lunch at Vancouver Island University with numerous guests including Bob Chamberlain, a former vice-president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) and a member of the Kwikwasutinuxw Haxwa’mis Nation.
The delegation presented to a well-attended public forum at Vancouver Island University that was co-sponsored by the Vancouver Island University Faculty Association, World VIU Days, Amnesty International Canada, MiningWatch Canada and Peace Brigades International.
The delegation met with Green Party Member of Parliament Paul Manly and his partner Samantha Letourneau to discuss a wide range of concerns about Canadian corporate impunity in Colombia. The delegation invited Manly to visit Colombia to see the impact of Canadian corporations there and were delighted that he accepted their invitation to participate in a Canadian human rights delegation in 2020.
Saturday November 9 – Vancouver Island
The delegation met with Robert Morales and Rosanne Daniels of the Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group (HTG) at their office in Duncan. The delegation was deeply moved to learn about the historic and ongoing struggles linked to colonization and the HTG’s efforts to address ongoing land and human rights violations. The delegation also learned about the HTG’s outstanding petition against Canada before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR), alleging violations of its rights to property, culture, equality and effective judicial protection and remedies. To read the IACHR’s positive admissibility decision, please click here: Canada P592-07 Hul’Qumi’num Treaty Group – Admissibility Report.
The delegation met with New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Alistair MacGregor and his assistant Jennifer Hermary at their office in Duncan. One of the issues discussed at this meeting was MacGregor’s “Bill C-431, which would amend the investment policies, standards and procedures of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board to ensure that they are in line with ethical, human rights, and environmental considerations. Canadians expect these funds to be invested properly.”
The delegation met with Green Party Member of the Legislative Assembly Sonia Furstenau and her partner Blaise Salmon, the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s director of Electoral Area A (Mill Bay/Malahat). The delegation raised many issues including fracking, water protection, climate change, and the Colombian government’s intention to resume the aerial spraying of the toxic herbicide glyphosate in Colombia. Further reading: Climate change and the threat of aerial glyphosate spraying of coca crops in Colombia.
Sunday November 10 – Victoria
The delegation, having been driven to Victoria the previous evening by Meyer Cook, departed on early morning flights from Victoria International Airport with much information to process and a continued deep commitment to work for human rights, climate justice, water protection and the peace process in Colombia.
To help us cover the costs of the follow-up needed on the important issues raised during the tour, please consider making a secure online donation via the Peace Brigades International-Canada website here.