Canadian academics sign a letter urging the Government of Canada to take action on human rights violations in Colombia

June 7, 2021

To: Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

Copy: Marc Garneau (Minister of Foreign Affairs), Karina Gould (Minister of International Development), Michael Chong (Official Opposition Shadow Cabinet, Foreign Affairs), Garnett Genuis (Official Opposition Shadow Cabinet, International Development), Jack Harris (NDP Foreign Affairs Critic), Heather MacPherson (NDP International Development Critic), Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe (Bloc International Cooperation Critic), Elizabeth May (Green Party), Ambassador Marcel LeBleu (Ambassador to Colombia), Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Dear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,

On May 5, 2021, fifteen Canadian university professors wrote to Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau with regard to the current crisis in Colombia. Today, 228 academics from across the country (listed below) are following up on this letter and calling you to show international leadership in favour of human rights in Colombian. Canada must take concrete action to urge the Colombian government to resolve the present crisis through dialogue.

Since the start of a national strike on April 28, Colombia has been engulfed in a deepening crisis of violence and state repression. Serious human rights abuses have been committed by Colombian security forces in response to the huge peaceful rallies held in major cities, accompanied by demonstrations and spontaneous roadblocks in towns and villages around the country. The Paro Nacional was launched against the government’s plan to increase sales tax from 5% to 19% on basic goods such as coffee, chocolate and sugar. But it also reflects frustration against the government’s catastrophic management of the pandemic, proposals to dismantle the public health system, levels of poverty having soared to 42.5%, the lack of implementation of the 2016 peace agreement with the FARC guerrilla, and the unremitting murders of social leaders.

President Ivan Duque has unleashed a staggeringly counter-productive use of force. To this date, 1,649 arbitrary detentions of protesters by the police have been reported, as well as 1,248 assaults, 45 deaths, and 25 cases of sexual violence, all at the hands of security forces. Hundreds of videos posted on social media show the police firing live ammunition at protesters, often accompanied by plainclothes officers and armed civilians using firearms. The government’s response raises extreme concerns in terms of its legality, necessity and proportionality, as voiced by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights.

As academics based in Canada concerned by this situation, we ask you, as Prime Minister, to take a strong stand against the repression of protestors in Colombia. In his only statement on the crisis on May 9, Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau expressed concern for “the disproportionate use of force by security forces” as well as “acts of vandalism and attacks directed against public officials”. While at least two police officers and one police inspector have died since the protests began, the scale of violence committed by government forces is far greater. Many of us wrote to Minister Garneau on May 5 and feel that Canada has the responsibility to take concrete action to bring this violence to an end.

President Duque and his influential mentor Álvaro Uribe Vélez (President from 2002 to 2010) have repeatedly sought to delegitimize the Paro Nacional as hosting criminals, manipulated by foreign interests seeking to destabilize the country, and generating fake news destined to mislead the international community. Despite the dismaying number of reported abuses and their disproportional impact on women, the poor, Indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombians, President Duque has repeatedly expressed total support for the police and the army. On May 28, Decree 575deployed the army in eight departments and 13 cities to support the police in dismantling roadblocks, a move deemed unconstitutional by the Colombia Commission of Jurists. On June 6, President Duque then announced a welcome plan to reform the National Police, which however does not contemplate removing the police from under the Defense Ministry’s authority.

The current situation intensifies the already alarmingly high level of violence. More than 1,100 social leaders and human rights defenders have been assassinated since the signing of the peace agreement in 2016. Most of the victims belonged to rural, Indigenous, Afro-Colombian, and environmental organizations. The first few months of 2021 have seen the most violence in recent years, with 28 massacres. Fifty-five members of the US Congress have already called for the suspension of assistance to the Colombian police as well as the sales of weapons and training to the Mobile Anti-Disturbances Squadron (ESMAD). Italian lawmakers recently wrote wrote to the International Criminal Court’s Prosecutor to request an investigation into the current events.

In view of Canada’s particularly close relationship to Colombia, we call on you to take the strongest possible stance for human rights. Canada’s free trade agreement with Colombia specifically includes reporting on human rights, Canadian mining companies own $1.383 billion in assets in Colombia, and Canada vouched to support the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement. As academics committed to Canada exercising positive leadership in the world, we view the following actions as urgent:

  • Canada must immediately go beyond its May 9 statement to urge the Colombian government to respect the fundamental human rights of protesters, to allow the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to conduct a transparent country visit on June 8-10 with direct access to victims and their organizations, to commit to implementing the Commission’s recommendations, and to resolve the present crisis through dialogue.
  • Canada must also review any current or projected cooperation with the Colombian police or military and prohibit any future sale of weapons or light-armoured vehicles by Canadian companies until Colombia has reformed its National Police, among others to abolish the ESMAD and to foreclose the application of military justice to police officers.
  • Lastly, Canada must seize this opportunity to reassess its foreign policy in Colombia, including the nexus between trade, foreign investment and human rights. Specifically, Canada must afford local communities an effective remedy in Canada against Canadian individuals and corporations whose actions compromise human rights and thus interfere with democratic dialogue.

We thank you for the consideration given to this letter and look forward to your response.


Leila Celis
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Université du Québec à Montréal

Christopher Campbell-Duruflé
Doctoral Candidate, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto

Luis van Isschot
Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Toronto

Daniel Tubb
Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of New Brunswick

List of Signatories

  1. Leila Celis, Professor, UQAM
  2. Christopher Campbell-Duruflé, Doctoral Candidate, University of Toronto
  3. Luis van Isschot, Associate Professor, University of Toronto
  4. Daniel Tubb, Associate Professor, University of New Brunswick
  5. Nora Nagels, Professor, UQAM
  6. José Antonio Giménez Micó, Professor, Concordia University
  7. Bonnie Campbell, FRSC Professor Emerita, UQAM
  8. Marie-Christine Doran, Professeure titulaire, Université d’Ottawa
  9. Stephen J Randall FRSC Professor Emeritus, faculty Professor, University of Calgary
  10. Diana Cissé, Phd student, University of Ottawa
  11. Darren O’Toole, Associate Professor, University of Ottawa
  12. Karine Vanthuyne, Associate Professor, University of Ottawa
  13. José Del Pozo, professeur associé, UQAM
  14. Marcos Ancelovici, Professor, UQAM
  15. Amin Perez, Professor, UQAM
  16. Vincent Romani, Professor, UQAM
  17. Marcelo Otero, Professor, UQAM
  18. Salvador Herencia-Carrasco, Human Rights Clinic of the HRREC, University of Ottawa
  19. Janik Bastien Charlebois, Professor, UQAM
  20. Jean-Marc Fontan, Professor, UQAM
  21. David Longtin, Doctoral Candidate, University of Ottawa
  22. Daviken Studnicki-Gizbert, Associate Professor, McGill University
  23. Issiaka Mandé, Professor, UQAM
  24. Cristina Rojas, Professor, Carleton University
  25. Colin Scott, Director, Centre for Indigenous Conservation and Development Alternatives, McGill University
  26. Marie Nathalie LeBlanc, Professeure & titulaire de la Chaire de recherche sur l’islam contemporain en Afrique de l’ouest, UQAM
  27. Elsa Galerand, Professor, UQAM
  28. Bob Whitney, Professor of History, University of New Brunswick
  29. Martin Gallié, Professor, UQAM Fellow, University of Ottawa
  30. Magali Uhl, Professor, UQAM
  31. Frédérick Guillaume Dufour, Professeur, UQAM
  32. Camilo Gomez, Ph.D.C. McGill University, Director
  33. Michel Roche, professeur, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi
  34. François Bergeron, Professor, UQAM
  35. Marie-Dominik Langlois, PhD candidate, University of Ottawa / École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS)
  36. Anne Latendressse, UQAM
  37. Pilar Riaño-Alcalá, University of British Columbia
  38. Rémi Bachand, UQAM
  39. Michel Lacroix, UQAM
  40. Pierre Mongeau, UQAM
  41. Michèle Nevert, UQAM
  42. Myriame Martineau, professor, UQAM
  43. Brian Pentz, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto Scarborough
  44. Geneviève Dufour, Université de Sherbrooke
  45. Susan Spronk, University of Ottawa
  46. Simone Davis, University of Toronto
  47. Anahi Morales Hudon, professeure, Université Saint-Paul
  48. Gaële Gidrol-Mistral, Professor, UQAM
  49. Laurie Guimond, Professor, UQAM
  50. Viviane Weitzner, Adjunct Professor, McGill University
  51. Débora Krischke Leitão, professor, UQAM
  52. Mario Blaser, Memorial University
  53. Francine Descarries, Professor, UQAM
  54. Laura Tozer, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto Scarborough
  55. Catherine des Rivières-Pigeon, Professor, UQAM
  56. Martin Hébert, Professeur, Université Laval
  57. François Roch, Professor, UQAM
  58. Katherine Zien, Associate Professor, McGill University
  59. Gavin Fridell, Canada Research Chair & Associate Professor, Saint Mary’s University
  60. Martin Petitclerc, Professeur, UQAM
  61. John Kirk, Professor, Dalhousie University
  62. Elizabeth Fitting, Associate Professor, Dalhousie University
  63. Rachel Chagnon, Professeure, UQAM
  64. Kate Ervine, Associate Professor, Saint Mary’s University
  65. Jean Leclair, professeur titulaire, Université de Montréal
  66. Shirley Roy, professeure, UQAM
  67. Frédéric Mégret, Professor, McGill University
  68. Ricardo Peñafiel, Professeur associé, UQAM
  69. María Mercedes Gómez, Assistant Professor, Saint Mary’s University 
  70. Sid Ahmed SOUSSI, UQAM.
  71. Shin Imai, Professor Emeritus, Osgoode Hall Law School
  72. Rebecca Cook, Professor Emerita, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto
  73. Andrés Arteaga. Assistant Professor, Saint Mary’s University
  74. Charmain Levy, Professor, Université du Québec en Outaouais
  75. Gaby Hsab, Doyen, UQAM
  76. Tania Pierre-Charles, doctorante, UQAM
  77. Geneviève Pagé, Professor, UQAM
  78. Kristin Norget, Associate professor, McGill University
  79. Marie-Christine Dugal, doctorante, University of Saskatchewan
  80. Guillaume Tremblay, Chargé de cours, Université de Montréal
  81. Bruce Broomhall, Professor, Department of Law, UQAM
  82. Martha Balaguera, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto Mississauga
  83. Paul Eid, Professor, UQAM
  84. David A. Fernández, Librarian, University of Toronto
  85. Arturo Chang, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto Mississauga
  86. Francine Descarries, Professor, UQAM
  87. Maïka Sondarjee, Assistant Professor, University of Ottawa
  88. Catalina Rodriguez, Assistant Professor (CLTA, 2022), University of Toronto Mississauga
  89. Audrey Rousseau, Professeure, Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO)
  90. Etienne Roy Grégoire, Professeur régulier, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (UQAC)
  91. Anne-Emanuelle Birn, Professor, University of Toronto
  92. Anne Doran, Professeure, Institut de Pastorale des Dominicains
  93. Marc-André Anzueto, Professeur, Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO) 
  94. Geneviève Dorais, Professeure, UQAM
  95. Michèle Nevert, Professeure, UQAM
  96. Thérèse St-Gelais, Professeure, UQAM
  97. Manuel Balán, Associate Professor, McGill University
  98. Kevin McMillan, Associate Professor, University of Ottawa
  99. Catherine Gosselin, professeure, UQAM
  100. Jean-François Hamel, professeur, UQAM
  101. Matthew Hawkins, Instructor, Carleton University
  102. Xavier Lafrance, Professeur, UQAM
  103. Andrés Garcia Posada, Doctorant , Université d’Ottawa
  104. Tamara J. Walker, Associate Professor, University of Toronto
  105. Élisabeth Abergel, professeure, UQAM
  106. Melanie J. Newton, Associate Professor, University of Toronto
  107. Maxwell A. Cameron, Professor, University of British Columbia
  108. George Dei, Professor, OISE, University of Toronto
  109. Claude Morin, professeur retraité, Université de Montréal
  110. Nancy Thede, professeure associée, UQAM
  111. Cynthia Milton, Professor, University of Victoria
  112. María Méndez, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto
  113. Michelle Bonner, Professor, University of Victoria
  114. Chantal Ouellet, professeure, UQAM
  115. Frédéric Fournier, Professor, UQAM
  116. Claudia Diaz Rios, University of Toronto
  117. Sophie L. Van Neste, professeure agrégée, INRS
  118. Amanda Perry, Champlain College-Saint Lambert
  119. Laurent Colantonio, professeur, UQAM
  120. France Dubé, Professeure, UQAM
  121. Jutta Gutberlet, Professor, University of Victoria
  122. Kevin Coleman, University of Toronto Mississauga
  123. Ana Maria Peredo. Professor, University of Victoria
  124. Sébastien Rioux, Professeur, Université de Montréal
  125. Martine Delvaux, Écrivaine, Professeure, UQAM
  126. Pablo Policzer, University of Calgary
  127. Marc Bigras, professeur, UQAM
  128. Christophe Hohlweg, UQAM
  129. Toby Leon Moorsom, University of New Brunswick
  130. Mauricio Garcia-Barrera, Associate Professor, University of Victoria
  131. Rachel Goffe, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto
  132. James Tanaka, Professor, University of Victoria
  133. Jodie Gawryluk, Associate Professor, University of Victoria 
  134. D. Stephen Lindsay, Professor, University of Victoria
  135. Djaouida Hamdani Kadri, UQAM
  136. Simon Granovsky-Larsen, Associate Professor, University of Regina
  137. Danu Anthony Stinson, Associate Professor, University of Victoria
  138. Donald Kingsbury, University of Toronto
  139. Shauna Sweeney, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto
  140. Sheila Gruner, Associate Professor, Algoma University (Adjunct Carleton U)
  141. Stephen Brown, Professor/Professeur titulaire, University of Ottawa/Université d’Ottawa
  142. Claudia Alexandra Duque Fonseca, Docteure en anthropologie, diplômée du Département d’anthropologie et du Centre de recherche en aménagement et développement de l’Université Laval à Québec
  143. Audrey Laurin-Lamothe, professeure adjointe, Département de science sociale, York University
  144. Louise Boivin, professeure, Université du Québec en Outaouais
  145. Pierre Beaudet, professeur, Université du Québec en Outaouais
  146. Chandler Davis, professor, University of Toronto
  147. Noémie Boivin, diplômée de la maîtrise en droit, UQAM
  148. Greg Albo, professor, Politics, York University
  149. Sara Gold, McGill Law Graduate 
  150. Rachel Hatcher, UQAM
  151. Donald Swartz, Professor [ret], Carleton University
  152. Thomas Collombat, professeur, Université du Québec en Outaouais
  153. Priscyll Anctil Avoine, PhD Candidate, UQAM
  154. Virginie Thériault, Professeure, UQAM
  155. Natasha Wawrykow, Assistant Professor, University of Victoria 
  156. Julie Lavigne, Professor, UQAM
  157. David Mandel, Professeur associé, UQAM
  158. Roxana Paniagua Humeres, Professeure, Sociologie, Collège de Maisonneuve
  159. Tyler Shipley, Professor of Culture, Society and Commerce, Humber College 
  160. Jeffrey Pilcher Professor of History, University of Toronto
  161. Berenice Villagomez, Undergraduate Coordinator, University of Toronto
  162. Natalie Kouri-Towe, Assistant Professor, Concordia University
  163. Harry Glasbeek, Professor Emeritus, York University
  164. Ruby Dagher, Long-term Part-time professor, University of Ottawa
  165. Jean François Mayer, Associate Professor, Concordia University
  166. Hugh Thomas, professeur, Université du Québec à Montréal
  167. Jenni Carolina Perdomo Sánchez, doctorante, Université de Montréal
  168. Me María Rodríguez, McGill Law Graduate & LL.M Candidate
  169. Marsha Runtz, Associate Professor, University of Victoria
  170. Christophe Reutenauer, UQAM
  171. Geneviève Hervieux, Professeure, UQAM
  172. Fatiha Sadat, Professeure, UQAM
  173. Sam Gindin, Professor Emeritus, York University
  174. Réjane Blary, professeure, Université de Montréal
  175. Véronica Gomes, doctorante, UQAM
  176. Colette Smart, Associate Professor, University of Victoria
  177. Julián Durazo Herrmann, UQAM
  178. Comité exécutif du Syndicat des professeurs et professeures de l’Université du Québec à Montréal
  179. Louise Chim, Associate Teaching Professor, University of Victoria
  180. Isabelle Larrivée, doctorante, UQAM
  181. Myriam Dubé, professeure, UQAM
  182. Catherine LeGrand, Associate Professor (Post-Retirement), McGill University 
  183. Alexandrine Boudreault-Fournier (Associate Professor), University of Victoria
  184. Stéphanie Bernstein, Professor, UQAM
  185. Mélissa Blais, Professor, Université du Québec en Outaouais
  186. Ana Maria Seifert, conseillère syndicale en santé et sécurité au travail. PhD en santé communautaire, UQAM
  187. Dario Perinetti, professeur titulaire, UQAM
  188. Alissa Trotz, Professor, University of Toronto
  189. Elizabeth Vibert, Associate Professor, University of Victoria
  190. Anita Girvan, Assistant Professor, Athabasca University
  191. David DePoe, Adjunct Professor, Ontario Institute For Studies in Education
  192. Paola Bohórquez, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto
  193. Dunja Baus, Assistant Professor, York University. 
  194. Marlene Bernholtz, Assistant Professor, York University
  195. Andrea Levy, Ph.D. History, Concordia University
  196. Paola Carrion-Aviles, PhD student, McGill University
  197. Emily MacLean, MSc, PhD(c), McGill University
  198. Néstor E. Rodríguez, Associate Professor, University of Toronto
  199. Pierre Beaucage, professeur émérite, Université de Montréal
  200. Christa Japel, professeure, UQAM
  201. Louis Gaudreau, professeur, UQAM
  202. Karine Rosso, Chargée de cours, Université de Sherbrooke 
  203. Astrid V. Perez Pinan, Assistant Professor, University of Victoria
  204. Donna Mergler, Professor Emerita, UQAM
  205. François Crépeau, Hans & Tamar Oppenheimer Professor of Public International Law, McGill University
  206. John Bedoya, University of Bradford
  207. Mathieu Perron-Dufour, Professeur, Université du Québec en Outaouais
  208. Lindsay DuBois, Associate Professor, Dalhousie University
  209. Nancy Turgeon, chargée de cours, UQAM
  210. Gordon Laxer, Professor Emeritus, University of Alberta
  211. rosalind hampton, Assistant Professor, OISE, University of Toronto
  212. Dolores Figueroa Romero, CIESAS Ciudad de México
  213. Dominique Leydet, professeure, UQAM
  214. Paul Kellogg, Professor, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, Athabasca University, Edmonton
  215. Camille Denicourt-Fauvel, Chercheure doctorante, Sciences Po Paris
  216. Simon Pierre Boulanger Martel, PhD Candidate, Université de Montréal
  217. Pascale Dufour, Professeure, Université de Montréal
  218. Carmen Umana-Kinitzki, PhD student, McGill University
  219. Adelle Blackett, Professor, McGill University
  220. Madeleine Gauthier, graduate student, McGill
  221. Katia Forgues, Graduate Student, McGill
  222. Catherine Potvin, Professor, McGill University
  223. Mathieu Guillemette, Graduate Student, McGill University
  224. Véronique Fortier, professeure, UQAM
  225. Catherine Costigan, Professor, University of Victoria 
  226. Benoît Lacoursière, secrétaire général et trésorier, FNEEQ-CSN
  227. Marie Langevin, Professeure, UQAM
  228. Elena Basile, Sessional Lecturer, York University and University of Toronto
  229. Audrey Dahl, professeure, UQAM
  230. Ximena Cuadra Montoya, doctorante, UQAM
  231. Nicole Meier, MSc Candidate, McGill University
  232. Marco Alberio, Professeur, Université du Québec à Rimouski/Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna
  233. Jonathan Barker, Profesor Emeritus, University of Toronto
  234. Luz Janeth Ospina M., Ph.D -Instructor, University of Lethbridge
  235. Nicolas Renaud, Part-Time Professor, Concordia University
  236. María Constanza Guzmán, Associate Professor, Glendon College, York University
  237. Carlota McAllister, Associate Professor, York University
  238. Gillian McGillivray, Associate Professor, Glendon College, York University
  239. Ian Martin, Associate Professor, Glendon College, York University
  240. Marlon Valencia, Assistant Professor, Glendon College, York University
  241. Claudio Jaramillo, PhD candidate, OISE, University of Toronto
  242. Antoinette Gagné, Associate Professor, OISE, University of Toronto
  243. Gabriel Ricardo Nemogá S. Professor, University of Winnipeg
  244. Christopher Luederitz, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, McGill University
  245. Kelci Harris, Assistant Professor, University of Victoria

This content has been updated on October 2, 2022.