Toronto Star reports on the Colombian Truth Commission and its processes in Canada

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: Colombian lawyer Elsi Angulo sought asylum in Canada in 2004 after learning of an assassination plot against her. Angulo’s story is being documented through the Truth Commission process in Canada.

On June 5, Toronto Star immigration reporter Nicholas Keung published an article with the headline: Exiled Colombians tell their stories in hopes of ‘humanizing’ decades of armed conflicts and bringing peace.

To read that article in full, please click here.

It reports on the activities related to the Commission for the Clarification of the Truth, Coexistence and Non-Repetition (Truth Commission) in Canada.

It begins by telling the story of Elsi Angulo who sought asylum in Canada in 2004 after learning of a plan to assassinate her. She had worked in Colombia as a district attorney prosecuting corrupt politicians, guerrillas and paramilitaries.

“Since March, a small army of volunteers from the Colombian diaspora in Canada has fanned out — strictly virtually, due to COVID-19 — to document stories such as Angulo’s as part of their homeland’s peace-building and collective healing.”

“The volunteers represent the independent Truth Commission in its effort to reach out to the hundreds of thousands of exiled Colombians in 23 countries, including Canada. They had fled during five decades of armed conflicts, which ended, on paper, with the 2016 Peace Agreement.”

“The goal is to seek out accounts from those affected by the violence, recognize their experiences and foster understanding from all sides to make sure that history is not repeated, according to Martha Blandon, one of the volunteer co-ordinators of the Ontario team.”

“To date, the volunteers in Ontario have interviewed eight people, including victims, witnesses and those who played active roles in the conflicts.”

“Algoma University professor Sheila Gruner, who specializes in development and forced migration in Latin America, said individuals in exile are often overlooked in such efforts because they may find it hard to get involved from a distance.”

“Volunteers recruit participants through community organizations and personal networks, but some people were hesitant at first to share their stories, out of a concern for the safety of their families back home or a reluctance to revisit old traumas, said Gruner, who also helps co-ordinate Truth Commission’s Canadian efforts, including conducting interviews.”

The article concludes: “The Truth Commission is an extrajudicial entity and does not adjudicate or impose penalties against violent perpetrators. Community members in Ontario can call 647-410-8756 for more information. All interviews will be completed by June 30 and then submitted to the commission for a final report to be released next year.”

The Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project has posted: “Many human rights organisations accompanied by PBI have come together to elaborate and present reports [as part of this process in Colombia].”

PBI-Colombia has previously accompanied Humanidad Vigente. In this video, Erika Gómez, who forms part of Humanidad Vigente, explains the importance of the Commission for the Clarification of the Truth.”

PBI-Colombia has also reported on the visit by two members of the Truth Commission to Bajo Atrato communities in March 2019.

PBI-Colombia notes: “For the communities of the Bajo Atrato once again there is hope that they will learn the truth about the violence that they suffered, why they were forcefully displaced after the aerial bombings and paramilitary incursions in their territories, why their loved ones were disappeared or assassinated, and why peace has yet to reach their territories.”

Photo: The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) arrived by helicopter in the Nueva Esperanza Humanitarian Zone in March 2019 accompanied by two members of the Truth Commission, and delegates from the UN Verification Mission and the Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia (MAPP/OAS).

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