Four leaders of a social justice coalition in Colombia traveled across Canada for two weeks in February, warning Canadians that the free trade agreement that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe signed in November will make Canada a party to human rights violations and political violence in Colombia.
The Colombians explained why they felt they had to come to Canada to speak directly with Canadian parliamentarians, civil society and citizens at a press conference on Feb. 20 in the Toronto offices of Kairos, one of several groups sponsoring the tour. (Kairos is a partnership of 11 churches and church-related organizations including the Anglican Church of Canada.)
Brother Omar Fernandez Obregon, a Franciscan priest and social activist leader, said the Canadian government echoes what it hears from the Uribe government – that the human rights situation in Colombia is improving and that this free trade agreement will help advance the peace process and the cause of human rights in Colombia.
The Colombians said they came to Canada as a “living testimony” to the fact that the human rights abuses for which Colombia has been notorious continue to take place.