A brief assessment of the first year campaign
This campaign emerged in 2011, not long before the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement came into force. At the time, social movements in both countries organized against the CCFTA. It became clear that there was a need to denounce the ways in which the Canadian state and Canadian companies profit from the Colombian conflict. Since last year, PASC has built a support network and solicited the endorsements of Quebec and Canadian unions.
One of the main objectives of the 'Targeting Canadian War Profiteers in Colombia!' campaign is to monitor and, if necessary, denounce Canadian investment that fuels the cycle of violence in Colombia. This objective has taken on a new dimension in the current context of the peace process. Colombian social movements have decided to engage with what they call a 'social agenda', which will address the structural causes of the conflict.
In 2013 : A focus on the Canadian Oil Company Pacific Rubiales Energy
In 2013 the campaign largely focused on Pacific Rubiales Energy (PRE), a canadian oil and gas company. The company’s main oil fields in Colombia are located in the vicinity of Puerto Gaitán (department of Meta, Colombia) which employ 14,000 workers. Campo Rubiales is the main oil field, with production of up to 200,000 barrels/day. In 2012, PRE announced its plan to explore Colombian shale gas and tar sands deposits as well. To a large extent, PRE avoids hiring employees directly by contracting with other companies. These companies then hire “subcontractors” who are, in all but name, employees of PRE, on 28-day renewable contracts. The result is a precariously employed workforce. Since 2011, a labour conflict has resulted in a significant number of human rights violations and attacks against unionized workers, including death threats, assaults, defamation and assassination attempts. Among the highlights of the Shadow Report on the impacts of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement on human rights (2012),1 PRE is cited for unethical behaviour, including the use of contractors and employment agencies as a strategy to avoid liability under labour laws. Working and living conditions at Campo Rubiales do not meet the basic international standards prescribed by the International Labour Organization (ILO).
Pacific Rubiales AGM
Pasc allies from the Mining Injustice Network made their way into the Kensington Room of the King Edward Hotel, in Toronto, where the Annual General Meeting of Pacific Rubiales was taking place. They handed out a press release from the Union of Oil Workers (USO), announcing the Colombian union's lawsuit against Pacific Rubiales for violations of the right to freedom of association.2
Activists took the floor to ask for the oil company's official stance on the right of workers to unionise.
Hearing on the Canadian oil company Pacific Rubiales Energy
As part of the War Profiteers campaign, and to give visibility to the ongoing protests against Pacific Rubiales Energy in Colombia, PASC mobilized international support for a Colombian initiative known as the People’s Tribunal on the Natural Resource Extraction Industry in Colombia. The preparatory hearing on the oil and gas sector took place from July 13-14, 2013 in the town of Puerto Gaitán (Meta Department), the country’s largest oil-producing region. The final session of the tribunal took place in Bogotá from August 16-18, 2013.
In July 2013, 19 delegates from the following eight Québec and Canadian organizations took part in a delegation to Colombia to attend the hearings: the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), the Colombia Action Solidarity Alliance (CASA), the Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine (CDHAL), the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), the Americas Policy Group (APG) of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC), the Québec Solidaire political party, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP), and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW).
In August 2013, the Québec organizations that participated in the Canadian delegation to Colombia held a press conference in Montreal to present the evidence and the final judgment handed down on Pacific Rubiales Energy in Colombia. With Leila Celis, of the PASC, Constance Vaudrin, of the Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine (CDHAL), Amir Khadir, of Québec Solidaire, Guy Martin, of the CSN and Alain Deneault, author of the books 'Paradis sous terre' and 'Noir Canada'.
UNIFOR held another press conference in September 2013, taking advantage of a visit to Canada by the President of the USO to unveil its analysis of the activities of PRE in Colombia and to hold the Canadian government responsible for the company’s overseas activities.
Media coverage of the delegation in Colombia was without precedent for this kind of event.3 In Canada, coverage included a piece on Global News4.
See the complete report here for details on the hearing and the delegation activities.
Hearing Follow Up : Water tests
In the fall of 2013, PASC coordinated water tests near the oil fields in Puerto Gaitán, Colombia. This project supported the initiatives of social organisations, inluding the USO, that aim to document clear and reliable evidence of water contamination produced by oil exploration and exploitation in the region. The results demonstrate that PRE is legally and illegally contaminating water sources, some of which are directly used for human consumption.
The project was carried out by the Centre for Inter-Institutional Research in Toxicology and the Environment at UQÀM, with funding from the CSN and Unifor.
Hearing Follow Up : Ethicx
Following the hearing, the finance agency Ethicx contacted members of UNIFOR who had participated in the delegation in order to include results from the hearing in a report on workers rights at PRE. The report will be used to encourage the removal of the responsible investment title currently attached to
shares of Pacific Rubiales Energy. Since then, PASC has been in regular contact with the agency in order to provide additional information for the report.
USO members tour Canada
From April to May, 2013 Rodolfo Vecino, the National President of the USO, and Cesar Loza, the Secretary for International Affairs of the USO visited Canada. These representatives of the Colombian oil and gas workers union discussed the labour conflict between the USO and Pacific Rubiales with Canadian union leaders and the public. The delegates participated in a Dinner conference with members of the 'Centre international de solidarité ouvrière' (CISO) and Canadian union members at the FTQ in Montreal, in a meetings with directors of the United Steel Workers in Quebec at the FTQ in Montreal, in a press conference with the USO, PASC and the CEP (Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada) at the Sheraton in Montreal and also to a Public conference in Montreal with Francisco Ramirez, the president of the Federation of Mining and Energy Sector Workers of Colombia; and a specialist on oil and gas issues in Québec and Canada, where oil pipeline projects are a source of increasing conflict and resistance. The Colombian delegation tour was sponsored by the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP), the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and the United Steel Workers (USW).
Support for CISO delegation to Colombia
Support and accompaniment for the internships of eight union members in Colombia. The group came from different sectors (health, education, public service and mining) and union organizations (FTQ, FIQ, CSN, CSQ, USW). They had three objectives : to learn more about the situation of Colombian workers, observe the impact of mining and energy exploitation by Canadian companies, and establish lasting links of solidarity with Colombian unions.
The 'Profiteers' bulletin was available in French and English throughout 2013 in web and PDF format. PASC published four editions in January, March, June and September, the last three of which were available in English as well as French. The bulletin featured research into issues surrounding Pacific Rubiales, as well as SNC Lavalin, Talisman, Gran Colombia Gold and the Eco Oro project in Santurban. It also included articles covering union strikes like the Cerrejon mine strike and general strikes against the oil industry in Arauca, the mining industry in Marmato, and the campesino and indigenous strikes against free trade and large-scale development projects in 2013.
1 The 2012 Shadow Report on the human rights impacts of the CCFTA, Preliminary Conclusions of a Baseline Study on the Human Rights Impacts of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, was produced by a group of Colombian civil society organizations under the direction of the National Trade Union School (Escuela Nacional Sindical) and the José Alvear Restrepo legal collective; see the English-language executive summary, online at http://www.pasc.ca/sites/pasc.ca/files/u6/Shadow%20report_executive%20summary.pdf.