Vancouver resident's e-petition calls on Canada to urge Chilean government to end military and police represssion

Canada has deep economic ties to the South American country

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      For quite a while, Chilean Canadians and their allies in Vancouver have been holding weekly demonstrations against a crackdown on civilians in Chile.

      This issue even attracted the attention of teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg at a recent public appearance in Madrid.

      But to date, the Trudeau government has refused to condemn repression against Chileans protesting increases in transit fares and utilities, and their country's gross economic inequality.

      This silence on the part of Canada has continued since October despite the detention of more than 6,300 Chilean nationals, 246 reports of torture, 50 reports of sexual violence, and the wounding of 2,381 people, including 759 children and adolescents. At least 23 people have died.

      This week, Vancouver resident Paola Ardiles decided to ramp up pressure on Canada by launching an e-petition.

      It calls upon Canada to urge the Chilean government to end military and police repression and the abuse of powers.

      The e-petition also demands Chilean authorities punish those responsible for human rights violations while urging other nations to respect Chilean sovereignty by not sending military forces to intervene.

      Under a system introduced in 2015, the Canadian government must respond within 45 calendar days after an e-petition is presented to the House of Commons.

      Vancouver East NDP MP Jenny Kwan has agreed to bring Ardiles's petition forward after signatures close on January 9, 2020.

      As of this writing, 123 of the 233 signatures are from British Columbia.

      Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne accompanied Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Festival Western de St-Tite in Quebec shortly before the 2019 election campaign.
      Adam Scotti/PMO

      Minister worked for companies active in Chile

      Canada's new minister of foreign affairs is François-Philippe Champagne, who replaced Chrystia Freelance in the recent cabinet shuffle.

      Champagne is a former minister of international trade and minister of infrastructure and communities. As well, he's a former vice president and senior counsel of ABB Group and a former acting general counsel and chief ethics officer with AMEC Foster Wheeler.

      AMEC Foster Wheeler is active in Chile, having won an award in 2015 from the Chilean Construction Chamber for its safety record.

      ABB Group has a significant presence in the Chilean solar energy sector, having completed two projects in that country with a Czech company, Solek Group.

      In February, the Canadian government announced that a "modernized" Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement took effect.

      By the end of 2017, Canadian investment in Chile reached $17.1 billion. That ranked first for direct Canadian investment in any country in South and Central America, according to Global Affairs Canada.

      Meanwhile, the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation has determined that Chile has the greatest economic inequality of its 35 member countries.

      Reuters reported earlier this year that Chile's income gap was 65 percent wider than the OECD average, with half of Chilean workers earning $550 per month or less.

      This is despite a GDP of US$277.1 billion in 2017 for a country with a population of just over 18 million.

      Chilean president Sebastián Piñera is a billionaire former media magnate. Back in 1998, he opposed the arrest and detention of former fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet in the U.K.

      Pinochet came to power in a coup in 1973 that resulted in the murders of elected leftist president Salvador Allende, singer-songwriter and educator Victor Jara, and more than 3,000 others during his bloody reign until 1990.

      Tens of thousands were tortured in Chile during the dictatorship, causing many to flee the country.

      Several Chilean exiles moved to Vancouver and have since distinguished themselves in a number of areas, including the arts, academia, small business, and the professions.

      Many came together in the Chilean Housing Co-op in the Killarney neighbourhood.