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John Bonnar is an independent journalist covering social justice events in and around Toronto through print, photo, audio, video and slideshows. You can connect with him on Facebook (John Bonnar) or on Twitter at @johnb98 or on YouTube at johnb98.

Occupy Toronto stages successful protest against Barrick Gold

| May 3, 2012
Rally organizer Sakura Saunders addressed demonstrators outside the InterContinental Hotel during Wednesday's rally. Protesters crossed the street and tried to confront shareholders but were met with a line of bicycle police.

Following a successful May Day rally and march, Occupy Toronto held their ground and refused to budge after they “re-occupied” Simcoe Park in downtown Toronto Tuesday evening.

When police threatened - at the request of the City - to arrest and remove protesters from the park if they stayed past midnight, Occupy held a General Assembly and unanimously decided to stay put.

Click here to see more photos from Wednesday's rally.

Twenty minutes later, Toronto Parks and Recreation reversed their decision.

Occupy: 1 City of Toronto: 0.

Organizers had purposely chosen Simcoe Park because it lies directly across the street from the Metro Convention Centre, where Barrick Gold was holding its Annual Shareholders’ Meeting on Wednesday morning.

“We chose this location because Barrick Gold is emblematic of the problems with the 1 per cent controlling everything,” said rally organizer Sakura Saunders.

“Barrick is a horrible company.”

In the past, Barrick Gold has been accused of creating poverty, wreaking environmental destruction and committing human rights violations in various countries where it operates.

“Yet this same company is honoured in our society,” said Saunders.

Peter Munk, founder and chairman of mining company Barrick Gold, has received several honourary degrees and became an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1993. 

“Treason, treason, treason,” chanted the crowd of over 100 supporters that surrounded Saunders at Wednesday morning’s shareholders’ meeting protest in Simcoe Park.

Not only has Munk angered protesters with the way his company operates in countries like Australia, Chile, Papua New Guinea and Tanzania, his insensitive remarks have also caused quite a stir in the past.

Like when he said, “Maybe I'm less sensitive to these issues because I see that what people need first is economic security, and only when they have that can they afford to focus on human rights.”

That’s assuming they’re still alive.

A number of speakers at Wednesday’s rally expressed their utter revulsion with Barrick’s business practices.

They said, “Barrick takes advantage of inadequate and poorly enforced regulatory controls to rob indigenous people of their lands, destroy sensitive ecosystems and agricultural land, support brutal police and security operations, and sue anyone who tries to report on it.”

They also disapproved of Munk’s personal contribution of $35 million to the University of Toronto for the establishment of the Munk School of Global Affairs, which they alleged was negotiated and approved privately and “provides Munk with influence over the school's curriculum and spells out the conditions under which the School will house the Canadian International Council (CIC), a right-wing think tank.”

Protesters eagerly awaited shareholders to leave the Convention Centre on Front Street after the meeting so they could confront them with a different kind of report on the company’s business situation.

No such luck. 

Shareholders left through an alternative exit. The south entrance to the building and the InterContinental Hotel was fortified with a line of bicycle cops preventing protesters from entering the building. 

But three protesters did manage to attend the shareholders’ meeting and report back to the group.

Apparently Munk was prepared to meet personally with protesters during Tuesday night’s rally and march to defend his company’s record. 

But his driver decided otherwise.

Smartest decision yet by a Munk employee. Maybe Munk should consider letting his driver run the company for a while.

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