PBI-Canada seeks details on “bilateral police initiative” between Canada and Colombia

Published by Brent Patterson on

Video of then Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announcing the bilateral police initiative on October 30, 2017.

Peace Brigades International-Canada is seeking details on a “bilateral police initiative” between Canada and Colombia announced in late 2017.

Canada’s “bilateral police initiative” with Colombia

On October 30, 2017, the Canadian Press reported on a “bilateral police initiative” between Canada and Colombia.

That article noted: “Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale was reportedly briefed last year on a proposal to contribute up to 10 police officers to peace efforts in Colombia, but it wasn’t clear Monday [October 30] whether the bilateral deployment was a part of that plan.”

At a media conference with then Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated:

“We’ve agreed to work together to establish a bi-lateral police initiative. This effort will support post-conflict policing efforts in Colombia, and will see Canadian police providing training, capacity-building, and strategic advice to our Colombian friends.”

The cost of this initiative, the number of Canadian police officers involved, the police forces involved, the location of this training, the nature of this training, and the length of time this took place is not known.

Given the timing of that announcement – October 30, 2017 – it’s likely that “training, capacity-building, and strategic advice” would have begun in 2018.

UK police and military training Colombian police

There are also recent media reports about UK police providing training to Colombian police beginning in 2018.

On May 1, The Canary reported: “Documents obtained by The Canary can reveal that the UK’s College of Policing has been training Colombian police over the past three years.”

That article adds: “According to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the UK’s College of Policing has been training Colombian police. This has been happening over the past three consecutive years – 2018, 2019, and 2020.”

“All of the training took place in Colombia.”

It also notes: “The College has refused to disclose where exactly the training occurred, the nature of the training, and the cost.”

Then on July 22, Declassified UK reported: “The UK military had up to nine soldiers ‘assisting’ the Colombian police force a month before it launched a brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters that left 63 people dead.”

“This is the first time the MOD [Ministry of Defence] has revealed the existence of its Colombia police programme.”

That article adds: “Wendy Morton, foreign minister responsible for the Americas, told Parliament in March, the month before protests erupted: ‘Fewer than 10 members of the UK armed forces are deployed to Colombia to assist the Colombian police service.’”

Police violence in Colombia

Earlier this month, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed concern about “the disproportionate use of force, gender-based violence, ethno-racial violence, violence against journalists and medical missions, irregularities in transfers for protection, and reports of disappearance; as well as the use of military assistance, disciplinary powers and military criminal jurisdiction.”

Given the incidences of police violence in both Canada and Colombia, including against social protests, we are looking for more information on this bilateral initiative.

Video of Toronto Police attacking an encampment of homeless people and their allies on July 21. Leilani Farha, the Ottawa-based former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing (from 2014 to 2020), tweeted: “Trespass Notices. Barricades. Police. Violence. [The City of Toronto] has lost its way.”

Photo by Chris Young.

Categories: News Updates


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