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Partnership in bad taste: Harbourfront's Pan American Food Festival partners with rights violator Pacific Rubiales Energy

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It is with grave concern to see the upcoming Pan American Food Festival at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto being sponsored by Pacific Rubiales Energy, a Canadian-based oil and gas company listed on the Toronto and Colombian stock exchanges. Pacific Rubiales Energy has been accused of being engaged in serious human, Indigenous, environmental and labour rights violations in Colombia. These abuses have been well documented by Colombian civil society and also Canadian-based organizations.

Most recently, this past July, a 17-person delegation from Canada traveled to Puerto, Gaitan, Meta to partake in a People’s Tribunal on the Extractive Industry in Colombia.  This delegation included labour leaders, a member of the Québec National Assembly Parliament and community based organizations.

While in Colombia, we heard heart-wrenching testimony from Indigenous communities about how Pacifichad displaced them from their ancestral homelands and polluted their local water sources.

Indigenous communities fall very close to the actual oil wells used for extraction. The primary Indigenous communities impacted by the operations of Pacific Rubiales Energy in the Meta department are the Sikuani. Delegates heard testimonies from Indigenous leaders accusing Pacific Rubiales Energy oil operations of creating water scarcity, contaminating community water wells, using security forces to restrict the movement of Indigenous people on their own land and the stigmatization of those opposed to Pacific Rubiales Energy operations as guerrillas.

We heard testimony from workers who described inhumane working conditions at Pacific oil fields and discrimination and repression against those who attempted to speak out and improve those conditions. 

The Colombian oil workers union, USO (Union Sindical Obrera), was invited to represent oil workers contracted by Pacific Rubiales Energy in Puerto Gaitan due to a series of complaints about working conditions, including the following; poor sanitation and toilet facilities at worker oil camps, cramped living quarters, the use of ‘hot beds’ (a system where one bed is shared by multiple workers using shifts), insufficient access to clean water, employment insecurity due to the use of 28 day contracts and uncompensated labour. In response, Pacific Rubiales Energy fired 90 per cent of the workers affiliated with USO and used the threat of unemployment to suppress any support for, or activity by, the union.

These types of rights violations do not provide a fertile ground upon which to celebrate a Pan American identity, and we cannot imagine that the Pan American food festival and the Harbourfront Centre would knowingly engage with such an irresponsible company. We know that Torontonian’s from both the Latin American and Caribbean community and the community at large would be outraged to have a cultural festival associated with such an irresponsible corporation. 

As  David Coles, former president of Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) said in his recent article on Pacific Rubiales Energy: “ As Canadians we need to stand up to say not in our name' when corporations like PRE do things that would never be permitted in this country.

We implore you to rethink Pacific Rubiales Energy as a sponsor of your event to avoid being associated with corporate greed and exploitation.

Canadian-Cuban Friendship Association Toronto

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario

Council of Canadians (Toronto)

Circulo Bolivariano Louis Riel

Committee for Human Rights in Latin America

Common Frontiers

Grupo Cultural Victor Jara

Latin American Trade Unionists Coalition (LATUC Ontario Chapter)

Latin American-Canadian Solidarity Association

Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN)

Ontario Public Services Employees Union (Social Justice Fund)

Projet Accompagnement Solidarité Colombie 

The Colombia Action Solidarity Alliance (CASA)

The Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network (LACSN)

Toronto Bolivia Solidarity

Toronto Forum on Cuba

Toronto Haiti Action Committee (THAC)

Unifor – the Union

United Steelworkers (USW)

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