PBI-Colombia accompanied CCAJAR lawyer Yessika Hoyos notes concerns with Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement

Published by Brent Patterson on

Colombian lawyer Yessika Hoyos Morales recently made these comments about the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement:

“Colombia and Canada have signed a free trade agreement and before that free trade agreement was signed Colombia established concrete commitments which included the respect of human rights, and a reduction in impunity, a responding to previous violations that have taken place. These commitments have not been fulfilled and so I think it’s very important to note that this lack of action, this non-fulfillment, is sending a very clear message. This clear message is that business and money are more important than human lives. And so, it’s extremely important for you all to remind your government that they do have obligations, that commitments have been made that have not been fulfilled and that in the end people’s lives are more important than money.”

Hoyos is with the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (CCAJAR), which has been accompanied by PBI-Colombia since 1995.

She made these comments on a webinar on January 24th organized by Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, the Law Society of Ontario’s Human Rights Committee and Human Rights Watch Canada marking the international Day of the Endangered Lawyer.

The Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement recently marked its 10th anniversary, having come into force on August 15, 2011.

Prior to the agreement being ratified, Hoyos visited Ottawa in May 2009.

At that time, she stated: “If Canada ratifies the free trade agreement it will give a message to Colombians and to the whole international community that Canada supports a government that violates human rights.”

The full text of her comments to the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade can be read here.

An interview with her from that time can also be seen here: part 1 and part 2.

Despite this, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minority Conservative government passed the implementation act for the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement with the support of the opposition Liberals on June 14, 2010.

The Liberals voted in favour of the agreement after it had been agreed that an annual human rights report would be produced. Notably, that annual report specifically excludes the deal’s foreign investment chapter and focuses instead on tariff reductions.

(By 2018, Natural Resources Canada reported that Canadian energy assets abroad (CEAA) in Colombia totalled $8 billion. The following year, it also reported that 28 Canadian mining companies held assets totalling $1.406 billion in Colombia.)

The NDP responded: “It’s a sham. Investment is a very big part of our trade with Colombia and to arbitrarily exclude that is another indicator that the government has no intention of producing a real report.”

The first full report on the deal concluded: “It is not possible to establish a direct link between the CCOFTA and the human rights situation in Colombia. There is no evidence of a causal link between reductions in tariffs by Canada in accordance with the CCOFTA, and changes in human rights in Colombia.”

Despite the acknowledged limited scope of the agreement’s annual human rights report mechanism, PBI-Canada made a submission in 2021 to highlight concerns raised by the PBI-Colombia accompanied organizations Association for Research and Social Action (NOMADESC), the Inter-Church Commission on Justice and Peace, and the Nydia Erika Bautista Foundation for Human Rights (FNEB). You can read more about that here.

We also recall that the free trade agreement with Colombia was negotiated between June 7, 2007, and November 21, 2008.

During her May 2009 visit to Ottawa, Hoyos told Members of Parliament: “Extrajudicial executions by the national army have grown a lot, achieved through what is called ‘false positives’. The office of the public prosecutor reported that as of September 2009, they had been investigating 2,077 such executions. People were killed by the national army, by people who were supposed to protect them.”

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), which was set up to prosecute crimes committed during the armed conflict, has now confirmed that 6,402 civilians were killed by the military between 2002 and 2008 and falsely passed off as enemy combatants.

CCAJAR continues to speak out against this injustice.

Likewise, we continue to work with PBI-Colombia, CCAJAR and others to amplify concerns about Canada’s responsibilities in relation to its investments in Colombia (notably in oil and gas, as well as mining) and the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.


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