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Politics

From: The Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples/Salvadoreans/Lisa Kowalchuk

No systematic information is available on the participation by Salvadoreans in Canadian political life. More prominent is their activism on behalf of their homeland, manifest in Canadian offshoots of the political organizations that together make up the FMLN. That organization was born when, in 1980, five groups, each consisting of a guerrilla army and a political organization, were unified under a single military command. These groups espoused divergent ideologies and revolutionary strategies, but their differences were submerged in the imperative of fighting the civil war.

Throughout Canada in the early 1980s, members of the component groups of the FMLN formed branches in such major cities as Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa, Kingston, and Montreal, a process that also occurred in other countries with Salvadorean immigrants. The structure of FMLN organizations in Canada and their relations with the parent groups in El Salvador became increasingly institutionalized in the mid-1980s, and they gradually established relations with Canadian labour unions, student groups, churches, and academics. Together with these organizations and individuals, the FMLN lobbied for changes in Canadian aid and immigration policy towards El Salvador, coordinated speaking tours by social activists, and denounced human-rights violations in the homeland. Despite their independent existence, the five organizations have occasionally worked together on common projects at the local level.

With the end of the civil war in El Salvador, the FMLN’s activities in Canada have focused on the peace process: petitioning the United Nations and the Salvadorean government for compliance with the peace accords and raising funds for the FMLN’s participation as a political party in the momentous elections of March 1994. In the aftermath of those elections, the culmination of more than a decade of collective action for many FMLN members in Canada, their work is unlikely to continue with the same intensity. It also remains to be seen how recent transformations within the FMLN in El Salvador, such as the withdrawal of two of its constituent groups and the unification of the remaining organizations, will affect the activities of members in Canada.