Letter from Pierre Pettigrew, responding to questions on EDC-backed Urra dam

November 3, 2000

Pierre Pettigrew, Minister for International Trade and responsible for the Export Development Corporation, responds to a letter questioning EDC’s involvement in the trouble-plagued Urra dam in Colombia.


Dear [Probe International Supporter]:

A copy of your letter to your Member of Parliament concerning the involvement of the Export Development Corporation (EDC) in the Urra Dam project in Colombia has been brought to my attention for reply as EDC reports to Parliament through the Minister for International Trade.

I am informed that the Urra project was approved by the government of Colombia in 1989 on condition that the project sponsor would develop a plan to address the project’s environmental and socioeconomic effects. EDC was asked to finance the supply of certain construction equipment and services by a Canadian company in 1992. EDC’s participation amounted to less than 3% of the project’s total cost.

Subsequent complaints that the sponsor’s plans were inadequate were reviewed by the Colombian Supreme Court, which withheld permission to fill the dam until an agreement between the sponsor and complainants could be reached. When negotiations failed, the court imposed a settlement on the parties and permitted filling to begin.

The Canadian Ambassador has discussed at length with the Colombian Environment Minister our concerns about the treatment and compensation of indigenous groups displaced by the Urra dam. The Colombian Minister, who has a distinguished record of defending aboriginal interests in Colombia, believes every reasonable effort was made to meet the demands of those affected by Urra. It is my understanding that all of the affected persons have now accepted this settlement.

Canada will continue to promote sustainable development practices internationally. In the government’s response to a recent parliamentary review of EDC’s operations, we undertook to give statutory authority to EDC’s environmental review procedures, to arrange for the independent review of those procedures by the Auditor General, and to provide the Corporation with up-to-date information on human rights conditions in countries where EDC conducts its business. On its own initiative, EDC is developing a framework to guide more disclosure of corporate information, consistent with its commercial imperatives. Over its 56-year history, EDC has demonstrated its effectiveness in bringing economic benefits to Canadians, and in playing an equally vital role in promoting Canadian values globally. The steps announced in the response will help the Corporation do both these jobs even better.

I would like to thank you for taking the time to outline your views.


Pierre S. Pettigrew

c.c. Mr. John O’Reilly, M.P.

For more information on the Urra dam, Colombia:
“Compensation for EDC-financed dam falls short for Colombia’s indigenous communities”
Probe Alert, September 2000.
Probe International Press Release, August 2000.
“LatAm indigenous groups claim Canada finances forced dislocation”, Agence-France Presse, April 3, 2001

Categories: EDC, Export Credit, News

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