Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Evidence about Canada/Colombia Relations

Medellin Antioquia, Colombia (Photo credit: jduquetr)

Below the FDA shares evidence of questionable conduct by Canadian mining companies in Colombia including the Canadian federal government's complicity by ignoring the conduct. Also, below is a link to a FDA podcast which discusses Canada/Colombia relations and Canadian companies with operations in Colombia. The FDA requested, with follow-up email, an interview from Conservative MP Devinder Shory who is involved in international trade for the federal government, but he has ignored the interview request. Mr. Stephen Garvey, FDA Executive Director, met Mr. Shory in July/2012, and at that time, Mr. Shory expressed interest in the interview stating that he believed in expressing his beliefs and that there is a lot hearsay surrounding Colombia. In addition, the Canadian Fair Trade Association has so far ignored the FDA's request for interview.

Idarraga and Ramirez Castigate Canadian Mining Companies
By Asad Ismi

Joining in the release of my report, "Profiting from Repression: Canadian Investment in Trade with Colombia, on May 3 in Ottawa was the Colombian Network Against Large-Scale Transnational Mining (RECLAME), a coalition of 50 rights and environmental organizations in Colombia.

I was greatly honoured RECLAME’s participation. The coalition was represented by Andres Idarraga, who was on a speaking tour of several Canadian cities. Idarraga is a labour organizer who works with the National Union Institute in Colombia.

"It's a very valuable and very good report that explains the true role of Canadian corporations in Colombia," Idarraga told me, commenting on "Profiting from Repression". “It also explains well the role of the Canadian government, whose policy in Colombia during the last 15 years has come close to criminal complicity because it has hidden the injustice and impunity in the country. Canadian corporations in Colombia are engaged in criminal behaviour. It is criminal that a Canadian company such as Cosigo Resources insists on undertaking exploitation of minerals in a territory that is protected from such activity in Colombia by national and international legislation, while knowing about such legal protection.

“Cosigo has gold mining exploitation rights over more than 9,300 hectares of territory in the Colombian Amazon. We must also note the link between the militarization of certain areas and the arrival of mining companies. We have to really make this part of the discussion about Canadian corporations in Colombia because the mining companies are generating violence in Colombia [there are 26 Canadian mining companies in Colombia, more than from any other country].

“Canadian mining companies generating violence in Colombia include Cosigo Resources, which did so in the north of Cauca department [province]; and Gran Colombia Gold Corp., which did so in the north of Narino department and in the town of Marmato in Caldas department. Cosigo Resources is linked to armed groups, and the communities living in the areas they operate in, say so. This link is also shown by the fact that the start of Cosigo's mining activity has been accompanied by the militarization of the areas the company was entering. This militarization included death threats to the leaders of the community in the mining area, to people who opposed large-scale mining. These death threats were made by paramilitaries known as the "Black Eagles" and "The Rastrojos" [Human Rights Watch calls paramilitaries 'the sixth division' of the Colombian army]. The facts say that there is a relationship between Cosigo Resources and the paramilitaries. The real facts and events that happen do prove this.

"Regarding the resistance of the Colombian people against Canadian mining companies, communities in Colombia know that only by working together will they be able to stop the activities of such companies. It is to facilitate such cooperation that RECLAME exists. RECLAME unites indigenous people, environmentalists, employees of the mining companies, farmers and peasants and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). These groups are joined in the effort to defend the people's right to territory through public actions, conferences and news publications, all of which highlight the impacts of the mining companies. In October 2011, 15,000 Colombians assembled in the People's Congress, a conference held to oppose large-scale mining.

“RECLAME aims to not only to remove Canadian mining companies from Colombia, but also all transnational mining corporations. Mining capital in Colombia is mainly Canadian. Foreign mining investment in Colombia is one of the major sources of international finance capital for the country, and our struggle against the mining industry is also a struggle against capitalism.

Canadians can help us in this struggle by applying public pressure to ensure that their taxes do not finance violence in Colombia.”

Francisco Ramirez Cuellar is a prominent labour leader in Colombia and former president of the Colombian Mineworkers Union. State-linked death squads in Colombia have tried to kill Ramirez seven times. I talked to him in May when he visited Toronto soon after the release of my report.

"It is an excellent report,” Ramirez told me, “and very important at this moment because it shows that what the Canadian and Colombian governments say about the situation in Colombia is not true. We are preparing lawsuits against two Canadian companies in Colombia: the oil company Pacific Rubiales and the mining corporation Greystar [now called Eco Oro Minerals]. We ask the Canadian people to prevent their pension funds from investing in Canadian companies active in Colombia. We also call for Canadian solidarity with the indigenous people and Afro-Colombian people in Colombia because Canadian companies are destroying entire such communities and fomenting genocide."

Human Rights Violations in Colombia Lead to the Tabling of Two Parliamentary Motions
2011 03 24

OTTAWA - The implementation of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Deal, approved by Parliament last June, has led to the tabling of two Motions in the House of Commons and at the Canadian Parliament’s Standing Committee on International Trade (CIIT) by NDP Critic on International Trade, Peter Julian MP (Burnaby-New Westminster).

The Private Member’s Motions reflect growing concerns over increasing levels of human rights violations which have been taking place in Colombia since the trade agreement was signed by this government in June. The killings of trade unionists and teachers, forced displacements, human rights violations against Afro-Colombians and Colombian First Nations have been ongoing in Colombia, with impunity.

“Many believe Canada made a huge mistake in implementing a free trade agreement with Colombia,” said Peter Julian. “The signing of this trade agreement is considered by the Colombian regime and current President Santos as a blank cheque to further human rights abuses” continued Julian. “This government’s reckless actions, has led us to a situation where, in a sense, Canada is now complicit in these ongoing violations with its rubber stamp approval of the Santos administration – and Canadians don’t approve.”

The Motions tabled will be considered next week if Parliament continues to stand. If the Conservative government falls due to a non-confidence motion, these motions will be re-tabled when Parliament resumes after the election.

M-675 — March 24, 2011 — Mr. Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster) — That, in the opinion of the House, the growing human rights abuses in Colombia are troubling, namely (i) the killing of 52 trade unionists in 2010, (ii) the murder of three teachers in 2011, (iii) the magnitude of forced displacements at the hands of paramilitaries, military and secret police, which have risen to worldwide record levels, (iv) the increase in violence and forced displacement against Afro-Colombian and indigenous populations in rural areas, (v) the forced detention of political prisoner Liliany Obando and others and, therefore, the House condemns the Colombian government for not keeping its commitment to guarantee the safety of community leaders, teachers and trade union activists.

The Federal government is not bound to act on this motion. The FDA has no evidence which shows that the federal government has acted on this motion by condemning the Colombian government or investigating the conduct of Canadian companies with operations in Colombia.

FDA Podcast: Asad Ismi Interview on Canada/Colombia Relations

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