United Church of Canada expresses concern over militarized response of Colombian government to ongoing national strike

Published by Brent Patterson on

With 388,363 members, the United Church of Canada is the second largest Canadian Christian denomination after the Catholic Church in Canada.

On May 13, it issued this statement. Key excerpts include:

Since April 28, thousands of Colombians have joined street protests. The response of the Colombian government has been to violently repress the largely peaceful protests.

Partners of The United Church of Canada have expressed their deep concern about the police violence against largely peaceful protests. Many of those raising their voices in legitimate, peaceful protest are young people.

As part of their ministry, Colombian Methodist pastors are accompanying young adults striking in Cali, one of the centres of protest and police violence. The Methodist Church of Colombia (IMC) has affirmed the right of the multitudes of people who are going out into the streets peacefully, stating that they have every constitutional right to do so.

The United Church of Canada has written to Minister of Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau to urge the Canadian government to:

-take immediate steps to exert diplomatic pressure so police repression and violence against protestors end immediately.

-centre its relationship with Colombia on a ‘whole of government’ approach that foregrounds the human rights emergency and the peace process at its core. Canada’s sale of light armoured vehicles and armoured personnel vehicles to Colombia regardless of their intended use is deeply concerning. Ongoing Canadian trade and investment risk are contributing to a human rights situation characterized by repression and violence.

While the initial impetus for the protest was the Colombian government’s tax reform bill, the root causes of the protests include:

-the complicit silence on the part of the government regarding the repeated massacres and assassinations of women and men from labour and social organizations, youth leaders, and human rights defenders.

-lack of fulfillment of previous agreements regarding various Indigenous land rights.

-official opposition and apathy at the highest levels that has led to a systematic dismantling and delegitimization of the 2016 Peace Accords.

To read their full statement, please click here.

Their letter to the Foreign Minister, and cc’d to Ambassador Marcel Lebleu, Colombian president Ivan Duque, among others, can be read here.

PBI has been present in Colombia since 1994 and has been accompanying human rights defenders throughout the national strike. For a visual record of that, please see: Photo journal: PBI-Colombia accompanies human rights defenders during the #ParoNacional national strike.

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