Stewart Trew says it’s “unbelievable” that the Canadian government hasn’t condemned the recent massacre of indigenous peoples in the Peruvian Amazon.
“The silence in Canada has been incredible,” Trew, the trade campaigner for the Council of Canadians, told the Straight today (June 18).
Trew’s comments come a day after the Canadian Senate approved the Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement, making it the first bilateral trade agreement ratified by Canada since 2002.
Unlike the Canada-Colombia free-trade deal, whose passage through Parliament has been delayed due to an outcry over ongoing rights violations in Colombia, the Canada-Peru agreement almost slipped under the radar. But then the bloodshed in the Peruvian Amazon earlier this month put Canada’s push for free trade with Peru under the microscope.
On June 5, police massacred an unconfirmed number of indigenous people in the resource-rich region of Amazonas in Peru. The government of Peru admits that 10 demonstrators were killed, while other sources put the number as high as 250. Two dozen police officers died in the clashes that ensued, and many indigenous people are still unaccounted for. The town of Bagua, where the massacre occurred, remains under police and military control.
The violence was the state’s response to more than 50 days of peaceful protests against the implementing legislation of the US-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement, which was ratified by the U.S. Congress in 2007.
“The way that the Garcia Administration has taken advantage of the U.S. Peru TPA implementation process has exacerbated long-standing social tensions and provoked serious social conflicts in Peru, now resulting in violence,” reads a June 12 letter from 13 U.S. nongovernmental organizations to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Canadian companies, especially in the mining, oil and gas, and banking sectors, play a role in the region. Calgary-based oil company Petrolifera has come under fire for activities in indigenous lands throughout the country.
“About 50 percent of resource extraction in Peru is carried out by Canadian companies,” said Trew.
Foreign Affairs Canada has yet to make a statement condemning the massacre. The only official acknowledgment of the violence by the government of Canada took the form of a travel advisory for Peru, issued on June 15.
A Canadian response to the massacre has been left up to grassroots organizers, who have organized demonstrations and sent hundreds of letters to senators asking them to halt the Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement. Protests are scheduled to take place today (June 18) in Ottawa and Toronto. Over the past week, demonstrations have been held outside of the Peruvian consulates in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, and outside of Petrolifera headquarters in Calgary.
“From the responses we’ve seen, Canadians are fed up with the government putting corporate rights above the rights of indigenous people and the environment,” Trew said.
Yesterday, Conservative senator Consiglio Di Nino acknowledged the Peruvian massacre in the Senate, when he moved for the third reading of legislation to implement the agreement.