Sunday, November 28, 2010

Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network Annual Meeting

The Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network (ARSN) annual meeting will be held from Friday, December 3rd at 7pm to Sunday, December 5th at 1:30pm at the Tatamagouche Centre, Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia. It will be an opportunity for anyone who's interested in solidarity between Latin America, the Caribbean and Atlantic Canada to gather, share information and insights, demonstrate their solidarity and make action plans.

There will be talks on climate change, threats to the survival of indigenous peoples in Colombia and community efforts to stop the pollution of Boat Harbour, Nova Scotia. Participants will hear about the popular resistance to last year's coup in Honduras and the response to the January 12th earthquake in Haiti. Discussion about the G8/G20 meetings and protests in Huntsville and Toronto and reports on ongoing ARSN activities are also on the agenda.

Friday evening will be all about Climate Change with an overview by Brian O’Neill of Oxfam Halifax, and a first hand account of the Cochabamba World People’s Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth Rights by Roger Hunka, the Intergovernmental Director for the Maritime Aboriginal Peoples Council.

The ARSN meeting is happening during the UN Climate Negotiations in Cancun and Via Campesina has called for a global day of action on December 7th to support the proposals from the Cochabamba conference, some of which have been incorporated into the negotiating text at Cancun. A few days early, on Saturday, December 4th, ARSN’s morning will begin with a climate action designed by the participants and possibly video taped to put up on line and send to politicians.
There will then be an opportunity for people to participate in the Kairos “Beat the Drum” campaign to push the Canadian government to live up to commitments required by it’s recent signing of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The following guest speaker will be Flaminio Onogama, the co-ordinator of the human rights programme of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC). He will talk about their campaign “Sweet Words, Breath of Life” to support indigenous peoples who are at risk of extinction in Colombia. On January 26, 2009, the Constitutional Court of Colombia issued a decree that concluded that the indigenous peoples of Colombia “are in danger of becoming physically and culturally extinct” and ordered the Colombian government to guarantee indigenous people’s human rights and assist indigenous peoples in specific ways. ONIC has been working to ensure this happens, but the Colombian government has not complied with the decree.
Next, Ron Kelly, spokesperson for the Pictou County Watershed Coalition will show a video and speak about 43 years of pollution of Boat Harbour by the pulp mill at Abercrombie, Nova Scotia (now owned by Northern Pulp). If possible, he will be joined by residents of Pictou Landing First Nation and the surrounding Pictou Landing area who will tell of their experiences of living very close to this toxic site and the numerous efforts to stop the pollution.
On Saturday afternoon there will be a call via skype (if possible with web-cam images) from Honduras by Honduras Accompaniment Project representative Caitlin Power Hancey and hopefully Gerardo Torres or another representative of the National Front for Popular Resistance in Honduras. They will talk about the June 28, 2009 military coup against the democratically elected government of Manuel Zelaya in Honduras and its aftermath. This will be followed by a talk by Lee Ann Ward and Larry Lack who went to Honduras earlier this year to be an international presence in the face of violence against people working in the resistance to the coup.

After a break, the afternoon will continue with a presentation about a country that also suffered a coup against a democratically elected government. In this case the country is Haiti and Canada took part in planning and implementing the coup, which took place in 2004. Haitian Canadian, Ralph Nelson will speak about the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti and the continuing crisis and Tracy Glynn of the Fredericton Peace Coalition will speak about recent solidarity efforts by the Canada Haiti Action Network.

This is a lot of information to take in, so participants will then gather in small groups to discuss the issues arising from the meeting.

On Saturday evening there will be a showing of clips of the “Shout Out for Global Justice” alternative conference held during G20 meetings and discussion of G20/G8 meetings, protests and police reaction. Then there will be a party.

Sunday morning will include reports of ARSN’s ongoing activities, further reflection on the weekend’s talks and action wrap-up.

Everyone is welcome to take in the whole weekend or any part of it. There is a $20 registration fee for the weekend (which is less for people who only attend part of the meeting) and charges for meals and accommodation at the Tatamagouche Centre. The full package is $160.50. However, to make it more affordable, there is the option of being billeted for free or for a small charge and/or bringing one’s own food. Also, a limited number of bursaries are available. Childcare is also available at no charge. People are driving from various parts of the Maritimes, so there may be carpooling opportunities to help people get to and from Tatamagouche. Anyone who is interested in coming to the meeting can find out more at the blogspot: or by contacting Catherine Hughes at or 902-351-2001.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

“Sweet Words, Air of Life” The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia Launches its Campaign in the US to Support the 32 Indigenous Peoples at Risk of Extinction in Colombia

October 26, 2010

In March of this year, the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) launched its campaign "Sweet Words, Air of Life" in support of the indigenous peoples at risk of extinction in Colombia. We will be promoting this campaign throughout 2010 and 2011. The official launch of this campaign in the United States was Monday, October 25 at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), 1666 Connecticut Ave, 4th floor.

The launch was a success and the participants took part in an open dialogue with ONIC representatives regarding the reality of the 102 indigenous peoples from Colombia, and especially 32 indigenous peoples that are of particular concern for the ONIC as they are at risk of extinction.

Click here to read the English version of the campaign report "Sweet Words, Air of Life" and "Palabras Dulces, Aire de Vida" in Spanish.
The Reason for this Campaign

The ONIC has publicly denounced on various occasions that "all indigenous peoples in Colombia are at risk of disappearing." Of the 102 indigenous peoples that live in the country, there are 32 indigenous peoples that are of particular concern for the organization, due to the fact that they count on a population of less that 500 people, the majority of which are centered in the Amazon and the Orinoquia regions of Colombia. Of these 32 peoples, 18 have a population below 200 people and 10 are composed of at least 100 individuals. This fragile demographic situation is coupled with other complex processes, Colombia's internal armed conflict, poverty, discrimination, and institutional abandonment puts them at great risk of physical and cultural extinction.

In this context, on January 26, 2009, the Constitutional Court of Colombia issued Decree 004 of 2009 behalf of the indigenous peoples, in which it was concluded that the indigenous peoples of Colombia 'are in danger of becoming physically and culturally extinct.' This decree orders the national government to create in six month terms a Program that Guarantees Human Rights for indigenous peoples of Colombia. In addition, it is to formulate and implement 34 Ethnic Safeguard Plans that assist the 34 indigenous peoples with specific actions.

It is of great concern that of the 32 indigenous people with a population of less than 500 individuals, only the Nukak Maku, are being assisted by the Decree ordered by Colombia's Constitutional Court  as they develop their Ethnic Safeguard Plan.

From statistics collected by the ONIC and the Constitutional Court, we can conclude that the total number of indigenous peoples at risk of extinction is 64, which is 62.7% of the 102 that exist. Nevertheless, since the Court ruling, many indigenous peoples (not mentioned in either of the two listings) have requested their participation in the Ethnic Safeguard Plans. Informally, the Constitutional Court has expressed that the Decree is not exhaustive as it only includes indigenous peoples for which sufficient information was compiled, which would allow for the ruling.

On many occasions, the ONIC has demanded that the Colombian State construct an Integral Protection Plan using the Life Plans of the indigenous peoples in situations of extreme vulnerability as the base. However, the Colombian Government has not shown the political will to guarantee the fulfillment of the rights of indigenous peoples.

The report of the campaign

The "Sweet Words, Air of Life" campaign report identifies those responsible for the violation of the collective rights of Colombia's indigenous peoples in danger of extinction. It is our intention that the report will contribute and be a tool to direct standards and urgent actions for their protection at a national and international level at all times developed in coordination, consultation and concretization with the ONIC and with the indigenous peoples of this report. Finally, the ONIC presents a series of recommendations and requests that, according to the indigenous peoples, are necessary, pertinent and urgent, in order to halt the risk to physical and cultural extinction of the indigenous peoples of Colombia.

We would like to thank those who have supported the ONIC and the Campaign and we encourage you to continue to support the topic of indigenous peoples at risk of extinction. If you have any questions of if you or your organization would like to receive more information about ways in which you can support the campaign, please contact us by email at: