A Brazilian mine is seen in this 2008 file photo. More than 160 Latin American groups are calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to heed the call of a letter they signed calling for mining justice in their region. CNS photo/EPA

PM urged to hold Canadian mining companies to account for abuses

By 
  • May 11, 2016

OTTAWA – The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to heed a letter from more than 160 Latin American organizations that has raised concerns about the operations of Canadian mining companies abroad.

Development and Peace and Mining Watch Canada released the open letter calling for mining justice. Sent in late April from a range of Caritas Internationalis partners, human rights, environmental, legal, indigenous and farmer organizations from the Global South, the signatories said they hoped the Liberal government would adopt “a legislative framework that would hold state agencies and companies to account for abuses related to Canadian mining companies’ overseas operations.”

“As activists, Latin American organizations and networks, along with international groups and organizations that have partners in Latin America, we are aware of and concerned about the human rights violations committed by Canadian mining companies operating in the region,” the letter said.

“Over the past few years, Hondurans have suffered negative impacts of Canadian mining, including pollution of our environment and of our water supplies by heavy metals, and communities’ rights to free, prior and informed consent have been ignored,” said Honduran Pedro Landa, whose Jesuit-run organization, Fundacion ERIC, is a signatory of the letter.

“A response to this letter is urgently needed from the Canadian government, given heightened repression of mining-affected communities in the region defending their land, water and well-being,” said Jen Moore, Latin America co-ordinator for MiningWatch. “Not only are Latin organizations insisting on accountability for harms, but that harms be prevented in the first place.”

Among the letter’s recommendations are: respect for the rights of indigenous communities to “free, prior and informed consent” for any mining activities on their territories; an end to Canadian government trade, diplomatic or aid pressure to modify regulations for mining and extractive projects; access to Canadian courts for those seeking justice or reparations for abuses; and “creation of objective and impartial means to effectively monitor and investigate complaints of abuses in connection with Canadian mining companies abroad.”

“This document was delivered to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and to the Canadian Mission to the Organization of American States, the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Canadian embassies in countries where the 22 mining projects examined in the report operate, namely: Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia, Chile, Argentina and Peru,” said the April 25 letter to Trudeau. “This report recognizes the efforts of various Canadian parliamentarians, including members of the Liberal Party, towards the adoption of a legislative framework that would hold Canadian mining companies accountable for their acts carried out overseas.”

The letter praised Liberal MP John McKay’s Bill C-300 which called for a legislation to hold Canadian mining companies accountable for environmental and human rights abuses abroad, a bill the letter noted Trudeau supported. This bill failed to pass by only six votes in 2010.

The letter opens with an expression of “satisfaction at the change in the political landscape that has followed (Trudeau’s) election as leader of the Canadian government,” such as the creation of a diverse cabinet commitment to the rights of indigenous peoples and a constructive approach to climate change negotiations.

“Several of the signatory organizations are partner organizations of Development and Peace whose work in the field has been directly affected by Canadian mining,” said Development and Peace’s Latin American program officer Mary Durran in a news release. “We support their demands for improved oversight by Ottawa of Canadian companies in their overseas operations.”

Development and Peace called attention to the letter’s observation that “Canada’s human rights performance deteriorated considerably, not only in the eyes of the international community, but also from the perspective of the individuals, peoples and communities that live with the negative impacts of Canadian extractive projects” under previous governments.

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