Foreign Affairs Committee Concludes Productive Meetings

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Kenora MP Bob Nault
Kenora MP Bob Nault

OTTAWA – Throughout our two-country mission, I was impressed by the determination of the Guatemalan and Colombian people who are committed to building a better future, anchored by human rights, equality, and justice. Based on what we heard during our numerous field visits and discussions – including with women civil society leaders – the Committee is well-positioned to report back to Parliament on Canada’s development cooperation with these two important partners in Latin America,” stated Bob Nault, the Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. “It’s my belief that at this moment, while the Colombian people move towards peace, Canada’s commitment in supporting the inclusion of women peacebuilders is more important than ever.”

Members of Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development yesterday concluded a productive and insightful fact-finding mission to Guatemala and Colombia.

The Committee deepened its understanding of Canada’s development cooperation through discussions with a broad range of stakeholders. Meetings also emphasized the support that is needed from Canada to help advance peace, justice, reconciliation, and women’s rights.

During field visits, the Committee learned first-hand about the experiences of Guatemalan and Colombian people, including their perspectives on the challenges they face, as well as the opportunities they see for the future.

In Guatemala, Committee members confronted difficult issues in relation to post-conflict justice. Committee Members heard the powerful testimonials of Mayan women from the Sepur Zarco region who survived horrific abuses during the country’s internal armed conflict. Their path to justice culminated in a landmark verdict in a trial that focused on sexual violence and sexual slavery perpetrated during the conflict.

In Rabinal and Cobán, the Committee also toured development projects that are designed to empower women economically and improve their access to quality health care. Members heard about the necessity of including rural communities in development progress during discussions with the Federation of Cooperatives of the Verapaces (FEDECOVERA), a federation of agricultural cooperatives. In Guatemala City, the Committee met with members of Guatemala’s Congress and its Inter-Institutional Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, as well as the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala and women leaders from Guatemala’s civil society. In total, the Committee met with more than 15 organizations and stakeholders in Guatemala.

The Committee’s mission to Colombia took place during an important period in its history. On 24 August 2016, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced that they had finalized a comprehensive peace agreement to bring an end to an internal conflict that has endured for more than fifty years. Many of the Committee’s meetings addressed the next steps in the implementation of the peace agreements. Discussions with Colombia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister Counsellor for Post-Conflict, Human Rights and Security highlighted the many challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for Colombia as it works to build and sustain peace.

The Committee also held meetings with civil society, development partners, parliamentarians, multilateral organizations and the private sector. Members emphasized the meaningful involvement of women in Colombia’s post-conflict transition.

As part of its two-day visit to Villavicencio, Committee members learned about the reintegration process that is unfolding in Colombia after meeting directly with several ex-combatants – including women – at a demobilization centre. Other briefings underscored the work needed to develop rural and remote areas and to rid the country of landmine contamination.

 

“Our mission to Guatemala and Colombia has been an important opportunity to examine peacebuilding and women’s rights in detail. In particular, being in Colombia at this historic time has allowed us to see first-hand the impact that Canada’s development support is having on the ground. Canada has been a longstanding partner in Colombia, and as the country moves forward with the implementation of the peace agreement, it is very encouraging to see that Canada will be with the Colombian people,” stated  Mr. Dean Allison, Vice-Chair

“These meetings were sometimes emotional and always fascinating, and helped us gain a better understanding of the challenges facing peacebuilders in these two countries, including women’s groups, and of their steadfast courage,” concluded Ms. Hélène Laverdière, Vice-Chair.

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