Hon. Jane Cordy:
Honourable senators, on January 30, Senator Bernard and I had the privilege of meeting with three women from Mexico who spoke about human rights violations in their country. They were accompanied by Kathy Price from Amnesty International.
Alicia Bustamante, an indigenous woman, spoke about the human rights violations of indigenous people in Mexico. She told us about the plundering of their forests by big business, which uses its money to influence government authorities in order to acquire permission to do this.
Honourable senators, 38 kilometres of highway have been built through their forests with the approval of the Mexican government.
Martha Camacho was abducted in the 1970s because she was a political dissident. She was pregnant and delivered her baby while captive. She was also blindfolded and beaten. Martha was released after her parents paid a ransom to her abductors.
Honourable senators, there are 33,000 recorded disappearances in Mexico, but many more incidents go unreported. The truly unfortunate thing is that the Mexican authorities are doing very little to investigate these disappearances. Families of missing people have come together to form the movement of the disappeared. Fifty-two local groups of families are working to keep the issue of Mexican disappearances in the public eye in hopes that their government will take positive action.
Michelle Quevedo spoke about her brother who disappeared in 2014 at the age of 19. There was no support from the authorities, so families were left to carry out their own searches at their own risk. Unfortunately, Michelle’s boyfriend and another brother were killed while trying to rescue her captured brother. Her family has had to move and has had to hire personal bodyguards for their own protection.
Honourable senators, Michelle’s brother’s remains were found in December of 2017.
Recently, a national search committee was established in Mexico. A law calling for a DNA bank and a national registry of disappeared people is to be established. This will help to identify victims, and, honourable senators, this is a good start.
There were concerns expressed by the Mexican women that this law may not be implemented because no budget has been provided. There is a need for specialized police to seek disappeared persons and for prosecutors to bring the perpetrators to justice. Without a budget, things will not change because the new proposals brought forward will be ineffective and will not be implemented.
Honourable senators, I would like to publicly thank Martha Camacho, Michelle Quevedo and Alicia Bustamante for their courage in telling their stories of the human rights violations occurring in their country every day. It is their hope that speaking out about human rights violations in Mexico will provide the impetus for positive change.