Solidarity Works

Welcome to the CoDev blog, Solidarity Works. This is where we’ll bring you exciting news about CoDev’s work, the work of our partners and life in our world. Whether it’s stories from the field during a trip, or the latest news on an issue that affects our partners, we’ll make sure you are up to date.

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Indigenous Guatemalan Activist speaks out about Vancouver Mining Corporation in Guatemala

Demonstration in support of Xinka communities outside the Beatty Biodiversity Museum at the University of British Columbia. The museum is named for Panamerican Silver founder Ross Beatty.

By Wendy Santizo, (Education Program Director, CoDevelopment Canada)

Luis Fernando Garcia Monroy is the spokesperson for the Indigenous Xinca Parliament in Guatemala. CoDev had the honour to translate for Luis during two public events to raise awareness on how Xinca communities are engaged in a political and legal fight to protect their ancestral territories from corporate greed.

Since 2007, when Canadian transationals first began to promote the construction of a large silver mine in their traditional territories, Xinca communities have held cultural and educational events to raise awareness of the environmental impact of the extraction of gold, silver, lead and zinc on their land and water. They exchanged experiences with communities affected by the Vancouver-based Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine in San Marcos and held protests before government authorities. Once the El Escobal mine was opened, they organized peaceful protest encampments outside the main gates and blocked roads to mining traffic.

Luis explained that based on the 1996 Peace Accords, the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Convention 169, and municipal codes, Xinca communities in Jalapa, Jutiapa and Santa Rosa have held numerous community consultations on whether they accept the mining projects, to which over 98% clearly said NO.

The mine was originally developed by Tahoe Resources, a spin-off of Goldcorp, but was purchased in early 2019 by Pan American Silver, a Vancouver-based transnational that has attempted to cultivate an image of environmental responsibility.

Opposition to the mine has been met with repression and violence, including the military occupation of the region in 2013, the wounding of several protesters by Tahoe Resources gunmen, and the assassination of several community environmental activists. Merilyn Topacio Reynoso, Exaltación Marcos Ucelo, Ronal David Barillas Diaz, Angel Estuardo Quevedo and Laura Vasquez are some of the community leaders opposed to the project that have been killed.

Luis, who was injured in April 2013 when Tahoe Resources security guards opened fire on protesters, said that Canadian mining companies in Guatemala violate indigenous rights, negate that indigenous communities even exist in eastern Guatemala, disrespect ceremonial grounds and deny that water has rights.

Xinca communities are demanding respect for the Peace Agreement on Identity and Rights of Indigenous People, strict adherence to ILO Convention 169, respect for the right to protest and respect for their traditional ways for electing representatives.

During his presentation, Luis described the day he witnessed his community come under a shower of tear gas canisters and heavy beatings by national police. That was the day he decided to become a lawyer. Luis urged students at UBC’s Allard School of Law to study hard and graduate, and use all their knowledge and skills to defend indigenous communities in British Columbia who are also opposing extractive projects on their sacred and un-ceded territories.

Luis said that Pan American Silver’s El Escobal mine in southern Guatemala continues to operate despite a 2017 Constitutional Court order to suspend all activity until a process for free, prior, informed consultation of affected communities is conducted.

For more information on Pan American Silver’s El Escobal Mine:

Xinka Parliament: Ministries have failed to execute consultation over Escobal mine

Colombia: Teaching for Peace, Working for Human Rights

Labour and Human Rights Program director with NOMADESC staff

CoDev’s Labour and Human Rights Program Director Filiberto Celada with NOMADESC staff in Cali, Colombia. NOMADESC is CoDev’s human rights partner in southwestern Colombia.

By Filiberto Celada (Human and Labour Rights Program Director, CoDevelopment Canada)

During CoDev’s Schools Territories of Peace Canadian teacher delegation to Colombia, I took some members of the delegation to observe a pedagogical encounter in Monteria, Cordoba province in Colombia’s Caribbean Region. Together with teacher delegates Anjum Khan and Susan Trabant, we travelled to the conference with John Avila, former director of the Colombian Teachers Federation’s (FECODE) Centre for Education Research and Development (CEID) and Jose Luis Ortega, executive secretary of the Córdoba Teachers’ Association’s (ADEMACOR) CEID.

FECODE and ADEMACOR organized the conference entittled: Pedagogical Movement, School Territories of Peace and III Pedagogical National Congress and 2nd Provincial Encounter of Secretariats of Pedagogical Affairs – ADEMACOR 2019. Between 15-20 teachers attended this provincial encounter at ADEMACOR facilities where members of CEID and FECODE presented an analysis of the Schools as Territories of Peace program and the education policies and agreements with the Colombian Government. The last day of the encounter, 10 teachers presented and shared their alternative pedagogical experiences within 10 different schools.

It is important to highlight the fact that some teachers were presenting their alternative pedagogical experiences as part of their Master’s thesis in education. It was very motivating to witness that even that it was their own thesis, the teachers were open to share their methodology and results and welcomed their colleagues to use what they had developed in other schools without caring about copyrights.

After the Schools Territories of Peace Delegation was over, I traveled to the city of Cali in southwestern Valle del Cauca province to meet with CoDev partner NOMADESC (Association for Research and Social Action). While visiting Cali I was able to:

1) Introduce myself and meet with NOMADESC’s staff, explain CoDev’s model of partnership and international solidarity;

2) Meet with NOMADESC’s beneficiary population: members of the community of el Jarrillon and of Buenaventura;

3) Meet with NOMADESC’s Director Berenice Celeita to evaluate the project Comprehensive Defense of Life, Territory and Culture in Colombia.

4) Participate as International Observer in the National Congress of the Republic of Colombia’s session in the City of Santander de Quilichao in the department of El Cauca, organized by Senator Alexander Lopez due to the acts of genocide against the indigenous guard in Colombia’s Pacific coast.

Colombia Delegation Learns Innovative Approaches to Peace Education

CoDev’s Canadian Teachers’ delegation to Colombia meets with Colombian Teachers’ Federation leaders in Bogota, November 2019 – (Photo Julia Macrae)


by Wendy Santizo

CoDev accompanied a Canadian teacher delegation to visit Colombia and learn from the “Schools as Territories of Peace” project FECODE is implementing across the country. Our visit coincided with the celebration of provincial pedagogical circles encounters, where teachers shared their experiences in bringing peace education to the classroom. Pedagogical circles are made up of teachers, school principals, parents and students to discuss and create alternative pedagogies that will result in promoting peace, dialogue, conflict resolution, historical memory and democratic participation in their communities.

The delegation split up and visited three provincial encounters in Montería, Córdoba; Cúcuta, Norte de Santander and Fusagasugá in Cundinamarca.

Three of the experiences presented that most caught my attention were the “7 Hats”, “The Memory of the River” and “My History”.

The first provides students with a tool they can use to analyze any conflict situation and decide how to react in a constructive way. There are seven different coloured hats, each representing a question or perspective of looking at the conflict. Once the student answers these questions, they are in a better position to talk about it and solve it in a peaceful way.
The second is a long-term school project, it was created to recover the historical memory of the local river. It begins with students researching the history of the river, its names, where it originates, what stories are linked to the river, fiction or real, when did the contamination of the river begin and why. Today the school has created a project to protect the river and plant hundreds of trees.

The third consists of students interviewing their grandparents or elders in the family and neighbourhoods and asking: What was school like before? What was the neighbourhood like? What is the story of their town? These stories and anecdotes are shared in the classroom and collective memories begin to be recovered, as well as stronger ties across generations.

The delegation also had the opportunity to visit several museums and galleries including the photographic exhibition “The Witness” by Jesus Abad Colorado in the National University of Colombia. The exhibition demonstrates how communities and schools have experienced the armed conflict and were affected by multiple armed actors.
Meetings were held with FECODE’s Executive Committee and representatives of the CUT (Colombian labour central) Executive to speak about working conditions in Colombia, the impact on workers of the entry of Colombia into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD, as well as analysis around the national strike that was being prepared for November 21st.

Among the demands of the strike are: No more tax, wage and labour reforms without consultations; An end to the killings of social and environmental leaders; the right to healthcare for teachers and their families; Strengthening of the national teachers’ social security fund, and; Implementation of agreements previously signed with the national government, that include the implementation of a diploma program for teachers in peace education and declaring schools as Territories of Peace.

The teachers’ unions seek peace with social justice, reconciliation and truth. FECODE prepared a report with detailed cases of teachers, social leaders and unionists who were victims of systematic accusations, persecution, threats, forced disappearances and assassinations to be presented to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) as part of their commitment to the clarification of truth in Colombia.

FECODE’s “Schools as Territories of Peace” project is facilitated by CoDevelopment Canada with support from the BC Teachers’ Federation, the Ontario Secondary Teachers’ Federation, the Centrale des Syndicats du Quebec and the Surrey Teachers’ Association.

CoDev and Cafe Etico will be closed starting December 25th and returning January 2nd.

To all of our donors, volunteers and supporters we wish you a joyous season and wonderful start to 2020!

CUPE Delegation to Cuba – Reflections

CUPE Delegation with SNTAP Reps.

During the week of November 10-16, 2019, CoDev Executive Director, Steve Stewart traveled to Cuba with delegates from CUPE National and CUPE BC. What follows are a series of “reflections” written by the delegates shedding light on their experiences and thoughts as they met with their brothers and sisters in Cuba.

Since 1998, CoDev has coordinated the partnership between the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Havana province section of the National Union of Public Administration Workers (SNTAP-Havana). With the most recent 5-year CUPE-supported project wrapping up this year – a shop steward training program that included the renovation and equipping of training classrooms at the union’s offices in different Havana municipalities – CoDev organized a delegation of CUPE representatives to meet their Havana partners. The project with SNTAP is supported by both CUPE National and CUPE BC, and representatives of both made-up the five-person delegation. (more…)