Canadian Union condemns repression of demonstrators on National March for Health

August 26, 2015

On 19 August clinic and hospital directors, nurses and health services users’ organizations, pensioners, medical unions, service providers such as ambulances, medical faculties and interns took part in the national march for health. Demonstrators claimed that the Colombian government, Health Insurance Companies and the Ministry of Health are not taking fundamental decisions needed to guarantee health as a basic right. 

In Medellin, demonstrators were marching peacefully when they were violently attacked by the police’s Mobile Anti Disturbances Squadron (ESMAD) and by the Metropolitan Police. They were attacked with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets. Demonstrators said more than three people were wounded. 

The right to demonstrate peacefully, even though it is a human right subsumed under freedom of assembly and freedom of expression deserves to be treated in a special way since it represents a method of civil action to demand and defend rights. It is highly vulnerable to reactions by the State and to State policies incompatible with human rights. Situation of Public Demonstrations Annual Report CIDH 2005. 

Demonstrating peacefully is one of the rights that most clearly reveals the level of respect and responsibility a state shows to human rights and shows how strong its democratic institutions are in preventing the abusive or violent use of public power against its own citizens 

The British Colombia Government Employees Union is one of the biggest and most diverse unions in British Colombia; it represents approximately 65,000 members in the private sector and in public services. 

We demand that the Colombian government respects the rights of its citizens and the freedom of association.