Ending family violence was the top subject on Red Deer MP Earl Dreeshen’s recent Central America trip.
He led a delegation of another Conservative MP, a New Democrat MP, Liberal MP and Liberal senator on a week-long trip last month to Guatemala and El Salvador. The trip was sponsored by ParlAmericas, an independent network of government leaders who share a hemispheric dialogue on common issues.
Dreeshen said Guatemalan gang issues “not particularly related to drugs create great disparity in family dynamics.
“There’s a lot of family violence and violence against women. These are things our different non-governmental organizations are looking at and trying to assist them with.”
In El Salvador, talk with legislators and academics was about judicial reform. El Salvador has one of the world’s highest murder rates, gangs routinely extort money from businesses and prosecution rates are low for numerous crimes.
“Charges are often laid, but it’s difficult for the system to make the charges stick,” explained Dreeshen, adding that domestic violence rates are very high.
“We need to assist prosecutors in training their police forces. They have to move from one type of system to another.”
The delegation also met with the Canadian-Guatemalan Chamber of Commerce about constructing mining and power generation facilities.
“Mining is a big issue there, but there are difficulties in developing infrastructure,” Dreeshen said.
“Companies develop their own schools, health facilities and so on and they’re usually in remote areas.”
Resentment occurs in towns left out of mining investment.
“If you open it to be in that community, you see all this development. If you’re not in that community, then you’re frustrated.”
Numerous Canadian gold and silver mining companies say they bring jobs and development to Guatemala while critics say the companies use intimidation and violence to force indigenous people from their land.
Discussions on drug and human trafficking were held with the U.S. government’s Drug Enforcement Agency and several non-government organizations.
“Drugs coming from South America have to work through that corridor and move into North America. It ties back to business concerns, the safety of investments from industry.”
Ensuring government services after elections is also a problem.
“When they change from one government to another, there are some concerns about their public services. It’s hard to get continuity there.”
Dreeshen said the trip was an opportunity to “let them know what Canada is doing and bring some of the Canadian experience to them.”