by Kathy Price, Amnesty International Canada’s campaigner on Colombia
The reality of what is happening in Colombia, the spectacularly beautiful and diverse country with whom Canada is now linked via a free trade deal, is hard to take in. The immensity of it is shocking. According to the Constitutional Court of Colombia, at least a third of Indigenous Peoples in the South American country are threatened with physical or cultural “extermination” amidst armed conflict in their territory by third parties and grave human rights violations linked to efforts to take control of their resource-rich lands.
You can raise your voice for action
The Embera-Katio are among those threatened with destruction. Some years ago, I had the enormous privilege to spend time in Embera Katio villages on the tributaries of the Sinu River, meeting community leaders of great integrity, watching children frolic joyfully in the river while their mothers wove intricate beadwork, sharing food and conversation with parents dedicated, like parents everywhere, to providing for their families, and learning about a spirituality that values the sharing of the earth’s bounty for the well-being of all. It is horrifying to me that all of this could be wiped out by violence, indifference and greed.
But you don’t need to have travelled to Colombia to share in the belief that we cannot stand by in silence and allow the destruction of other human beings, their cultures, traditional practices, livelihoods, languages and ancestral knowledge.
Our sisters and brothers with the National Indigenous Organizations of Colombia (ONIC) have asked for the help of Canadians with an appeal which is impossible to ignore: “The survival of Indigenous Peoples with dignity in Colombia is in all of our hands.”
With that in mind, today Amnesty International Canada launches a Week of Action for the Rights and Survival of Indigenous Peoples in Colombia.
The timing is no coincidence. May 15 is the deadline for the Canadian government to report to Parliament on human rights impacts of a free trade deal with Colombia that has opened the doors for Canadian companies to join a resource extraction boom amidst ongoing armed conflict and human rights violations.
Last year, the Canadian government delivered an empty report that said nothing about the human rights emergency facing Indigenous peoples. This year, it is imperative that grave threats to the very survival Indigenous peoples are acknowledged and addressed. It is imperative that all of us raise our voices to demand such action before it is too late. The Canadian government must make good on its promise to use its special relationship with Colombia to press for solutions. It must also take steps to ensure that Canadian companies are not contributing to or profiting from violations of Indigenous rights in Colombia.
There are many ways you can get involved this week and beyond.
Visit www.amnesty.ca to take a look at photo messages from Indigenous women and men in Colombia and the moving story they tell. ACT NOW to add your signature to our online petition. Then take part in THIS IS WHAT WE DEMAND – an exciting new campaign to deliver eye-catching messages of concern about the situation in Colombia. Send your own photo message to email@example.com and be sure to post it on your Facebook page or use your twitter account to encourage your followers to take part as well. Your help gathering support for this campaign is absolutely vital.
During our Week of Action, we will be hosting a visit by Maria Patricia Tobón Yagarí of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia and taking her to meet with government officials and MPs. Ms Tobon Yagari will share the moving testimony she delivered nine weeks ago to a special hearing of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington. Supporters in Ottawa and Toronto will have the opportunity to hear this courageous human rights defender in person (see details in the events listing below). We’ll be sure to use this blog to share her message to Canadians.
There are other exciting events taking place during the Week of Action. Join us at one of the events below. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book our free Colombia photo exhibit and organize a showing in your community to ensure action for the rights and survival of Indigenous peoples continues in the weeks and months to come. Together we can make a difference!
May 14 – This Is What We Demand in Napanee: Justice! A Colombia Photo Exhibit and Community Action Event
This event hosted by Group 150 in Napanee presents inspiring images from Colombia, a discussion and a chance to create photo messages to demand action, along with Colombian goodies.
Where: Trinity United Church St., Dundas & John Sts., Napanee, ON,
When: Tuesday May 14, 7-9pm
For information, contact Linda Murray at email@example.com
May 15 – Film Screening: “We Women Warriors, Tejiendo Sabiduria”
This powerful documentary tells the inspiring stories of 3 Indigenous women leaders who persevere peacefully to combat the annihilation of their people. The screening will be followed by a discussion led by Kathy Price, Amnesty International Canada’s campaigner for Latin America.
Where: Carlton Cinemas, 20 Carlton Street (Carlton & Yonge)
When: Wednesday, May 15, 7:00 PM (doors open at 6:30pm)
Cost: PWYC (minimum suggested $7)
For information, go to https://www.facebook.com/events/268591399945082/
Starting May 15 – “This is what we want to tell you!” visits Hampton High School
Where: Hampton High School, 34 Elizabeth Avenue, Hampton, N.B. E5N 8H1.
When: May 15 to 22
For information, contact Jim Boyd at James.Boyd@nbed.nb.ca
May 18 – This Is What We Want To Tell You in Hamilton!
Come visit the Farmer’s Market to see a powerful photo exhibit of endangered Indigenous women and men in Colombia holding their handwritten messages to Canadians. Organized by Amnesty International Group 1, this event will offer viewers the means to send a message of concern to government officials.
When: Saturday May 18th all day, starting at 9 AM as the market opens for business.
Where: Hamilton Farmer’s Market in downtown Hamilton – look for the AI display on the mezzanine
level right next to the entrance from Jackson Square.
For information, contact Andy Buxton at Abuxton254@aol.com
May 19 – Jazz and Action for Indigenous Rights and Dignity in Colombia
Come hear internationally-acclaimed Brazilian jazz pianist Benjamim Taubkin, followed by an Uma Nota After party with Lido Pimienta, DJ General Eclectic and visuals by aluCine. Our Colombia photo exhibit will be on display, along with an Action and Information Table. Join us!
Where: Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas St W, Toronto M6J 1T9
When: Sunday May 19 – Doors open: 7:00 pm – Show starts: 8:00 pm
This evening is co-presented by Tridha Arts Association, Dos Mundos Arts and Media, Uma Nota, aluCine and Amnesty International
For information, visit http://www.lula.ca/events/2013/may/taubkin-jones.html
May 19 – This Is What We Demand in Hampton, New Brunswick!
The Hampton Amnesty International Action Circle will display Amnesty Canada’s exhibit of Indigenous women and men in Colombia holding messages to Canadians, and take action via postcards, petitions and creative messages of concern.
Where: Library at Hampton High School, 34 Elizabeth Avenue, Hampton, N.B. E5N 8H1.
When: Sunday May 19, starting at 3 PM
For information, contact Pat Hanratty at firstname.lastname@example.org
May 22 – Open Mic for Human Rights in Regina!
This event organized by the Regina AI community group will feature amateur local talent and offer the chance to learn about the emergency facing Indigenous Peoples in Colombia via the photo exhibit “This is what we want to tell you!” Come lend your voice for the rights and dignity!
Where: Cathedral Neighbourhood Centre, 2900 13th Avenue, Regina.
When: Wednesday, May 22 at 7 PM
For information, contact Mona Hill at email@example.com or 306-586-1938
May 22 – AITO Open House Action Event
“This is what we demand!” is a collaborative project with people like you from across the country who refuse to remain silent as Indigenous Peoples in Colombia face extermination. Craft, photography, and video stations will be set up so that you can create your own message to call for action from our government, given its special relationship with Colombia. Come join us and get creative as you make visible your concern! Refreshments will be served.
Where: AI Toronto Office, 1992 Yonge Street, 3rd floor (Davisville subway station)
When: Wednesday, May 22 from 6pm – 9pm.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/157754937725663/
For information, contact Elena Dumitru at firstname.lastname@example.org
May 22 – Contested Land, Threatened Indigenous Peoples and the Role of Canada in Colombia: A Public Talk and BBQ with special guest Maria Patricia Tobón Yagarí of ONIC
Where: Amnesty House, 312 Laurier Avenue East, Ottawa
When: Wednesday May 22 from 3 -5 PM (public talk) and 5 – 7 PM (BBQ, photo exhibit and short presentation)
For information, contact Jackie Hansen at email@example.com or 613-744-7667
May 28 – Open House at the new AI Office in Halifax
Join us to celebrate the opening of our new Halifax Office with words from our General Secretary Alex Neve about his visit to Colombia, an exhibit of Carol Morrison’s Portraits of Injustice paintings (including her painting of disappeared Embera Katío leader Kimy Pernía Domicó), together with our Colombia Indigenous photo exhibit “This Is What We Want To Tell You!” Then add your voice to our actions for Indigenous rights and survival in Colombia.
Where: 6009 Quinpool Road, Suite 305, Halifax, NS B3K 5J7
When: May 28 from Noon – 8:00 PM. Drop by anytime!
For information, contact Kim Cahill at firstname.lastname@example.org