PBI-Canada joins Canadian Foreign Policy Institute international solidarity webinar for a more just foreign policy

Published by Brent Patterson on

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To register for tonight’s webinar, click here. We look forward to hearing all the speakers  andare scheduled to speak for two-minutes at about 7:48 pm ET.

Thank you to the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute for convening this gathering of more than 450 people and to all the organizations that are presenting.

The solidarity of accompaniment

Peace Brigades International accompanies human rights defenders, social leaders, Indigenous land defenders and organizations and communities resisting extractivism and other forms of violence in Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.

We also support human rights work in Kenya (notably against police violence in the informal settlements in Nairobi), Indonesia and Nepal, as well as to Nicaraguan human rights defenders who have are in exile in Costa Rica.

The need for that support is immense. Last year, 234 human rights defenders were killed in the countries where we are present.

Our work primarily involves the physical accompaniment of defenders. That means we are physically present with them to diminish the risk of violence against them when they are at marches, blockades, court hearings and meetings.

In 2020, PBI carried out 505 physical accompaniments of at-risk defenders.

We also provide political accompaniment to defenders by organizing advocacy tours and webinars as well as meetings with various officials from embassies and foreign ministries, as well as human rights organizations, unions and civil society allies.

PBI also has an advocacy presence at the United Nations in Geneva and regularly presents to the Human Rights Council.

And we provide some psychological and support in recognition of the emotional toll faced by defenders who have been threatened, criminalized and who have experienced violence over years due to their activism.

PBI-Canada provides daily updates on this work via social media, produces a weekly e-newsletter, organizes webinars and advocacy meetings, helps to find volunteers to do 1-year placements accompanying defenders in Latin America, as well as fundraise to keep those frontline projects functioning.

Canadian foreign policy

PBI-Canada has noted the role Canada plays in human rights violations through its companies and arms exports. We have also highlighted that just as Indigenous land defenders are threatened, criminalized and judicialized in Latin America for their opposition to extractive megaprojects, so too are Indigenous land defenders in this country.

In terms of Canadian foreign policy, we have:

1- Drawn attention to the export of Canadian manufactured light armoured vehicles to both the Colombian police and the national army, particularly as similar vehicles are being used to violently repress the national strike and social protests.

2- Called on the Canadian government to publicly express its support for the Escazu Agreement, a key treaty in Latin America that includes binding provisions for the protection of environmental defenders.

3- Highlighted the impact of Canadian mining companies on Indigenous communities in Mexico where at least 65 per cent of foreign mining companies are listed in Canada.

4- Drawn attention to the Canadian oil and gas companies that have expressed interest in fracking in Colombia as communities overwhelmingly reject fracking and environmental defenders receive death threats for speaking out against fracking.

5- Called on Canada to include language on the essential role of environmental and land defenders in meeting the commitments in the Paris Agreement (on average, four environmental and land defenders have been killed each week since COP21 in Paris).

6- Supported international efforts for a United Nations Binding Treaty on Transnational Corporations and Human Rights (that Canada is seen as obstructing).

7- Noted the impact of “free trade” agreements on human rights, including the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, as well as the implications of legislation Canada has pushed, including the Honduran Mining Law, implemented after the coup, that favours companies over the rights of communities.

8- Drawn attention to the Export Development Canada (EDC) funding of Calgary-based Parex Resources Inc. as a Colombian community raises concerns about the impacts of its oil extraction operations on their water.

9- Tried to find out if Canada has a position on returning land to a community in Guatemala displaced by a military base (where mass graves of Indigenous peoples have been found) that became a peacekeeping training base financially supported by Canada.

10- Begun to note that Canada is the largest importer of Guatemalan sugar (and that communities mobilizing against the environmental and right to water impacts of sugar plantations have been criminalized).

We have also highlighted that the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has called on Canada to stop the Site C, Trans Mountain and Coastal GasLink megaprojects until free, prior and informed consent is obtained and to remove police forces from those territories.

More about PBI

Last year, PBI’s work internationally was supported by 173 volunteers, 77 per cent of whom are women, from 18 countries.

PBI is a decentralized global organization comprised of eight field projects (in the countries noted above), eleven country groups (including Canada, Spain and Germany) and an international coordination office in Brussels.

PBI entities are semi-autonomous (united by a common mission statement and shared work), non-hierarchical in structure, and decisions are made through consensus. We are non-partisan (we don’t endorse political parties) and we have a policy of non-interference with the organizations we accompany (meaning we don’t fund them nor interfere in their decision-making processes).

We encourage you to connect with us via social media (@PBIcanada on Twitter) or with me directly at brent@pbicanada.org to find out more.

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