Canada and Colombia: Trade, Aid, and Human Rights

Canada and Colombia: Trade, Aid, and Human Rights

UPDATED October 30, 2017 3:31pmET

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, winner of the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for the agreement that ended the decades-long conflict with FARC, begins a three-day visit to Canada on Sunday.

Watch CPAC and for continuing coverage.

Here’s more on Canada-Colombia relations and recent developments — from the economy to foreign investment, and from human rights to development assistance aimed at moving the years of strife:


  • The Canada-Colombia free trade agreement came into effect in 2011.
  • Colombia is now Canada’s second-largest export market in South America, after Brazil, according to the Canadian government.
  • Canada’s average monthly exports to Colombia have increased 30 per cent in the free trade period.
  • The two countries traded $1.57 billion of merchandise in 2016. Although a slight decline from 2015, this represents a 16-per-cent increase from 2010.
  • In a Friday speech in Bogota, Santos said $4 billion of Canadian investment since 2010 had created about 4,000 Colombian jobs.
  • Groups have urged Canada has been urged to do more about corporate social responsibility: Indigenous consultation and consent, along with human rights protection — especially in the resource sector.
  • The Canadian Labour Congress and Colombian unions have complained that Colombia has not abided by free trade agreement rules on freedom of association and collective bargaining, nor done enough to prevent anti-labour violence.


  • The Colombian government’s 2016 ceasefire and subsequent peace agreement with FARC, after five decades of conflict, remains a contentious issue ahead of the May 2018 presidential election. Voters narrowly rejected the initial agreement in an October referendum; a new pact followed.
  • According to a 2017 report by the Canadian government, although Colombia’s homicide and kidnapping rates have fallen, concerns remain on several fronts: forced displacement, sexual and gender-based violence, human rights in rural areas (farmers and Indigenous Colombians), a resurgence of paramilitary groups, and the effectiveness of the justice system. As well, the murder rate for human rights defenders and community leaders has increased in recent years in regions where armed conflict remains.
  • Canada committed $78.4 million to the Colombian peace process in 2016, for everything from land mine removal and rural development to police reform and justice. This included the biggest contribution ($20 million) to the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Post-Conflict in Colombia.
  • Canadian foreign aid to Colombia since 2011 has totaled $240 million, according to the government.
  • The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development visited Colombia last year. Its report included a call for Canada to focus on women’s rights and the reintegration of FARC fighters into Colombian society. Read the government response.

Also: Census numbers released last week indicate that more Colombian-born persons emigrated to Canada between 2011 and 2016 than from any other South American country. For the entire Americas, only the United States, Haiti, and Mexico saw more immigrants.

Perspective with Alison Smith looked at the FARC peace agreement in December 2016. Interviews included Nicolas Lloreda, Colombia’s ambassador to Canada, and Marc Gonsalves, a former FARC hostage:

-Andrew Thomson