BOGOTA, Colombia, July 12, 2013 /CNW Telbec/ - Representatives of
Canadian and Quebec's civil society organizations are in Colombia this
week as part of a delegation to support and observe a popular hearing
on the actions of Canadian oil company Pacific Rubiales Energy in
Colombia. The hearing is part of the more expansive Popular Tribunal on
Extractive Policies in Colombia, organized by Colombian social
organizations, including the Unión Sindical Obrera (USO), the national oil workers union.
Pacific Rubiales Energy is the largest foreign oil company in Colombia.
It produces 40% of the crude oil in Colombia and employs 15,000
workers. Over 90% of of their employees are subcontracted and work for
salaries below the oil industry minimum in Colombia. Since 2011 the
company has been embroiled in a conflict with its workers and the
communities living near the oil fields. In September 2011, Pacific
Rubiales and the USO signed an agreement in the presence of the
Canadian ambassy. The company never respected the agreement.
In December 2012, a subcontractor working for Pacific Rubiales and who
had been working to organizer workers received a death threat and was
later assassinated. The circumstances of his death suggest that the
murder was related to his union activities. The company has also
created a list of USO-affiliated workers in order to bar them from
working in the region.
Despite this, the Canadian government has refused to intervene further
in the labour dispute. Amir Khadir, a Quebec opposition Members of the
National Assembly who participate in the delegation, has denounced this
silence, arguing that the company's behaviour is damaging Canada's
reputation in Colombia.
Dave Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworks Union
of Canada (CEP), is participating in the delegation. "Pacific Rubiales
has created a violent conflict, in which worker activists not only face
threats and violence, but have paid with their lives," says Dave
Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union,
Canada's largest energy union. "This is a black mark against Canada
and the entire Canadian extractive industry," he says, calling on
politicians to "take their heads out of the sand and take action by
calling for a moratorium on all extraction concessions in Colombia
until the country revamps its policies. As it stands now, extractive
companies are exploiting workers and the environment in the blind
pursuit of profits."
The hearing will take place from July 13-14 in Puerto Gaitan, Colombia,
near the oil fields where Pacific Rubiales operates. Workers and local
residents will testify about their experiences with the company. The
Canadian embassy declined an invitation to participate.
"When the Canadian government signed the Canada-Colombia Free Trade
Agreement it also signed an accord concerning labour. The labour
agreement stipulates that each country must incorporate and protect
fundamental labour rights like the freedom of association and the right
to collectively negotiate, including the right to strike. However,
since the agreements took effect, the human rights situation in
Colombia has not changed. At the same time, a Canadian company -- the
largest foreign oil producer in the country -- has been in the middle
of a two-year long labour conflict. What is our government doing about
it?" asked member of the delegation Guy Martin of the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), a Quebec union.
"On top of a lack of respect for workers' rights, sources on the ground
have reported violations of the economic, social and cultural rights of
local indigenous communities. These groups will also be present as
witnesses during the hearing," said another member of the delegation
Terry-Lynn Brant of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC).
"The witnesses can be vulnerable to threats before, during and after
the hearing. That's why a Canadian delegation is so important: to lend
visibility to this popular process, and to assure the security of
witnesses," added Constance Vaudrin of the Americas Policy Group (APG).
The final session of the Popular Tribunal will take place from August
16-18, 2013 in the Colombian capital of Bogota. Members of the Canadian
delegation will hold a press conference in Montreal following the
closing session in order to share the conclusions with the Canadian
The Canadian delegation is made up of nine organizations: Québec
Solidaire, Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), Public Service
Alliance of Canada (PSAC), Americas Policy Group (APG), Canadian Union
of Postal Workers (CUPW), Committee for Human Rights in Latin America
(CDHAL), CASA - Toronto (Colombia Action Solidarity Alliance), the
Comittee for the human rights in America latina (CDHAL) and Project
Accompaniment and Solidarity with Colombia (PASC).
For further information:
media should contact:
Québec solidaire: July 12 until July 14: Nadine Beaudoin, 514-706-3616, July 15 until July 20: David Dubois, 514-208-0454
CEP: Dave Coles, 613-299-5628
CSN: Martin Petit 514-894-1326
CUPW: Gayle Bossenberry, 613-236-7238
CDHAL: Marie-Eve Marleau, 438-820-5048
PASC, Louis-Philippe Degrandpré, 514-966-8421
APG: Brittany Lambert, 613-241-7007 poste 333