The Importance of Dialogue

Earlier this month, three Colombian environmental rights defenders visited Canada for an 8-day speaker and solidarity tour. Accompanied by PBI Canada and PBI Colombia representatives, the delegation met with elected officials, representatives from both public and private sectors, as well as university students and other concerned individuals.

The Colombian environmental rights defenders were Julia Figueroa, Andrea Nocove (CCALP) and Ivan Madero (CREDHOS). Representing their positions on concerns about fracking, water protection and impacts of climate change, Julia, Andrea and Ivan met with various stakeholders explaining the Colombian situation from their perspectives.

Their primary concerns included a call for stronger protection against the exploitation of natural resources from the Amazon rainforest, the disproportionate environmental impacts of fracking by Canadian companies in Colombia and the human and environmental rights implications of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement on indigenous communities and natural resources in Colombia.

The speaker tour began in Toronto where the delegation met with the PBI Canada team and lawyers concerned about human rights. The delegation then paid a visit to the office of Frontera Energy, the company in question with regard to their natural resource exploration practices in Colombia, and the Brookfield Assets Management Office, a company that owns a controversial hydroelectric dam on the Sogamoso River in Colombia.

The tour continued in Ottawa where the delegation met with Canadian government officials from Global Affairs Canada to discuss how human rights can be further protected and promoted. Along with cooperation from Amnesty International, the delegation spoke at a public forum to engage in active dialogue with the Canadian public and other stakeholders about their primary concerns. The human rights defenders met with representatives from Export Development Canada to bring forward their thoughts and positions towards investments on unconventional natural resource exploration such as fracking and deep-water exploration.

The tour ended in Vancouver where the delegation met with academics and university students at Langara College where they gave a lecture on the historical context and current affairs of Colombia. They also visited Simon Fraser University and Vancouver Island University where they spoke at forums to engage in public debate. In Vancouver, the delegation met with a lawyer and elected members of the Green Party to raise more awareness about their concerns and hopefully create an impact on decisions made between Canada - Colombia relations.

The tour was helpful in working towards mutual interests and in making sure front-line human rights defenders have a chance for their voices to be heard. Nevertheless, more work remains to be done but raising awareness and engaging in active dialogue are both crucial to working towards a better tomorrow – in Colombia, in Canada and beyond.

To read more detailed information about the speaker tour, please click here.