MP Paul Manly hears from Colombian human rights defenders concerned by Canadian company in San Luis de Palenque

Published by Brent Patterson on


On July 2, Peace Brigades International hosted a Zoom call between Canadian Member of Parliament Paul Manly and representatives from the Committee in Solidarity with Political Prisoners (CSPP) and the Social Corporation for Community Counseling and Training (COSPACC) who are accompanied by PBI-Colombia.

Franklin Castañeda Villacob and Alexandra González Zapata from the CSPP provided a broader context of Canadian oil and gas companies in Colombia and the details of the specific case of Toronto-based Frontera Energy and the community of San Luis de Palenque.

Frontera’s operations there have resulted in: dust pollution from heavy trucks on the road; post-production water the oil company sprayed on the road to contain the dust; the dumping of post-production water into the Pauto River; water-takings from the river; and the burning of gases associated with the extraction of these barrels of oil.

Michel Forst, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, noted this case in his report to the UN Human Rights Council last year. He highlighted that Frontera signed two agreements on November 16 and 19, 2018 with the Colombian Ministry of Defence totalling US$1.3 million to provide protection for the company.

Then on November 27, 2018, more than 200 members of the Army and Police, along with two helicopters, arrived in the community and charged the eight activists with criminal conspiracy, violence against a public servant, and obstruction of a public road among other crimes. Eighteen months later three of those activists remain in prison, five are under house arrest, and no trial date has been scheduled.

Manly offered insights on avenues to raise this issue as well as highlighting the importance of legislation that would give people outside of Canada the ability to bring civil suits to Canadian federal courts for violations of environmental and basic human rights, including arbitrary arrest, involving Canadian corporations operating outside of Canada.

Manly also expressed a willingness to visit Colombia, when the pandemic-related restrictions have been lifted, to see first-hand the situation described in this Zoom call.

A recent Business & Human Rights Centre report highlights that from 2015 to 2019 Colombia was the second most dangerous country in the world for defenders challenging business and that there were at least 43 attacks against defenders challenging oil, gas and coal.

This is notable also within the context of three Canadian oil companies – Parex Resources, Sintana Energy, and Canacol Energy Ltd. – bidding for the controversial fracking pilot project contracts to be awarded this September/October.

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