Canada and murder of environmentalists under Liberal and Conservative governments

80 posts / 0 new
Last post
Canada and murder of environmentalists under Liberal and Conservative governments

Berta Cáceres Goldman Environmental Prize winner in 2015

Honduran indigenous leader Berta Cáceres herself had warned  that Canadian hydroelectric giant Blue Energy had issued death threats to her shortly before her murder in 2016 because of her activism in resisting unwanted development projects on Indigenous territory in Honduras. Even though she had won the prestigous Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015, both for her work and in an attempt to provide her some protection through making her issues known abroad, the Trudeau government did nothing to help her or to address the issues she raised both before and after her death. In 2016 Cáceres "was assassinated in her home by armed intruders, after years of threats against her life. ... Twelve environmental activists were killed in Honduras in 2014, according to research by Global Witness, making it the most dangerous country in the world, relative to its size, for activists protecting forests and rivers. Her murder was followed by those of two more activists within the same month." (áceres)

In August 2019, the Trudeau government put out a ombudsman guideline for Canadian firms operating abroad that is so useless it caused the environmental group Mining Watch and 13 other civil society organizations to resign in protest.

Murdered Honduran Indigenous activist Berta Caceres warned on multiple occasions that she had received death threats and other harassment from state and corporate agents, including Canadian hydroelectric giant Blue Energy, as a result of her activism resisting unwanted development projects on Indigenous territory. Caceres made statements last April claiming that “men close to Blue Energy,” a transnational Canadian company looking to build a dam in the Rio Blanco area in western Honduras, or people “close to politicians” and “death squads promoted from government policies” were behind the death threats leveled against her. “I have received direct death threats, threats of kidnapping, or disappearance, of lynching, of pummeling the vehicle I use, threats of kidnapping my daughter, persecution, surveillance, sexual harassment, and also campaigns in the national media of powerful sectors,” Caceres told EFE last year.

Caceres, co-founder of the Indigenous organization COPINH and prominent resistance activist, was a key leader of resistance movements in Rio Blanco against corporate development projects being launched without local consent.



As the election writ was about to be dropped the Trudeau Liberal government put out a paper tiger "mandate of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) – once again failing to address the main concerns raised by MiningWatch Canada and many other civil society members." However, Mining Watch and 13 other "civil society organizations resigned from a federal advisory committee after the federal government took away powers to investigate from the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE)," because they saw its as toothless and doing nothing to solve the problem. I guess when you lobby the Trudeau Liberals 530 times in 15 months, like the mining industry, you get rules that suit you perfectly. 

report released today by the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project shows that the two mining industry associations, the Mining Association of Canada and the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, lobbied the federal government 530 times between January 2018 and April 2019. (

This is just a continuation of non-action by Canadian governments over decades on human rights for environmentalists harmed by Canadian corporations. 

MiningWatch, other members of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, and Professor Surya Deva of the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights  have repeatedly pointed out that the Ombuds’ mandate fails to provide the most critical characteristics of an ombudsperson tasked with investigating allegations of human rights abuses by Canadian corporations operating overseas: independence and the powers to compel witnesses and documents. ...

“We need answers,” says MiningWatch spokesperson Catherine Coumans. She asks, “Why has the government failed to release the legal study it commissioned? Why has the government revised the ombudsperson’s Order-in-Council in the dying days of its mandate, but again failed to give her the necessary powers to compel evidence?”

The ongoing failure by Minister Carr to answer these questions leads to only one conclusion; once again, in the face of a massive mining industry lobby, the government has failed to show the political will to hold Canadian companies to account for serious human rights abuses.

On August 19, MiningWatch Canada resigned from its position as an alternate on the government’s Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Body on Responsible Business Conduct Abroad (MSAB). “We have lost confidence that this government is at all serious about human rights when it comes to the activities of Canadian companies operating overseas,” says Coumans, adding, “If it will not empower the ombudsperson to do her job effectively, then what is the point in talking about other possible business and human rights initiatives?”


The Trudeau Liberal government has continued previous Canadian government's failing to curb in any way corporate Canada's abuse of the environment and murder of environmentalists in Third World countries. This is tragic, especially when it comes to Canada's mining companies that dominate much of the industry globally, carrying out murder and sexual abuse, especially with regard to environmentalists, with impunity. These firms are also allowed to destroy forests that store megatons of carbon dioxide in their pursuit of profits. 

Drone footage shows denuded forest landscapes around the Kirazli mine site in northwestern Turkey, whose Canadian owner, Alamos Gold, is facing local opposition over the project's environmental impact.COURTESY OF CANAKKALE MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT


​Since 75 per cent of the world’s mining and exploration companies are based in Canada and 40 per cent of global mining capital is raised on the Toronto Stock Exchange, it’s easy to argue that Canada is the world leader in this industry. Mining interests influence international aid, dictate the activities of our foreign diplomats and prescribe the conditions of our multilateral investment and “free  trade” agreements.

When it comes to abuse by mining companies, Canada also reigns supreme. Killings and sexual abuse by security forces and unchecked environmental devastation are regularly reported occurrences at Canadian mining sites around the world. Barrick Gold, the company founded by Peter Munk, does not escape this seeming industry norm. 

The company has acknowledged a massacre at one of its mines and compensated 120 women and girls who were gang raped at another of its sites with just over $10,000 each in exchange for signing an agreement not to sue. 

Beyond facing charges of human rights abuses, Barrick and Munk’s associated social enterprises have been accused on numerous occasions of thwarting efforts to correct the Canadian regulatory framework that allows these violations to continue. As such, it will be interesting to see how much Canadian mining impunity will feature in the foreign-policy debate hosted by none other than the Munk Debates, at Roy Thomson Hall on Monday (September 28).

According to a 2005 report from the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, “Canada does not yet have laws to ensure that the activities of Canadian mining companies in developing countries conform to human rights standards, including the rights of workers and of indigenous peoples.” 

This landmark report, the result of years of advocacy on human rights abuses at Canadian mine sites, spurred a multi-year process known as the Canadian Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the Canadian Extractive Industry. ...

Despite the painstaking effort, the report’s proposals were ignored by the Harper government. ...

The state of mining injustice today is horrifying, and it’s essential that these issues be aired to curtail the current level of impunity enjoyed by mining companies abroad.


Why has this been allowed to continue? In part, because Canadian laws have been extremely weak in dealing with this, and the natural resource sector feels comfortable operating from Canada where the Trudeau government continues to do nothing to meaningfully to address the issue despite lobbying for social justice and environmental groups. There are lax environmental laws within Canada as well as the Mount Polley tailings ponds breach is just one example.

Image result for Canadian mining and environmental disaster pictures

The breach of a tailings pond at the Mount Polley copper and gold mine in B.C. has released five million cubic metres of mining wastewater into local waterways. (Cariboo Regional District)

All over the world, companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and run out of lawyer’s offices on Bay Street or skyscrapers in downtown Vancouver (whose real financiers may live in Australia or Nevada) are handling the mining game at home, throughout parts of Asia, South America and surprisingly, even with all the talk of China’s investment in Africa, it turns out that it’s Canada, not China, who is quietly dominating and exploiting African mining. All told, almost 1,300 mining companies based out of Canada are investing hundreds of billions of dollars in over 100 countries around the world.

So the question is, why? What makes Canada such an attractive option for the ‘extractive sector’? Canadians don’t own all of these mining companies—but these organizations do plop their headquarters down here—what is it about this country that makes it such an industry haven?

I asked Jamie Kneen, research coordinator with Ottawa based MiningWatch Canada, a non-profit organization that describes itself as “a direct response to industry and government failures to protect the public and the environment from destructive mining practices and to deliver on their sustainability rhetoric.” Just why it is that Canada is the go-to place for mining companies to set up shop?

“There’s two sides to it,” he said. “One is that there is a concentration of expertise in mining finance and mining law, it does have a historical basis” He is of course referring to the various Canadian gold rushes, the nickel deposits in Sudbury, coal in Cape Breton, etc. “The other side is that Canada provides very favourable conditions. The listing requirements for the TSX are pretty lax, the disclosure requirements are pretty lax, you don’t have to have Canadian directories or Canadian shareholders to be a Canadian company... and the Canadian government doesn’t ask too many questions about whether you’re paying your taxes in other jurisdictions (i.e. foreign countries where the mines are operating).”


Here are more examples of Canada's mining industry's involvement in these murders and lax to non-existent environmental laws that have repeatedly led to death.  

Barrick Gold Corporation is a name that comes up on a number of issues. Based out of the TD Canada Trust Tower at 161 Bay Street in Toronto, their gold mine in Papua New Guinea has been the site of fatal shootings as well as of hundreds of rapes, gang rapes,and beatings of indigenous women by the mine’s security forces. Barrick has acknowledged the problem by offering victims some compensation—on the agreement they sign away their rights to ever legally sue. I wasn’t able to find any evidence of Canadian government investigation or intervention in the matter.

In the Congo in 2005, Anvil Mining Ltd, based out of Quebec, allegedly provided logistical support and transportation to the Congolese militaryas it made its way to the port city of Kilwa where it massacred hundreds of people. A Canadian organization representing survivors of the massacre, the Canadian Association Against Impunity—whose mandate is to hold mining companies in Africa accountable for their actions—had their class-action suit thrown out by the Supereme Court of Canada, saying the complaint should be heard in the Congo (whose military the mine supported). This, again, reinforces my understanding that our mining companies can act with impunity overseas, without the threat of any legal repercussions in Canada.

Calgary based TVI Pacific has employed its own paramilitary force in a remote region of the Philippines to intimidate and remove the indigenous population from their ancestral lands so they can mine for gold. In one documented incident, members of TVI’s security force—all of which are employees of Canadian companies—entered the house of a local man, beat him with a hammer, smashed a small-scale piece of mining equipment that he owned – likely his only livelihood – then, just for good measure, slapped his pregnant wife, and shot at the feet of their teenage daughter. ...

The recklessness of Vancouver-based China Gold International left 83 Tibetan miners after a landslide dead in March—a natural disaster that many believe was caused by the environmental disruption that the mining industry has caused in the area. Apparently more than 5,000 Chinese troops were sent in to “serve as rescue efforts” but a Tibetan monk from the area, who lives in Canada, believes they were actually there to curb protests by the locals.

A protest in Vancouver over our mining operations in Tibet

In Central and South America, Canada’s reputation is being dragged through the dirt to the point where in some countries, it’s apparently better for travellers to say they’re American than Canadian, and it’s not hard to see why. Vancouver-based Pacific Rim is suing the government of El Salvador, a country with a GDP of $23 Billion (Canada’s is $1.7 trillion) for $315 million dollars because they didn’t let them follow through with a mine that threatened to pollute the Lempa River—a watershed that accounts for 60% of the country’s clean water.

As if that’s not enough, a region of Guatemala was militarized last month—and the right to protest or form meetings has been suspended by the president—following clashes between local protesters who are concerned for their drinking water and employees of Vancouver-based Tahoe Resources inc.


Canadian mining companies have played a major role in the growing violence against environmentalists. The article found at the url below describes the murder of 37 environmentali activists and their connections to Canadian mining companies. 

1Vigil1.jpg          Blanket: "Canadian Mining Kills"


Four days after the assassination of Honduran indigenous leader Berta Cáceres captured worldwide headlines, a vigil to remind of the blood on Canada’s hands for all those who have died protesting Canadian mining projects abroad interrupted the mining industry’s annual confab in Toronto on Sunday, March 6.

The vigil held by the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network at the convention of the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) was presided over by Anglican priest Maggie Helwig. “We are here to name the dead,” she said.

The names of some two dozen victims of such violence were read out at the PDAC vigil. The protesters were then escorted out by police.

Canadian mining companies are among the worst human rights offenders on the planet. The most recent evidence of that is a 2014 report submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. A 2009 report commissioned by PDAC but never made public also detailed targeted assassinations and persecution of activists and union leaders opposing Canadian projects abroad. 

It’s impossible to know exactly who killed each of these people. The vast majority of the cases have not been solved or in many cases even investigated. But they all have something in common: all were assassinated and all resisted Canadian mining projects.



The murder of 1,780 environmentalists identified in Global Witness's 2002 to 2018 reports is only a small fraction of those murdered globally. Not all of these murders involve Canadian firms nor the mining industry. Many of those attempting to protect the land, water and atmosphere live in remote regions where there is little or no law and their deaths are not even noted officially. Here is the url of the 2017 Global Witness report: (

Image result for Canadian mining and environmental disaster pictures

According to the Brazilian environmental watchdog Comissao Pastoral da Terra (CPT), the death toll in Brazil alone is even worse than that reported by Global Witness. 

More than 1,500 Brazilians have been killed trying to protect the Amazon rain forest over the past 25 years, and some 2,000 more have received death threats. ...

For decades, Brazil has struggled with how to manage the staggering natural resources of the Amazon. The region, which is nearly the size of the contiguous United States, shelters 10 percent of the Earth's known species. The Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental group, estimates that an average four-square-mile plot in the Amazon contains 750 species of trees, 400 species of birds, and 150 species of butterflies. The rich soil means there's also huge financial potential for farming and livestock. In the 1970s, the country's dictatorship inaugurated a policy known as integrar para não entregar (­"Occupy it, or risk losing it"), and a frenetic landgrab ensued. The new land barons seized vast tracts of forest, which they promptly clear-cut. The timber was sold to foreign countries or burned to make charcoal, and the land was planted with soybeans or populated with cattle.

This, in part, has led to Brazil's emergence as a global economic power. It is already the world's largest exporter of beef and the second-largest supplier of soybeans. ...

In July 2011, public outcry over the violence forced the Brazilian government to announce that it would provide protection to approximately 130 threatened activists, and at the end of September, four months after Zé and Maria's deaths, the country's Council of Justice unveiled plans to create a special task force to investigate the killing of activists. According to federal prosecutor Pontes, however, only five of the 40 threatened activists in Pará have received any government protection. A spokeswoman for the Council of Justice said that her office has actually reduced the number of unsolved murders from nearly 700 to 74. ("The court figured that a dispute over land was not the main reason behind many of the murders," she said.)

Brent Rushforth, a lawyer in Washington, D.C., who in 2005 helped Brazil prosecute the killers of a 73-year-old American nun and rain forest activist named Dorothy Stang, blames flaws in the country's legal system for the inefficacy of these programs. "Brazilian criminal law is a stew that's made up of common law, Napoleonic code, and Brazilian salsa," Rushforth says. "The Amazon is so vast and completely unfettered to any true rule of law." Rushforth says that to find the men who killed Stang, the Brazilian government had to send its army into the rain forest – and it did so only in response to international pressure.

Many believe that the Brazilian legislature operates under the undue influence of the ranchers, who have the money to win favor. ...

 The Brazilian congress voted to amend the country's forest code, granting amnesty to ranchers who have illegally cleared land while also reducing the percentage of holdings that they're required to preserve. As an ecologist with Greenpeace put it, "Brazil woke up to the news of the murders of two leading environmental activists, and it's going to bed with the murder of the forest code."

Meanwhile, the killings and death threats continue.



In 2018, Climate Change News noted that the most dangerous place for activists and indigenous communities was the Philippines, which saw 30 murders, according to the latest Global Witness report. (Photo: Cassi Gurell/Flickr) (

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is known as a dictatorial thug for good reason, having said that he has personally thrown a corrupt poltician out of a helicopter, promising to kill 100,000 criminals in his first six months in office (currently "An average 1,015 people have been reportedly killed each month by police or vigilantes since Duterte took office on June 30.") (

Ironically, in view of his own atrocious human rights abuse record, one of the reasons for his popularity is his threat to kick the ten Canadian mining companies out of the country because of their record of cooperating in murder and sexual abuse. Of course his record never matched his promise. 

He has also said foreign mining companies, including Canadian firms, need to "shape up" and would prefer Filipino ownership. This may well be an attempt to reward his own cronies, but with the murderous record of Canadian and other foreign mining firms they have no local support and are worried, despite saying otherwise.

I have no faith that a Duterte-led Filipino set of cronies would be much better, but it just might send a message to foreign firms that being so ruthless could be costly to their own interests.

New Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte may make headlines because of his outspoken (and often controversial) ways, but his approach to mining will have a substantial impact on foreign firms — including several Canadian companies.

Duterte, who is known for his tough stance on crime and disregard for due process, said after winning the country’s presidential election in May that mining companies in the Philippines need to “shape up”. He went on to say he prefers mining assets to be owned by locals, rather than foreign companies.

That was followed by the naming of committed environmentalist Regina Lopez to head the country’s natural resources department, which set off uncertainty for foreign firms operating in the Philippines. One industry official told Reuters the sector is “shell shocked” by Lopez’s appointment.

For their parts, the 10 listed Canadian mining companies operating in the Philippines said they are not concerned, according to the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), a leading industry group.

“PDAC supports responsible mineral exploration and mining everywhere in the world, including the Philippines and the rest of Southeast Asia,” said PDAC executive director Andrew Cheatle in a statement. “Each (of the 10 Canadian firms) is expected to observe the highest environmental and social responsibility standards. … We fully support responsible exploration and improved regulatory processes in the Philippines.”

Other observers have been less optimistic. Dave Forest, managing geologist for the Pierce Points resource-industry newsletter, called Lopez’s views on open-pit mining “horrific” evidence that the Filipino minister has taken one of the strongest anti-mining stances ever by a government official. It could put the industry at risk, he said in an analysis.

“Strong anti-mining sentiment seems to be permeating all levels of authority in the country,” Forest wrote, adding that foreign mining operations may soon face full-scale reviews if violations are discovered. “Here’s to knowing when to fold ’em.”


Another example of how the Canadian government and courts fail to do anything to stop the murder of environmentalists occurred in Mexico. 

Abarca, Chiapas, August 19 (Otros Mundos).jpeg

On August 19, the Abarca family held a press conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the murder of Mariano Abarca over his opposition to Canadian mining operations in Mexico - Courtesy of Otros Mundos

On August 19, members of the Abarca family, along with a number of Mexican organizations, held a press conference in San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico, to mark the 10th anniversary of the murder of Mariano Abarca.

The former community leader was gunned down in broad daylight outside his home in November 2009. 

The Federal Court of Canada recently decided not to order the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner to investigate alleged “actions and omissions” on the part of officials at the Canadian embassy in Mexico City in the months leading up to Abarca's death. 

Abarca had gone to the embassy to report threats and allegations of harassment against community members in Chiapas opposed to a barite mine in Chicomuselo operated by Calgary-based Blackfire Exploration. ...

In a 26-page decision published on July 18, Federal Court Justice Keith Boswell conceded that “perhaps Mariano Abarca would not have been murdered” if the embassy had “acted in a certain way.” But Boswell determined that the integrity commissioner’s decision not to investigate the actions of embassy officials was acceptable. Moreover, he ruled that it was “reasonable” to conclude that Canadian embassy officials in Mexico did not violate any code of conduct. Officials had travelled to Chiapas to discuss issues with locals and mining officials. 

But the judge appears to have based this conclusion on the presumption that Canadian government policies related to corporate social responsibility, corruption, and human rights are not binding on embassy officials.


The links between the Trudeau government and SNC Lavalin include its involvement in eniviromental disasters that resulted in death and human rights abuses. Of course this continues the legacy of inaction of previous Liberal and Conservative governments on this issue.

PDAC 2019.jpg

Mining Injustice Solidarity Network

Activists remind participants at the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada convention in Toronto last week of mining disasters abroad.

In January, a tailings dam broke at Vale’s Córrego do Feijão mine in Brazil, releasing massive amounts of toxic sludge and killing several hundred people. It was the Brazilian company’s second dam disaster in three years, yet there was only mild acknowledgement at a session Vale co-sponsored before it was on to other business.

Additionally, Canadian-based PDAC sponsors Hudbay Minerals and Pan American Silver are currently the subjects of massive lawsuits alleging human rights abuses at their operations abroad. Toronto-based Barrick Gold, another PDAC sponsor, remains a perennial target of human rights allegations following highly-publicized incidents at mining operations in Tanzania and Papua New Guinea.

Conducting operations in developing countries can be complicated when corruption and regime change can be part of the reality of doing business. Mining companies also face tremendous financial and logistical hurdles with exploration.

But it’s also true that Canada has overlooked opportunities to establish a legally binding code to govern the behaviour of Canadian companies overseas. Liberal MP John McKay introduced Bill C-300 in 2010, which would have allowed Export Development Canada and Canadian trade commissions and embassies to withdraw support from companies convicted in court of violations.

But following fierce lobbying, including at PDAC, the bill was voted down, despite the Liberals and NDP holding the balance of power in the House at the time over a Stephen Harper minority government that was all too willing to cut their corporate friends slack.

The Harper government also opposed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which provides for prior and informed consent on activities on their lands. The declaration was adopted under Trudeau in 2016. Still, what constitutes free, prior and informed consent varies widely, with consent in Canada instead achieved by mining companies and Indigenous leaders signing so-called impact-benefit agreements. ...

As questions whether the Justin Trudeau government tried to shield Quebec engineering giant SNC-Lavalin from bribery charges over the company’s past dealings in Libya dominated headlines last week, the mining industry’s biggest players gathered at the annual Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) conference in Toronto.

Issues of ethics and law were all over the agenda as more than 30,000 consultants, investors and government officials from around the world descended on the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Just like SNC-Lavalin, which has a hand in most of Canada’s biggest public infrastructure projects and a multitude of other activities abroad, Canadian mining – nearly 60 per cent of which raises funds through the Toronto Stock Exchange – is trying to clean up its act.

Corporate social responsibility has been a focus at successive PDAC conventions. ...

Investors were reminded of that fact when environmental activists managed to get by security and unfurl a banner overlooking the trade floor pointing out mining abuses in Brazil. Within minutes, the activists were escorted outside.


Canada plays a major role in Mexican mining and also has a terrible record there. 



An employee of a Canadian-owned gold mine in Cocula, Mexico is among two people still missing days after local police freed ten others said to be victims of a kidnapping. The group was travelling in an SUV about 30 minutes outside of Coculaon Friday when kidnappers dressed as police or military personnel abducted them. 

Mexico's interior ministry said Sunday that ten of the victims were "rescued" by local Mexican forces, with one being treated for a gunshot wound. Three of the victims were hired at Media Luna on contract.

It all happened in the troubled Mexican state of Guerrero, where 43 student-teachers were allegedly murdered and burned to ashes in September by Mexican narco-traffickers colluding with state forces. ...

The recent kidnapping is just the latest in a dizzying web of corruption, collusion, and human rights abuses that constantly revolve around Canadian-owned mines in Latin America. 

And while Cocula is a case unique to Mexico's troubled political landscape, it serves as a reminder for Canadians to more closely examine perhaps the nation's best-kept secret: our mining companies are under accusation of constant human rights breaches.

Canadian mining activity in Latin America has skyrocketed over the past decade. Acting on 1994's North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canada signed agreements with several Latin American countries to facilitate easy access for resource extraction. Those countries include Peru (2009), Colombia (2011), Panama (2013), and Honduras (2014). As such, five of the top ten locations for Canada's international mining assets in 2014 were Latin American countries. According to Natural Resources Canada, the value of Canadian mining assets abroad reached $148.7 billion in 2012, accounting for 66 percent of all Canadian mining assets. Canadian activities in Mexico are especially pronounced. With nearly 200 companies in operation, Mexico is the top destination for Canadian mining investment outside of Canada. In Guerrero, terror, violence, and intimidation are a daily occurrence and the gold is said to be cheap and easy to mine. Indeed, Canadian companies such as Goldcorp, Newstrike Capital, Alamos Gold, and Torex Gold Resources all have a strong presence there. 

Several experts have pointed to the recent incident in Cocula as part of a battle between armed narco-trafficking groups struggling for power. MiningWatch Canada says it's an "all-out war" between these crime groups in nearly every municipality in Guerrero. 

In Mexico, like in other Latin American countries (including Canadian trade partners Colombia and Peru), foreign mining companies indirectly deal with local narco or paramilitary groups for access.  ...

Countless cases of violence in Mexico are connected to the country's strangling presence of narco-traffickers, but the end result often mirrors that of mineral-rich countries like Colombia, Peru, Honduras, and Guatemala, among others. Locals and activists standing in the way of foreign investment are often met with violence from paramilitary groups. ...

The same trends surface in resource-rich areas across Latin America. In Colombia, Paley has written about the "militarization of the extractive industry," where US-trained energy battalions protected pipelines, roads, and other infrastructure. She says the US-funded "War on Drugs" is used as a pretext to improve conditions for foreign investment. ...

As a result of all of Canada's free-trade agreements with Latin American nations, Kopecky said companies are entering territories without firm regulatory checks. Social corporate responsibility amounts to little more than propaganda for many of these companies. ​


Canadian corporations are dominant players throughout Latin America.

Canadian mining doing serious environmental harm, the IACHR is told

Operations in nine Latin American countries continue with explicit Canadian state support, says report

 The Entre Mares mine in Honduras, one of 22 large-scale mining projects in Latin America featured in a report on Canadian companies presented to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Photograph: CEHPRODEC

The growing role of Canadian mining companies across Latin America has been put under the spotlight at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington following the presentation of a damning report. 

Mining operations by Canadian firms across nine Latin American countries are causing "serious environmental impacts" by destroying glaciers, contaminating water and rivers, and cutting down forest, according to the report, as well as forcibly displacing people, dividing and impoverishing communities, making false promises about economic benefits, endangering people’s health, and fraudulently acquiring property. Some who protest such projects have been killed or seriously wounded, it states, and others persecuted, threatened or accused of being terrorists. 

"Criminal charges such as "sabotage", "terrorism", "rebellion", "conspiracy" and "incitement to commit crime" have been made against social leaders and human rights defenders who oppose and resist the development of industry," it states. 

The report, titled The Impact of Canadian Mining in Latin America and Canada’s responsibility, states that Canadian firms are exploiting weak legal systems in Latin American countries and Canada itself, as well as failing to respect indigenous peoples’ rights, international human rights and social responsibility principles, and supposedly "protected" areas. ...

The organizations [co-authoring the report] have been emphatic that the Canadian authorities are aware of the difficulties regarding each one of the [22] case-studies [cited in the report] and that, despite that, Canada continues to provide political, legal and financial support to companies which commit or tolerate human rights abuses. Canada’s government has advised various governments in countries where its companies operate about changing the law, citizen participation, and areas to be mined. . . Canadian ambassadors have played a commercial relations management role between the companies, the respective state, and Canada itself.

Between 50% and 70% of all mining in Latin America is now done by Canadian firms, the report states, and as of 2012 70% of shares issued by the mining industry worldwide went through the Toronto Stock Exchange.​


Canadian corporations, operating internationally with the support of Liberal and Conservative governments have been involved in many human rights abuses and environmental disasters as their profits soar. 

 Protesters in the community of Casillas, praying for calm amid rumours the army is on its way to evict their anti-mining roadblock. Photograph: Nina Lakhani

In Guatemala, one of the world’s largest silver deposits reaps millions for its Canadian owners but for local farmers the price is their land and even their lives. ...

On a dusty highway, about 50 peasant farmers stand praying in a circle, a makeshift roadblock intended to stop trucks reaching the mine. They have already been violently dispersed by police teargas. Now they fear the army might move in.

The contrast couldn’t be greater: the mine extracted more than $350m (£270m) worth of silver last year. The protesters, men, women and children turning out for 12-hour vigils, eke out a living by farming coffee, maize and small herds of cattle. 

This is a perennial frontline in a deadly battle fought by land rights activists against corporate interests in Guatemala, a clash of interests that have made the country one of the most perilous places in the world for environmentalists, according to the NGO Global Witness.

Since 2010 at least 41 people have been killed – including eight at the Canadian-owned mine, Escobal.


Canada's mining industry is also making itself felt in Brazil as it generates more than $50 billion in profits. 

Canada’s mining industry plays a significant and influential role internationally, with 30 Canadian mining companies operating in Brazil, for example. Further, Canadian mining firms were given advance notice earlier this year about the Brazilian government’s plans to open up a vast region in the Amazon to mineral extraction. Canada’s mining sector contributed $56 billion to Canada’s gross domestic product in 2015. ...

LaPointe emphasized that: “The problem is that the industry is not yet acknowledging publicly that there are too many financially risky, marginal mines that are being permitted.” He maintained that marginally profitable companies and mines are a major part of the problem because they cut corners on safety and don’t have the money to guarantee the safety of people and the environment.


In fact a 2010 report concluded that Canadian firms "are far and away the worst offenders in environmental, human rights and other abuses around the world, according to a global study commissioned by an industry association but never made public.", a record that continues today.

Filipino field technicians work in Lafayette Mining's open pit multi-mineral mine at Rapu Rapu island in the central Philippines, 350 km (217 miles) south of Manila.

“Canadian companies have been the most significant group involved in unfortunate incidents in the developing world,” the report obtained by the Toronto Star concludes.

“Canadian companies have played a much more major role than their peers from Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States” in these incidents, says the Canadian Centre for the Study of Resource Conflict, an independent, non-profit think tank.

The problems involving Canada’s mining and exploration corporations go far beyond workplace issues. “Canadian companies are more likely to be engaged in community conflict, environmental and unethical behaviour, and are less likely to be involved in incidents related to occupational concerns.”

The research surfaced as a long, fierce political battle over legislation to tighten federal government scrutiny of Canadian mining operations abroad comes to a head. Bill C-300, a private member’s bill put forward by Toronto Liberal MP John McKay, will be voted on in the Commons next week.

The proportion of incidents globally that involve Canadian corporations is very large, according to the report. “Of the 171 companies identified in incidents involving mining and exploration companies over the past 10 years, 34 per cent are Canadian,” the Centre found.

It said the high incidence of involvement of Canadian companies is in line with the Canadian industry’s dominant position in global mining and exploration.

But “this does not make the individual or corporate violations any more ethically acceptable, especially considering the efforts in recent years taken by industry and government to improve” the practices of the Canadian industry, the Centre said.


double post


The Sierra Club of Canada asked the Trudeau Liberal government in August to stop trade talks with the Bolsonaro government of Brazil because it has allowed much greater levels of Amazonian exploitation that is threatening the Amazon through wildfires and mining and leading to the murder of indigenous Amazonian land protectors. The destruction of the Amazon is a global threat because this jungle is the lungs of the world that stores vast amounts of carbon that enters the atmosphere when the forest is destroyed.

Instead, "International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr's office says Canada will continue its trade negotiations with Mercosur, the South American trading bloc that includes Brazil, despite demands to call a halt to the talks until more action is taken to protect the Amazon rainforest." (


The Amazon Is Burning. And It’s Because We Eat Beef

Canada is not innocent in this as "Canada is home to almost 1,300 mining companies, constituting 75 percent of all the mining companies in the world ... 'Canada provides very favorable conditions,' Kneen told VICE. 'The listing requirements for the TSX [Toronto Stock Exchange] are pretty lax, the disclosure requirements are pretty lax, you don’t have to have Canadian directories or Canadian shareholders to be a Canadian company.' Whereas American companies can be prosecuted for environmental and social policies abroad under the U.S. Alien Tort Statute, Canada does not have any laws to hold companies accountable." (

In Brazil there are "30 Canadian mining companies operating" (

An environmental group wants the Canadian government to halt trade talks with Brazil and its far-right president Jair Bolsonaro over their failure to take action and accept global support to help combat the thousands of forest fires ravaging the Amazon rainforests.

“We are in a climate emergency and so we need to have leaders who are going to take it seriously and want to work co-operatively with others around the world,” said Gretchen Fitzgerald, program director with the Sierra Club of Canada. ...

“If we are a part of that in some ways through free trade, taking advantage of Brazil’s regime of deregulation, then we need to step up and stop trade negotiations until some real steps on the part of Brazil are made to protect the Amazon,” said Fitzgerald.

The Amazon rainforest is often described as the “lungs of the Earth,” as it has the capacity to absorb massive levels of carbon dioxide and in turn produce upwards of 20 percent of the planet’s oxygen. ...

The damage to the Amazon doesn’t just harm the environment but poses a threat to Indigenous people in Brazil as well.

Barbara Zimmerman is the director of the Kayapo Project at the International Conservation Fund of Canada, which works directly with the Kayapo Indigenous tribe in the Brazilian Amazon to help them defend their traditional lands.

Zimmerman says the attempts to clear their land for ranching and clear-cutting for logging and gold mining are a constant threat to the Kayapo people. They total around 10,000 in population and inhabit a 110,000-square kilometre range in the southeastern region of the Amazon rainforest, which is under direct threat of deforestation. ...

“Their lands are extremely important for conservation and as well, of course, the immense amounts of carbon that are sequestered in those primary forest trees and the other aqua system services that are provided by this land area that they protect,” said Zimmerman.



Even before the request by the Sierra Club's to stop trade talks with Brazil because of the environmental destruction of the Amazon and its indigenous people, indigenous land protectors were being murdered in greater numbers, including by miners, an industry where 75% of corporate headquarters are in Canada because of its lax international mining laws. At the beginning of November, another one was murdered. 

Waiapi people in Manila village in the Waiapi indigenous land in Amapa state, Brazil, in March 2019.Waiapi people in Manila village in the Waiapi indigenous land in Amapa state, Brazil, in March 2019. Apu Gomes

In July, Viseni Waiapi, an indigenous environmental leader warned about the danger for indigenous people.

Illegal gold miners armed with automatic weapons and shotguns, invaded the remote indigenous community of the Waiapi and murdered one of its chiefs in Brazil’s northern Amazon last week, according to several of the group’s leaders and indigenous rights activists.

The body of chief Emyra Waiapi, 68, was discovered last Monday with several stab wounds, including to his genitals, one of the group’s leaders, Viseni Waiapi, said in an audio message sent to NBC reporters Saturday in Portuguese.

“We are in great danger,” Viseni said. The invaders assaulted women and children and were accompanied by a pit bull as they roamed around several Waiapi villages day and night last week, using special night vision goggles to navigate the area in the dark, he said.

The murder of international indigenous environmentalists contines with the latest being on November 2nd. 


 Paulo Paulino was a member of Guardians of the Forest, formed to ward off illegal logging gangs.

 Paulo Paulino was a member of Guardians of the Forest, formed to ward off illegal logging gangs. 

A Brazilian indigenous land defender has been killed in an ambush by illegal loggers in an Amazon frontier region.

According to a statement by the Brazilian Indigenous Peoples Association, Paulo Paulino Guajajara was shot and killed inside the Araribóia indigenous territory in Maranhão state. Another tribesman, Laércio Guajajara, was also shot and hospitalised and a logger has been reported missing. No body has yet been recovered. ...

The tribesmen are members of an indigenous forest guard called Guardians of the Forest, which formed in 2012 to ward off logging gangs pillaging their rare, hardwood-rich reserve.

Their work involves armed patrols and destroying logging encampments and has earned them dangerous enemies. Several Guardians in Maranhão have been killed in recent years, including three from Araribóia. ...

Few land conflict-related killings in Brazil result in convictions, which advocates say has produced a culture of impunity. According to Brazil’s pastoral land commission, a rural violence watchdog, of 157 land conflict killings in Maranhão state between 1985 and 2017, just five cases went to court.



The map below shows how extensive the Amazonian wildfires are that threaten both the global environment and indigenous people .


The Amazonian fires are so large that they can be seen from space

The Amazonian fires are so large that they can be seen from space (NASA Earth Observatory)

Read more:
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12!
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter


The Trudeau Liberal government has failed to keep its 2015 election promis to appoint an independent Ombudsman with the power to compel documents and witnesses, to investigate mining cases and to apply sanctions to situations involving Canadian mining firms carrying out illegal and often violent activities. 

Toronto demonstration in support of independent powers for the CORE, May 4, 2019. Photo courtesy Mining Injustice Solidarity Network.

On April 8, 2019, the Minister of International Trade Diversification appointed Sheri Meyerhoffer as a public servant under thePublic Service Employment Act[1]and as a “special advisor to the Minister for International Trade”. 

MiningWatch Canada’s Position

The Government of Canada has fundamentally broken its electoral promise of 2015 and its commitment of January 17, 2018 to create an Ombudsperson with: independence from both government and industry; strong investigatory powers to compel documents and witnesses, when necessary, in the course of investigating complaints brought against Canadian mining companies for human rights abuses perpetrated overseas; and the ability to make determinations of fact about whether a Canadian company had caused or contributed to human rights harm.[3]Fifteen months after the commitment to create a strong ombudsperson was made in 2018, the government has created an advisory position to the Minister with a deeply flawed and inadequate mandate. 

Broken Promises

Promise broken – No powers to compel documents and witnesses

In January, 2018, the Government of Canada committed to giving the Ombudsperson the investigatory powers to compel documents and witnesses. 

In order to have the powers to compel witnesses and documents, in cases in which companies are not forthcoming with necessary information, the Ombudsperson should have been created through an Order in Council mandate under the Inquiries Act. 

The Government of Canada and Minister of International Trade were fully briefed and aware of this option. Instead, the “special advisor to the Minister” was created under the Public Service Employment Act, which does not provide for powers to compel documents or witnesses. Minister Carr says he has commissioned further legal review to look into the question of how best to give the advisor to the Minister the power to make companies disclose documents and answer questions. This review is to be done by early June.[4]

As the Government of Canada has not managed to ensure an Ombudsperson with the powers to compel documents and witnesses in the 15 months since announcing the creation of an Ombudsperson MiningWatch is highly sceptical of the government’s commitment to keep this promise.  ...

Promise broken – No ability to recommend sanctions for companies that have caused, or contributed to, human rights abuses

In January 2018, the Government of Canada committed to creating an Ombudsperson that could recommend that the government deny or withdraw trade advocacy support and future Export Development Canada financial support from a company that had caused or contributed to human rights abuses. 

The Order in Council mandate of the advisor to the Minister only allows the advisor to the Minister to recommend the denial and withdrawal of trade advocacy support and future Export Development Canada financial support from a company “[i]f a Canadian company has not acted in good faith during the course of or during follow-up of the review process.”[7]

This broken promise is closely related to the broken promise in regard to the powers to compel documents and witnesses. In order to make a determination of fact, which can be reported publicly with confidence, that a company is in fact responsible for having caused, or contributed to, a human rights harm, an Ombudsperson may require access to critical company documents or testimony in a case. Only if an Ombudsperson can be confident in its assessment that a company has caused or contributed to a human rights harm will that Ombudsperson be able to recommend that the Government of Canada deny or withdraw trade advocacy support and future Export Development Canada financial support from a company on the basis of having caused or contributed to a human rights abuse.

The logical implication of not creating an Ombudsperson with the powers to compel witnesses and documents is that the Government of Canada has created an advisor to the Minister who may not have the necessary tools to be able to make determinations of fact about whether or not a company caused or contributed to a human rights abuse.

Promise broken – No independence

In January, 2018, the Government of Canada committed to creating an independent Ombudsperson.[8]

By creating an advisor to the Minister under the Public Service Employment Act, and by stating in the Order in Council mandate that all reports prepared by the advisor to the Minister must first be provided to the Minister of International Trade before they are published,[9]the Government of Canada has not created an independent Ombudsperson, but rather a public servant that will always act in consideration of whether the Minister will approve of the text provided. As ministers are subject to being lobbied by the very companies under investigation this requirement works against independence of the advisor to the Minister. It should be noted that the former Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor (CSR Counsellor) was under the same orders to first provide reports to Ministers before they would become public.  ...


As the following Greenpeace article makes clear, the Alberta tar sands are not only having drastic effects on indigenous people in Canada but around the world. The following url includes a video on indigenous Pacific Climate Warriors visit to the Alberta tar sands because of its impact on their lives, especially to the risk to their survival from sea level rise.

Throughout the years, the tar sands have encroached on Indigenous lands and contaminated the environment and wildlife these communities depend on for their culture and way of life. Tar sands chemicals have further been linked to higher rates of cancer in Indigenous communities and dangerous air pollution.

In 2017, Indigenous leaders from the Pacific Islands came face-to-face with the tar sands, a culprit in climate change and rising sea levels, which is having a devastating impact on their homes and families right now. ...

People all over the world are rising up in an unstoppable wave of resistance to say NO to pipelines and YES to clean energy. This movement is led by Indigenous communities, who have been standing up against the tar sands and pipelines for more than a decade. They know that solutions are possible, even in the heart of the tar sands.


An early test of where the Trudeau Liberals intend to go after the election comes with  Teck Resource Ltd’s Frontier major open-pit oil sands mine proposal in Alberta. It is located on indigenous pristine Treaty 8 land and has a goal of producing 260,000 barrels of bitumen per day. This project would ensure Canada could never meet its Paris Agreement targets, which are already very unlikely to be met according to Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand, who stated "Canada is not on track to hit its 2030 target" in her April 2019 report (


Indigenous, environmental and public interest groups wasted no time challenging the new cabinet to live up to those promises (and another to build nation-to-nation relationships with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples) by rejecting Teck Resource Ltd’s Frontier mine proposal.

The Alberta government of Premier Jason Kenney gave its approval to the project in late October, moving the regulatory process to Ottawa where it is now pending federal cabinet approval.

The decision will be a key early indicator of how this cabinet configuration will direct itself when it comes to the thorny nexus between environment and energy.

Public submissions on the project are being accepted by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada — the watchdog that earlier this year replaced the National Energy Board (NEB), the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency — until Nov. 24.

The Frontier site is located about 110 kilometres northwest of Fort McMurray, and is expected to produce about 260,000 barrels per day of bitumen once operational, according to Teck.

The major open-pit oil sands mine proposal is also located on Treaty 8 territory in a pristine area home to the last wild, disease-free herds of Wood Bison, and on the migratory path of the endangered Whooping Crane, a coalition of northern Alberta students, Indigenous community members, scientists and workers said in a statement.

The mine would cause “irreversible harm” to the Peace-Athabasca Delta and “directly compromise” Canada’s ability to reach its Paris Agreement targets, said the group, which includes Indigenous Climate Action, Climate Justice Edmonton, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Keepers of the Water and Oil Change International.

Keith Stewart, Greenpeace’s senior energy strategist, said efforts to appease Alberta and other provinces reliant on oil and gas production could easily derail meaningful climate action.

“We shouldn't try to fool ourselves,” he said. “Getting to net-zero emissions means phasing out the production and consumption of fossil fuels.

“That’s going to be incredibly hard to do in a way that deals fairly with the workers and regions currently dependent on oil, but the only thing harder would be to suffer the consequences of failing to make this transition."



The following open letter to the Canadian Parliament shows the link between Canadian companies, the Quebec Caisse Populaire and the murder of indigenous and other environmentalists and land protectors protesting the construction of the  Hidroituango Dam in Columbia.

Image result for Picture  HIDROITUANGO  dam project

Hidroituango Dam in Columbia

The murder of social leaders in Colombia: what is the role of the government of Canada?

27 June 2019

Open letter to the Parliament of Canada

Ottawa, 14 June 2019

Honorable Parliamentarians, we address you as Colombian defenders of human rights, with the help and collaboration of sympathetic Canadians, to shout loudly that in Colombia THEY ARE KILLING US! They are killing our leaders, our human rights defenders, and our defenders of life, of our communities, our waters, and our territories.

566 social leaders and human rights defenders have been murdered in Colombia between January 1, 2016 and January 10, 2019. In the first 100 days of the present government of Ivan Duque, 120 social leaders have been killed. Every three days a social leader is murdered in Colombia. More than four thousand leaders are presently registered with the National Protection Unit (UNP), a Colombian Government agency that tries to protect people at risk of being killed. One of them, Isabel Cristina Zuleta, reports she cannot count how many times her life has been threatened (Entrevista con Isabel Cristina Zuleta, Daniela Garcia Chestnut. May 8 of 2019).

Here today, before the Parliament of Canada, we would like to introduce to you three cases, among many, that link Canada and Canadian companies with this dramatic situation in Colombia: the relentless struggle of Isabel Zuleta against the NEFARIOUS HIDROITUANGO megaproject, which has important capital support from the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ); the struggle of France Marquez, prominent leader of the black community, Premio Goldman Ambiental en 2018, on whom a recent bombing attempt was witnessed by Canadian Professor Sheila Gruner; and the case of the Tobie Mining Mining, which is using a perverse investment clause in the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement to claim the colossal sum of US $ 16.5 billion dollars, to the detriment of the national treasury of the country.


Allow us to ask you, ladies and gentlemen, would anyone in this chamber be willing to risk his or her life to defend the water? Would any of you be willing to risk your life to defend their territory? Would any of you in this chamber be willing to risk your life to defend the rights of your community?

Every day of her life, Isabel Cristina Zuleta -leader of the Rios Vivos community- risks her life to defend the water, the territory, and the rights of her community. She struggles against a hydroelectric megaproject HIDROITUANGO , which has important Canadian funding.

According to the Colombian business magazine Portfolio , Roberta Brzezinski, principal administrator of Emerging Markets at the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, CDPQ), stated that this Québec entity has extended a line of credit of US$1,000 million for HIDROITUANGO (Llegarán recursos canadienses al proyecto Hidroituango, Portafolio, 11 de enero de 2018).

The HIDROITUANGO hydroelectric megaproject was imposed with a great violence in Colombia. With the aim of clearing the territory and thus lowering production costs associated with compensation of displacing people, a campaign of terror was fomented upon the population of territories established in that area of the Cauca River where the dam was to be built. The Cauca is the second most important river of Colombia, and on it depend for water close to 10 million people. According to some sources, in the 12 municipalities near where the Dam is being built, there have been 62 massacres perpetrated by paramilitaries (Contagio Radio, 23 March 2018). Other sources speak of " 100 massacres, targeted killings and enforced disappearances" (La

muerte de Hugo y Luis, dos líderes que se enfrentaban a Hidroituango, Revista Semana, 14 May 2018). With the inundation of the canyon of the River Cauca, Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM) seeks to bury the truth: "It is believed that there are between 300 and 600 victims buried in 62 massacres committed by paramilitaries" (Contagio Radio, 23 March 2018). ...

On May 15, 2019 - 10 years after this Parliament ratified the Canada-Colombia FTA signed by Uribe and Stephen Harper, former Attorney General Eduardo Montealegre alerted the country about national and international investigations into the conduct of former President Uribe, to whom are attributed war crimes and crimes against humanity during his "nefarious administration", and said that in the next few days he will deliver a thorough investigation to prove the responsibility of senator Alvaro Uribe Velez in the massacres of the ARO and of La Granja (Humana Radio, 15 de mayo de 2019).

Isabel Zuleta sums up the current crisis in communities affected by this nefarious hydroelectric megaproject: “Despite the fact that we have suffered the terrifying way that EPM ("Empresas Publicas de Medellin") and the National Authority of Environmental Licenses (ANLA) have debased all the beauty of the territory, have destroyed our culture and our community, the fishing, the small-scale pan-mining, the tranquility, the forest, the animals… we never imagined that they would go so far as to suspend life, to sow confusion and anxiety

with the hammer of lack of a future for our people. More than a year without knowing what will happen with a vast territory, as if Colombia has forgotten us, or as if simply we are not part of Colombia” (Colombia carece de consenso social sobre lo inadmisible - Colombia lacks social consensus on the inadmissible,

Revista Semana, Semana sostenible, 19.05.24).


The same open letter to the Canadian Parliament shows the link between the murder of  and the attempted assasination of France Marquez,  a prominent leader of the black community and 2018 co-recipient of the Premio Goldman Ambiental who survived an assassination attempt in the region of Cauca, Colombia.

Lady Justice has gold on one side of her balance and rainforest on the other. The gold weighs heavier.

No to mining in Yaigoje-Apaporis National Park by Canadian Cosigo Resources Ltd (Tobie Mining)

On 4 May 2019, FRANCE MARQUEZ, a prominent leader of the black community and 2018 co-recipient of the Premio Goldman Ambiental , survived an assassination attempt in the region of Cauca, Colombia (Semana, Contagio Radio, El Tiempo, El Espectador, France24). It is likely that this attack is associated with the recent statements by the former president and now senator Alvaro Uribe Velez in in which he incites a massacre of the members of the Minga, according to Luis Fernando Arias, senior advisor of the Colombian National Organization of Indigenous Peoples ONIC (Luis Fernando Arias, consejero mayor de las ONIC). ...

Advisor of the Association of Community Councils of Northern Cauca (ACONC) and Clemencia Carabali of the Association of Afro-descendant women of Northern Cauca (ASOM) and of the Social and Political National Movement of Black Women, Afro-colombian, Palenqueras and Aboriginals in their diverse identities, among others. Three of the leaders already had security protection (armoured cars and bodyguards) because they had previously received threats against their lives for for their ongoing work on human, ethnic and territorial rights in the country. Thanks to the reaction of their security escorts, they managed to avoid a massacre. ...

"The Northern Cauca is an area where there is illegal mining and unconstitutional mining (without free and informed prior consultation with the communities), as well as where there has been an increase in coca production for illegal use. It is a region marked equally by mega-projects and industrial parks. ...

Very soon after this attack, one of the spokespersons received a threat of extermination: "this is only the beginning of what will be the extermination of all of you" (Semana, 6 de mayo de 2019).

The perverse investment clause, conceived in the Canada-Colombia FTA , allows Canadian mining companies to file leonine lawsuits against the Colombian State. Canadian Cosigo Resources Ltd (Tobie Mining) sued Colombia for the colossal sum of US $16.5 billion dollars, equivalent to about 50 billion pesos, or one fifth of the national budget in 2017. After the mining company invested a mere US$ 20,000 dollars, it alleged a supposed "expropriation" of a claim which was without effect, since it had been granted in the protected Yaigoje-Apaporis National Park and a few days later was withdrawn by the Colombian environmental authority. According to the multinational’s calculations of the “crime”, their damages would be equivalent to the fabulous sum mentioned (La minera que pide 16.500 millones de dólares de indemnización a Colombia. Semana, 6 November 2017). The Tobie Mining will not be able to take the gold that it planned to extract for 20 years, so now it seeks to take this fabulous sum of money that represents 20 years of extraction of gold.

This is a perverse play under the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement!

How much desolation and death will this colossal financial plunder the coffers of the Colombian State produce?

According to Francia Márquez, “until the year 2016 there had been issued in the department of Cauca 236 mining titles, covering 40% of the territory, and located largely in the Colombian Massif, on lands traditionally occupied by indigenous people and by people of Afro-Colombian descent. The extractive companies are pushing us out of our territories. When communities have won litigations, arguing their title rights as per the Consulta Previa Law (aboriginal title), as was the case of La Toma, municipality of Suarez, Judgment T1045A of 2010, where the Court revoked the license of the AngloGold Ashanti, we begin to receive the types of death threats that made it necessary for me to leave the territory. When the Courts have ruled in favor of the community then there has been an increase in the killings, the forced displacements, the stigmatization of our leaders(as) by armed actors, as well as increases in judicial persecution on the part of the same State, with the intention of ensuring and protecting the interests of the big companies. Those mining companies not only expel us from our or territory, not only destroy our lives, but also want to have us pay them for such destruction. The 50 billion pesos that are being claimed as 'compensation' to TOBIE Mining could instead be used pay reparations to all victims of the armed conflict in the Pacific region Colombia” (Interview 19.05.27).

Throughout the process of the adoption on the part of the Canadian Parliament of the Tratado de Libre Comercio Canadá-Colombia (TLC-CC), SOS-Colombia, a coalition of different movements and of social and trade union organizations in Quebec and in the rest of Canada, along with political opposition groups, notably the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Bloc Québécois, led a strong opposition to the TLC-CC. ...



Unfortunately another community leader of indigenous people protests against Canadian mining exploitation was not so fortunate as the open letter to the Canadian Parliament discussed in the last two posts mentions. Father José Reinel Restrepo, who was parish priest of Marmoto in Columbia was assassinated just one week after the signing of the Canadian-Columbian TLC free trade deal after leading protests against a Canadian mining company.

Father José Reinel Restrepo murdered after leading protests against Canadian mining company Colombia GoldFields Ltd

Throughout the process of the adoption on the part of the Canadian Parliament of the Tratado de Libre Comercio Canadá-Colombia (TLC-CC), SOS-Colombia, a coalition of different movements and of social and trade union organizations in Quebec and in the rest of Canada, along with political opposition groups, notably the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Bloc Québécois, led a strong opposition to the TLC-CC. ...

During the week following the ratification of the TLC Canada-Colombia José Reinel Restrepo, parish priest of Marmoto was assassinated . This priest led a civic movement in Marmato along with small-scale miners who rejected the exploitation of gold by open-pit mining. It was he, along with the committee prodefense of Marmato, who had urged communities to organize to oppose the proposals of the large mining companies. His murder has gone unpunished. The Canadian mining company Colombia GoldFields Ltd, was behind the exploitation of gold in Marmato. According to their calculations, they expected to extract gold worth 20 billion dollars (Canadian mining in Colombia, CBC documentary. March 31, 2008). ...

Peter Julien of the NDP denounced before the Canadian Parliament the fact that the Harper government, with the support of the liberals, was extending the red carpet to the regime of Alvaro Uribe, whom he described as having the worst record in the hemisphere in violation of human rights and who, according to a 1991 report by the US Central Intelligence Agency, was described as a politician who was dedicated to collaboration with the Medellin Cartel at high government levels, and who was then a personal friend of Pablo Escobar (U.S. Intelligence Listed Colombian President Uribe Among Important Colombian Narco-Traffickers" in 1991).

Extractive processes in Colombia - of gold, coal, wood, etc. - accelerated and intensified following the signing of the Canada-Colombia FTA, have exacerbated the violence against the leaders and communities who oppose such processes. As conceived, the Canada-Colombia FTA is contributing to the plunder of the resources of our country, to the impoverishment of communities, the destruction of the environment and the exacerbation of violence.

Shouldn't the government of Canada be seriously concerned about investments in Colombia? Shouldn’t it not only protect big economic interests but also help protect the lives and human rights of Colombians?



Chandu Claver is a Filipino medical doctor and indigenous refugee now living in Victoria, BC, who protested against Canadian mining companies and other companies whose operations were destroying the environment and damaging the health of indigenous people  operating in the Philippines. As a result of his protests Dr. Claver, his wife and one of his daughters were targets of a political assassination attempt. While Dr. Claver and his daughter survived, his wife died. 

Chandu Claver poses in his Victoria backyard with daughters (from left) Alex, 12; Samantha, 17; and, Sandy, 15. Chad Hipolitophotograph for the Globe and Mail.


Guerrilla activity in the region sparked by long-standing grievances triggered a massive military response in the early 1990s. ... The guerrilla threat abated. The military remained though. Claver and others believe the military presence was now intended to counter opposition to government plans to open up indigenous land to foreign mining interests, Canadian corporations included among them. Now Claver’s human rights efforts focused on the right of indigenous people to participate in the decisions determining the development of their lands. (

Throughout the 1980s and 90s, Claver was running a one-man surgical hospital in Tabuk, while every two months he’d spend a couple of weeks voluntarily bringing health care to remote indigenous villages of the area. Claver himself is indigenous, of the Igorot tribes of the Cordillera. ...

To those familiar with British Columbia aboriginal rights issues, Claver’s explanation of the fundamentally conflicting views in the Philippines is recognizable. “They see that everything around them is connected,” says Claver, who shifts between using “we” or “they” in relation to indigenous peoples. “So the land, the sea, the water, the skies, the minerals, the trees, animals, fauna, all these are connected and comprehensively linked to support life, including people. So they cannot understand how you can actually compartmentalize things, like mine out the minerals without affecting the rest…And when you start saying that this land is for a mining company and nobody else, that’s not something we can grasp. And that’s where it all starts; that’s where the violations of rights start.” ...

As Tabuk grew and surgeon specialists began arriving, Claver turned to general medical practice. He also increased his volunteering as a leader with the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (, a multi-sectoral organization of 150 grassroots groups that advocate for indigenous people’s rights. The organization “became very influential and strong,” says Claver.

But in the late 90s, new, even more permissive mining and land expropriation laws were passed. There was also a push towards “free trade” and “globalization,” and, after 9/11, a tightening relationship between the Filipino and US governments. All these factors led to dramatically worsening conditions and tensions around the country. The Philippine military, says Claver, even set up a specialized “Investment Defense Force” to help protect mining companies from the growing protest movements. Worse, “extrajudicial” assassinations became rampant: Since 2001, over 1,500 activists and members of social justice organizations have been killed or “disappeared,” says Claver. None of the attackers have ever been convicted, but, according to Claver, a damning secret document obtained by Philippine media revealed that military intelligence seemed to have begun regarding many legitimate political and non-profit organizations as merely branches of known terrorist and armed rebel groups.

One day, without warning, Dr. Chandu Claver became a target for assassination. ...

“As I was making a turn, a van cut me off,” says Claver. Next, two people stepped out of the van, raised automatic rifles and unloaded 38 rounds into the Claver family car. One daughter was never hit. Claver’s other daughter took a bullet to the head but, miraculously, it only scraped her scalp. Claver himself took three bullets in the shoulder and one in his abdomen. Claver’s wife of 15 years, Alice, took seven bullets near her heart, and would die on the operating table. ...

Claver has also been learning about his new homeland—how destructive a role Canadian mining companies and the Canadian government have been playing in BC, in the Philippines, and around the world, and how few Canadians realize the extent of it. So educating Canadians, says Claver, has become an important part of the process towards getting justice for his wife.

A powerful new book (Imperial Canada Inc.: Legal Haven of Choice for World's Mining Industries) may help his efforts.


Here are some extracts from the book Imperial Canada Inc.: Legal Haven of Choice for World's Mining Industries referred to in the previous post. After opening with the story of attempted assassination of indigenous leader Dr Chandu Claver in the Philippines and its relationship to Canadian mining companies, the book traces the history of the "beyond reprehensible conduct of the world’s mining corporations, most of which are based in Canada, and on the fact that Talonbooks was legally bullied for attempting to publish (and finally publishing) the book Imperial Canada Inc."


… 75 per cent of the world’s mining companies are headquartered in Canada. It’s an astonishing statistic that obviously raises the question, “why?”

Two Quebec-based academic researchers, Alain Deneault and William Sacher, set out to answer that question in a searing and disturbing new book: Imperial Canada Inc.: Legal Haven of Choice for the World’s Mining Industries. Along the way, the authors examine a parallel troubling question: “why do so few Canadians know?”

Tellingly, two major Canadian mining corporations have been trying to prevent Canadians from ever seeing this book.

In … 2010, tiny Vancouver publisher Talonbooks announced on its website that Imperial Canada Inc. was being developed with Deneault and other collaborators. Within days, lawyers for the world’s biggest gold mining company, Canadian transnational Barrick, faxed Talonbooks a “demand” for copies of any parts of the manuscript-in-progress that made “direct or indirect reference to Barrick, Sutton Resources Ltd, or to any of their past or present subsidiaries, affiliates, directors or officers.” Barrick also sent the letter to all the authors, collaborators and translators, and threatened to sue everyone if they didn’t like what they saw. […]

“We were scared and we were intimidated,” explains Talonbooks President Kevin Williams. “We were also somewhat outraged by the fact [that we hadn’t] even published the book!’ It felt like an infringement of our civil liberties and our ability to have free speech.” […]

Most observers criticized the legal actions as “SLAPPs” – Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. SLAPPs are typically libel lawsuits that corporations use to shut down public criticism by dragging shoestring-budget watchdog groups or small publishers through expensive, time-consuming court processes. Many U.S. states and European countries have crafted anti-SLAPP laws … Canadian governments, however, have been reluctant to pass anti-SLAPP laws. […]

Talonbooks never did show Barrick Imperial Canada Inc. However, Williams says the book’s content was refocused more on structural, overarching problems than on specific cases and companies. […]

And though mainstream media have so far ignored it, Imperial Canada Inc. is provocative. It’s essentially a 189-page argument, buttressed comprehensively with reference footnotes, that provides an overview of reams of damning research about Canada’s pre-eminent role in mining’s devastating global impacts on both the environment and human rights.


Wipond goes on to discuss the content of the book in greater depth, addressing key issues: the status of Canada as a tax haven for mining corporations, and the support offered and the corruption perpetrated not only by investors (whether wittingly or not) but by the Canadian government.

Like Claver and Deneault and Sacher, Wipond calls for public education on the matter and hopes that solidarity and activist work can make a difference. Wipond also quotes Deneault, who has been encouraged by recent bills that, while flawed and fleeting (they went un-passed), made attempts at righting some relevant wrongs.


Nevsun Resources Ltd. v. Gize Yebeyo Araya, et al. is a Supreme Court of Canada lawsuit which will set important precedents for Canadian companies operating abroad, such as Nevsun which operates in Eritrea and elsewhere. This is especially important for mining companies as 75% of mining companies in the world are registered in Canada. 


The Nevsun case began in November 2014, when three Eritrean refugees filed a lawsuit against Nevsun in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. It might seem strange that the lawsuit was filed in British Columbia – and it is. We’ll discuss this later, but the main reason the lawsuit went before the BC Supreme Court was due to the fact that Nevsun was headquartered in Vancouver. The allegations pointed at the company for complicity in torture, forced labour, and crimes against humanity (a phrase used to describe certain grave acts like murder or enslavement that are deliberately committed against civilians in a systematic or widespread way). ...

Nevsun Resources Ltd. is a base metals mining company that, until recently, was headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia. Incorporated in 1965, the company has steadily grown and now operates its two principle properties in Serbia and Eritrea. ...

Nevsun denied the allegations and motioned for the BC Supreme court to dismiss the case because the alleged crimes took place in Eritrea. The Court ruled against Nevsun and decided that the case could continue in Canada. In response, Nevsun filed an appeal to the BC Court of Appeal in 2017, again arguing that the case is not admissible in Canadian courts. The Court of Appeal rejected this appeal.

Unsatisfied with this decision, Nevsun sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2018 and now the Court is in the process of making its judgment on whether the case can be heard by the High Court. As it stands, the Court is deliberating about whether or not the lawsuit is admissible and the original allegations remain unjudged. ...

So, can a Canadian court hear a case about Canadian companies violating rights abroad? Yes. In the Supreme Court’s famous Chevron case, the Court affirmed that it does have jurisdiction over cases where it has a “real and substantial connection” with the parties or with the subject matter. In fact, Canadian courts have agreed to hear lawsuits against Canadian companies Tahoe Resources and HudBay Minerals for violations in Guatemala.

But questions still remain for this case. Nevsun’s legal representative, Luis Sarabia of Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP, has already brought up two issues with the case: first, trying Nevsun in domestic courts for international crimes means applying customary international law domestically; second, is the concept that says that Canadian courts should not sit in judgment of the action of foreign governments.

With regard to the first issue, the Supreme Court has already confirmed in R v Hape (2007) that prohibitive rules of customary international law are part of domestic law, so long as they do not conflict with existing Canadian legislation. According to this, applying customary international law domestically is not a problem in the Nevsun case.

The second, so-called “act of state” issue has already been addressed by the BC Court of Appeal, who held that the victims’ claims are based on the action of Nevsun and not the Eritrean government. There is no need to judge Eritrea’s conduct because the behaviour was clearly illegal under Eritrean law.

The judgment is still pending but, as it looks now, the case is suited for Canada’s Supreme Court.



jerrym wrote:

Nevsun Resources Ltd. v. Gize Yebeyo Araya, et al. is a Supreme Court of Canada lawsuit which will set important precedents for Canadian companies operating abroad, such as Nevsun which operates in Eritrea and elsewhere. This is especially important for mining companies as 75% of mining companies in the world are registered in Canada. 

Hopefully the SCC will just deny leave to appeal without reasons and bump it back to the BC Supreme Court for a decision on its merits. BC's Howe Street elite with its interlocked mining and legal firms has blood on its hands, hopefully someone will be held to account for the outrageous businesses practices that ooze out of our country.


kropotkin1951 wrote:

Hopefully the SCC will just deny leave to appeal without reasons and bump it back to the BC Supreme Court for a decision on its merits. BC's Howe Street elite with its interlocked mining and legal firms has blood on its hands, hopefully someone will be held to account for the outrageous businesses practices that ooze out of our country.


Unfortunately, Canadian courts have done very little to deal with the violence by Canadian mining and other corportations in other countries, as illustrated by the 2011 decision in the Court of Appeal for Ontario case involving Ecuadorian campesinos who sued  the Canadian mining company Copper Mesa Mining Corporation that hired Ecuadorian security forces to assault the campesinos. The court also ruled that the TSE stock exchange had no obligation to delist or refuse to list corporations that had a record of violence.

The only good thing that happened is the Copper Mesa Mining Corporation ran out of money, was delisted because of this and lost its mining concession, but this had nothing to do with the Canadian legal system. 


Canadian law continues to fail communities harmed by Canadian mining overseas

On Friday, March 11, 2011, the Court of Appeal for Ontario dismissed an appeal by Ecuadorian campesinos who say they were assaulted by security forces hired on behalf of a Canadian mining company in their native Ecuador. 

Marcia Ramírez, Polivio Peréz and Israel Peréz had sued Canadian mining company Copper Mesa Mining Corporation and two of its directors as well as the Toronto Stock Exchange, which the Ecuadorians say listed the mining company on its stock exchange after having been warned that money from the listing would lead to violence.  Ramírez, Peréz and Peréz had appealed an earlier decision that dismissed their lawsuit.

In the ruling, the Court recognized that “[t]he threats and assaults alleged by the plaintiffs are serious wrongs.  Nothing in these reasons should be taken as undermining the plaintiffs’ rights to seek appropriate redress for those wrongs”, but nonetheless ruled against the Ecuadorians.

“I know Marcia, Polivio and Israel will be disappointed that no one will be held accountable for the violent attacks they endured at the hands of the Canadian mining industry,” said Murray Klippenstein, legal counsel for the Ecuadorians.  “Armed men linked to Canadian mining company Copper Mesa came into their community and attacked them. The directors of Copper Mesa based in Toronto were shown photographs of this attack.  You would think at the very least, that when directors of a Canadian corporation have been warned and given evidence that company personnel are assaulting people, they would have to do something to stop further violence.  The Court said that under Canadian law, directors don’t have to do anything whatsoever." ...

The judgment also confirmed that the Toronto Stock Exchange is under no legal duty to consider human rights records when deciding whether to list corporations on its stock exchange, even in cases where the TSX has been informed of past violence caused by the corporation.

This ruling paves the way for Canadian mining companies to continue to raise money on the Toronto Stock Exchange without the TSX having any regard at all for potential violence and harm that is likely to be caused by these funds in areas of the world where human rights abuse is common.

The Toronto Stock Exchange is a for-profit corporation that took in $142.1 million in 2009 through listing fees.  The TSX lists more mining corporations than any other stock exchange in the world and routinely lists corporations with mining projects in countries known for severe problems with violence including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burma, Zimbabwe and Guatemala. ...

“There is a silver lining to this story. Copper Mesa ran out of money.  It was delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange, and it lost its mining concession.  In the end, there is no massive open pit copper mine destroying the environment and villages around Junín, which were what Marcia, Polivio and Israel were fighting to protect from the start.”



Mexico is another country where Canadian mining companies, such as Excellon Resources Inc., have engaged in violence and yet continued to be actively supported by the Canadian government. 

Image result for picture sign outside the La Platosa mine

Violent eviction at the La Platosa Mine in Mexico

1 November, 2012Workers and community landowners supporting the Section 309 of the National Miners’ Union had set up a protest camp for the last three months outside the La Platosa mine entrance to demand freedom of association. The union is demanding an end to company violence and a solution to the dispute.

On the morning of 24 October, around 180 hired thugs violently evicted workers and landowners from the camp at the entrance to the La Platosa mine, located in La Sierrita, Durango and owned by the Canadian mining company Excellon Resources Inc., said the National Miners' Union (SNTMMSRM), led by Napoleón Gómez Urrutia.

The camp is located on a private property of a third party with explicit consent of the landowners; no part of the camp is located on Excellon or Ejido property. The protest camp was set up peacefully since July at the entrance to the mining complex in order to put pressure on the company to recognise freedom of association and the workers’ right to join the Miners' union; the community landowners were jointly protesting the company’s failure to comply with the terms of its 2008 agreement to lease the land from its peasant owners.

Protestors and local press said that the men who carried out the assault arrived in six buses, including a bus adorned with the logo of Excellon Resources Inc.and moved in with heavy machinery immediately proceding to destroy and burn down the protesters’ temporary housing.

The peasants had authorised miners belonging to SNTMMSRM Section 309 to occupy their land in order to continue their struggle. The union reports that the thugs had connections with the opposing union led by Carlos Pavón (Gómez Sada Union members) and that the violence was financed by Grupo Peñoles and coordinated by Excellon managers. It was also reported that Robert Moore, Chief Operating Officer of Excellon Resources Inc., directly participated in the action against the landowners, pulling down the fence that the landowners had set up to protect their camp. The protestors made repeated requests to federal and state officials to stop the aggressors but federal and local officials present took no action to stop the intervention.



In 2015 the CBC reported that the Canadian government through its embassy engaged in intelligence gathering for Excellon Resources Inc. in its dispute with the community around the La Platosa mine and pushed for state police and the army support of the mine owners, despite its violent actions. 

Ejido La Sierrita community members gather in the shade of a tent in the summer of 2012 during a protest outside Excellon Resources’ La Platosa silver mine in Durango, Mexico. A new report says Canadian diplomats went too far in their attempts to protect Excellon’s interests in a dispute with the Ejido La Sierrita. (Ejido La Sierrita)

Ejido La Sierrita community members gather in the shade of a tent in the summer of 2012 during a protest outside Excellon Resources’ La Platosa silver mine in Durango, Mexico. A new report says Canadian diplomats went too far in their attempts to protect Excellon’s interests in a dispute with the Ejido La Sierrita. (Ejido La Sierrita)

Canadian diplomats and trade commissioners went further than they should have in their quest to protect the interests of mining company Excellon Resources Inc. in a dispute with local workers and landowners at a silver mine in Mexico, critics say. ...

​Emails written during a blockade and protest in the summer of 2012 were obtained by MiningWatch Canada through an access to information request to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

At the time, tensions were rising between Excellon, some of the workers at the La Platosamine and Ejido La Sierrita, the community that owned the land on which the mine was operating.

Landowners were upset, they said, because Excellon wasn't meeting its contractual obligations, for example, to build a water treatment plant for the polluted water coming from the mine.

The protesters filed two formal complaints in Canada, including one with the federal Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor. ...

"There was a clause violated that would have meant they didn't fulfil their obligations," Daniel Pacheco said in a Skype interview from Durango. They need to respect the rights of those in our community because the landowners are the ones that form the communities."

At one point, police and the army moved in to try to persuade the protesters to leave. They didn't go until their protest camp was forcibly broken up shortly after. ...

Now, MiningWatch Canada has obtained internal emails that suggest the Canadian Embassy may have gone too far in protecting Excellon's interests. ...

In one email, the ambassador agreed to a meeting with the protesters "to listen, possibly to gather intel helpful to the company."

Others show the embassy had arranged meetings with Mexican authorities at Excellon's request.

"We no longer have any choice but to shut the mine down and flood it in an orderly fashion, as we do not currently see any near term solution to this situation," current Excellon CEO Brendan Cahill wrote to embassy staff on Aug. 14, 2012.

"We would appreciate it if you could organize a meeting with the governor of Durango for Peter Crossgrove [then executive chairman, president and CEO] for next week.… We will need some support from the state police to ensure that we can properly flood the mine without damage to our own equipment, and to ensure the safe removal of equipment by third party contractors (drill rigs, etc.). Please call me to discuss in the morning. As always, we very much appreciate your help."

But within two weeks of that email, the military and approximately 40 police officers were sent to the protest. The night before, one trade commissioner sent an email wishing Excellon well.

"I was quite alarmed to find no evidence that the embassy was at all concerned about the physical integrity and safety of the peaceful protesters from the Ejido La Sierrita and the workers," said Jen Moore, who wrote the report for MiningWatch Canada.

"It's also appalling, although it's no longer surprising to me, that contrary to what the Canadian government says in terms of encouraging companies to behave responsibly and to abide by local and state laws, the documentation was absolutely, there was no evidence that the Canadian government was urging the company to dialogue with the workers and with the landowners, to address the really reasonable demands they were making of company in order to respect their land and their decisions over their land, and to follow through on its contractual agreement."


While the violence agency community and union members at Canadian owned Excellon Resources Inc. La Platosa Mine in Mexico started during the Harper regime, support for the company has actively continued under the Trudeau government with Chrystia Freeland acting on behalf of the corporation. 

According to a report by the newspaper El Universal, Excellon started operations in 2005 on 27 hectares under a 30-year permit and after making a single payment of 1.2 million pesos (about US $130,000) to the people of La Sierrita.

After the mining firm committed several violations to the original agreement, a new one was reached in 2008.

The Temporary Occupation Contract gave the mining company a lease on 1,100 hectares for a yearly fee of 5.5 million pesos (over $400,000), to be adjusted annually according to the country’s inflation rate.

The new contract contained several clauses that the ejidatarios claim were once again violated to some degree, including those concerning financial, social and environmental issues.

In September 2012, the community filed a complaint before an agrarian court demanding that the 2008 contract be rescinded. Last year, the court agreed. ...

According to the ruling, the mining company had to return the 1,100 hectares to the community landowners and pay them a penalty of 5.5 million pesos. The court also determined that the ejido had to pay Excellon over 5.6 million pesos. The 1,100 hectares have since been seized by the judicial authority pending completion of the payment.

La Sierrita residents believe that the court’s resolution favored the company over the rights of Mexicans.

In an open letter addressed to President Enrique Peña Nieto, the non-governmental organization Project for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Prodesc) urged that Mexico’s development adhere to the highest international human rights standards, avoiding abuses towards indigenous and farming communities.

In its letter, the NGO offered as an example the case of the ejido La Sierrita, and asked Peña Nieto for support.

Prodesc sent the letter after it learned that the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Mexico and Canada’s Minister of International Trade, Chrystia Freeland, had requested a guarantee of certainty for the investments of Canada’s mining companies.

The organization observed that what uncertainty there is is to be found among community landowners in the states of Chihuahua and Durango, where Canadian companies have mining interests.

Prodesc believes that the seizure of the 1,100 hectares of La Sierrita by the agrarian court, and making its return conditional on a payment it sees as unfair, was unconstitutional. The letter also said that the ejido had filed for an injunction against the court’s decision.


Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is sending a bill through the legislature that would open up indigenous reserves in the Amazon to exploitation by fossil fuel, ranching and mining interests. With 75% of mining companies headquartered in Canada because of our extremely lax laws governing international operations and a history of brutal actions and even murder against local communities around the world (see previous posts for details), this greatly increases the risk indigenous Brazilians, as well as other land defenders there, face. The murder of indigenous land defenders has already increased under Bolsonaro and there is also a danger of Christian fundamentalists brutally dealing with indigenous populations as they have done in the past.

President Jair Bolsonaro pressed forward with a "dream" initiative sending a bill to the Brazilian Congress on Wednesday that would open indigenous reserves in the Amazon and elsewhere to development, including commercial mining, oil and gas exploration, cattle ranching and agribusiness, new hydroelectric dam projects, and tourism — projects that have been legally blocked under the country's 1988 Constitution.

Justifying the legislation, Bolsonaro explained that "The Indian is a human being exactly like us. They have hearts, feelings, a soul, desires, needs and they are just as Brazilian as we are," so they will welcome economic exploitation inside their territories. Bolsonaro and the bancada ruralistaagribusiness and mining lobby, which is very strong in Congress, have eyed the off-limits indigenous lands for decades. Indigenous territories have the best record for forest conservation and land stewardship in Brazil.

Marcio Santilli, a former head of FUNAI, Brazil's indigenous affairs agency, sees Bolsonaro's "dream" legislation very differently. It will "not promote the economic development of the Indians, but guarantee the exploitation by third parties of their natural resources. It would encourage Indians to live from royalties while watching the dispossession of their lands." ...

Since Bolsonaro's election, conflicts between ruralists and indigenous people have soared. The latest report from CIMI, the Indigenous Missionary Council, shows a steady growth in the number of invasions of indigenous areas, up from 111 in 2018 to 160 in 2019; indigenous leaders say Bolsonaro's speeches and comments have contributed to the increase. Five murders due to indigenous and traditional land conflicts occurred in the first weeks of 2020.


Uncontacted indigenous group in the Brazilian state of Acre. Gleilson Miranda / Governo do Acre ...

But the bill isn't the only potential threat to uncontacted tribes. The day before Bolsonaro announced his legislation, FUNAI appointed an evangelical preacher and agency outsider to head the Department for Isolated and Recently Contacted Indigenous Peoples (CGIIRC). To accomplish this, FUNAI had to revoke its own long-established rule that only a qualified staff member could be chosen to head such a sensitive bureau. The new head, Ricardo Lopes Dias, has strong views regarding the conversion of indigenous people to Christianity. ...

The New Tribes Mission has been accused of causing death and disease among the tribes it worked with in the 1970s, subjecting them to enforced conversion to evangelical Christianity.

Isolated or uncontacted indigenous peoples are usually survivors of larger groups which were decimated by disease or violence when the military dictatorship (ruling from 1964-1985) forced roads through ancestral lands in the Amazon during the 1960s and 70s. In some cases up to 90 percent of local populations died. This led FUNAIi, in the 1980s, after the dictatorship ended, to introduce a policy of non-contact, designating a "no go" zone protecting the survivors, who became known as "isolated Indians."

The choice by the Bolsonaro administration of an evangelical missionary to head the department, according to experts, indicates a shift in this policy, and has been greeted with dismay by indigenous organizations, who regard it as a means of opening up uncontacted tribes under the protection of FUNAI, and putting their cosmological and ethical belief systems at risk from religious fundamentalism.


In a decision this week the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled in the case of Nevsun Ltd. vs. Araya that international law applies and that Canadian companies can be sued for human rights abuses overseas including allegations of modern slavery. 

Trucks ferry excavated gold, copper and zinc ore from the main mining pit at the Bisha Mining Share Company in Eritrea.

 Trucks ferry excavated gold, copper and zinc ore from the main mining pit at the Bisha Mining Share Company in Eritrea. Photograph: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

The decision means three Eritreans who filed a civil suit against Nevsun Resources in British Columbia can continue their case in a lower court.

It also creates new legal risks for Canadian firms operating abroad – notably in the resources and clothing sectors – as companies previously could only be held liable in foreign jurisdictions in which alleged abuses occurred. 

The plaintiffs claimed they and more than 1,000 others had been conscripted through Eritrea’s military service into forced labour to construct Nevsun’s Bisha gold, copper and zinc mine in the east African nation between 2008 and 2012, and subjected to violent, cruel and inhuman treatment.

In court documents they alleged being forced to work 12 hours a day, six days a week, being beaten with sticks, and being bound and left to bake under the hot sun.

The trio later escaped Eritrea and became refugees.

Nevsun argued that the case should be thrown out on the basis of the act of state doctrine, which precludes domestic courts from assessing acts of foreign governments. But that was rejected by a majority of the justices on the top bench.

The supreme court also held that international human rights law – notably fundamental tenets called “peremptory norms” that are so important they are considered universal – may be applied to this case.

“Violations of peremptory norms are serious violations of rights that are important to everyone, everywhere. They need to be strongly discouraged,” the court said in a statement.

In 2017, the supreme court declined to hear a similar case involving a group of Guatemalans suing Vancouver-based Tahoe Resources for alleged abuses at the company’s mine in Guatemala.

The men sought redress for what they say were injuries suffered during the violent suppression of their protest against the company’s Escobal silver and gold mine south-east of Guatemala City.

They argued in court filings – and a lower court agreed – that they were unlikely to obtain justice in Guatemala, and therefore brought the civil case to Canada, where Tahoe has its headquarters.

The company apologized in July 2019 for the rights violations as part an out-of-court settlement with demonstrators who had been shot and wounded while protesting.


As the following article in Canadian Lawyer Magazine outlines, the Supreme Court ruling in the Nevsun vs Araya case concerning modern slavery and other human rights abuses described in the last post has important implications for other Canadian companies operating abroad, some of which are already involved in similar lawsuits.

Nevsun loses attempt to stop Canadian lawsuit over alleged forced labour in Africa

Nevsun’s flagship copper-zinc Bisha mine in Eritrea. (Image: Bisha mine. Courtesy of Nevsun Resources.)

A Canadian mining company that is a majority owner in a mine in Eritrea may be sued for alleged abuses that occurred in that country, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Friday.

The Court’s ruling holds that corporations can be held liable in civil law for breaches of international law, and that the act of state doctrine is not a bar to the claim.

The decision stands to have implications for Canadian companies with operations abroad, notably in the resources, technology and armaments sectors. ...

“It’s important, because there are a number of corporate accountability lawsuits that are proceeding in Canadian courts right now,” says Cory Wanless of Waddell Phillips PC in Toronto, who was lead counsel for the intervener International Human Rights Program of the University of Toronto Faculty of Law before the Supreme Court.

In Nevsun Resources Ltd. v. Araya, the majority of the court found that the norms of customary international law (which is, in essence, the common law of international law) raised by the Eritrean workers, who allege breaches of it in this case, form part of Canadian law. As a Canadian company, Nevsun Resources Ltd. is bound by Canadian law, and customary international law becomes part of Canadian law automatically, the majority found.

“If you breach customary international law, … states could be held liable under domestic law principles,” says Hassan Ahmad, a Doctor of Juridical Science candidate at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law whose research focus is corporate human rights violations.

“What this case says is that we don't live in a world anymore that's just dominated by state-to-state interaction,” Ahmad says. “We live in a world where non-state actors – so, corporations in this case -- do commit violations that are so grave that they impinge on what's called peremptory norms.” Violations of these norms include crimes against humanity and torture.

“These are the grave human rights violations that the Court says that corporations can also be taken to account,” he says. “And what they can be liable for under Canadian law is to pay compensation to victims [who] allege that they have been treated unjustly by these corporations.”

Three Eritrean refugees brought a claim against the Nevsun Resources Ltd., a publicly-held British Columbia corporation. They alleged that through a chain of subsidiaries, Nevsun entered into a commercial venture with Eritrea for the development of a gold, copper and zinc mine in Eritrea, and that they were conscripted to work at the mine under Eritrea’s National Service Program, which all Eritreans must enter at the age of 18 for a period of 18 months, but which may be extended indefinitely.

The workers allege that they were forced to work in the Bisha mine, in which Nevsun has a majority stake, for 12 hours a day, six days a week, in temperatures close to 50 degrees Celsius and without cover. They sought damages from Nevsun for breaches of customary international law prohibitions against forced labour, slavery, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and crimes against humanity. They also sought damages for breaches of domestic torts including conversion, battery, unlawful confinement, conspiracy and negligence.

Nevsun brought a motion to strike the pleadings on the basis of the act of state doctrine, which precludes domestic courts from assessing the sovereign acts of a foreign government. The company also argued that the claims based on customary international law should be struck because they have no reasonable prospect of success. The chambers judge dismissed Nevsun’s motion to strike, and the Court of Appeal agreed.

In today’s judgment the majority of the Supreme Court dismissed Nevsun’s appeal, allowing the case to proceed before the courts in British Columbia. ...

“Ultimately, for the purposes of this appeal, it is enough to conclude that the breaches of customary international law, or jus cogens, relied on by the Eritrean workers may well apply to Nevsun,” Justice Abella continued. “The only remaining question is whether there are any Canadian laws which conflict with their adoption as part of our common law. I could not, with respect, find any.” ...

But a “big takeaway” from this decision “is that the Supreme Court showed a real willingness to take seriously international human rights law,” Wanless adds, and “a real willingness to engage in these novel questions of how international human rights law should be applied against corporations for breaches of international law.

“This court has gone further than any other court in recognizing that there could be a private cause of action for a corporation that participates in the violation of international human rights law,” he says, “and how Canadian courts should deal with those.”

For corporations doing business in a country such as Eritrea, “particularly if you’re partnering with the government” (Eritrea owns 40 per cent of the Bisha mine through state-owned companies), “then you’re entering into an extremely high-risk zone,” and a high level of diligence will need to be exercised “to ensure that you are not implicated in human rights abuses.”

“It’s a landmark, watershed moment in Canadian law,” says Ahmad, which “signifies the increasing globalization of our world, and how trade and commerce cross national frontiers. I think the law is finally catching up to that.”


In early March civil society groups launched an online map llustrating the harm done to communities at the sites of eight massive mines in Latin America from Mexico to Argentina, built by Pan American Silver, which is headquartered in Vancouver, that is the exact opposite of its own corporate image of contributing to the social and economic development of communities. 

The online map with detailed analysis of the negative impacts of each mine can be examined by clicking on the names of each mine beside the url for the map:


Rather than revealing sustainable mining practices, as claimed on the company’s website, the interactive tool and the case studies created by the Environmental Justice Atlas (EJAtlas) and their allies seems to tell another story. 

It is important to make information publicly available to mining-affected communities about what has happened in other places where the same company operates. In contrast with Pan American Silver´s discourse as a responsible mining company, the map documents social and environmental conflicts over its mines from Mexico to Argentina, including lack of respect for the self-determination of communities opposed to its projects,” remarked Yannick Deniau from EJAtlas. 

According to text accompanying the new map, “The company is profiting in areas where surrounding communities have faced militarization, criminalization, violence, harassment, and threats. Environmental pollution has been documented at several of its mines, which affect or threaten important water supplies. Labour conflicts have also arisen along with occupational accidents.” 

Developed by the Environmental Justice Atlas, in collaboration with MiningWatch Canada, Earthworks and the Global Economy Program at the Institute for Policy Studies, among others, the map was launched against the backdrop of the  Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC)´s mining fair in Toronto, attended by more than 25,000 people associated with the global mining industry. This year, Pan American Silver is a sponsor of the event, whose agenda includes sessions on how to convince indigenous and other local communities that mining will bring them “mutual benefits.”

While Pan American Silver gets to promote its image as a gold+ sponsor of PDAC, the negative experiences of mining-impacted communities around the world are entirely absent from the PDAC program," said Kirsten Francescone from MiningWatch Canada. “The latest EJAtlas map documents serious violence at multiple Pan American Silver mine sites from Mexico to Peru, including how affected communities have faced harassment, threats, and criminalization." ...

In 2009, Pan American Silver acquired the Navidad project in the province of Chubut, Argentina, despite open-pit mining and use of cyanide being prohibited in the province since 2003, thanks to the constant efforts of local environmental assemblies. The Assemblies, who keep constant watch over their legislators, have denounced the company for trying to lobby local, provincial and national authorities to modify or annul this legislation in order to exploit this very large silver deposit.

Ten years later, in 2019, Pan American Silver bought the Escobal mine in Guatemala, despite the suspension of the mine as the result of broad-based opposition and a court decision that found the state had discriminated against the Xinka indigenous people and failed to consult with them. Now, Pan American Silver is participating in a consultation process led by the Guatemalan state that has been criticized given multiple irregularities, including for discrimination and exclusion of the Xinka people.

In Zacatecas, Mexico, in order to expand the La Colorada mine between 2014-2017, the local community was forcibly displaced under threat from private security guards and currently denounces living in suffocating conditions under the thumb of the company. In Chihuahua, Mexico, since which time the area around the Dolores mine was militarized and local protests over economic and environmental issues undermined, the company has largely managed to operate with few disruptions despite deepening violence in the area.

There are also concerns related to PAS’ labour record. In Peru, from 2000 to 2019, the Ministry of Energy and Mines registered 42 fatal accidents from PAS subsidiaries (18 in Quiruvilca, 19 in Huarón and 5 in Morococha). In Argentina at the Manantial Espejo mine, two young operators were killed in 2015 and another in June 2019. In Bolivia, during the latest labour dispute over the San Vicente mine, the unión declared a “state of emergency” given the lack of security equipment and deteriorating working conditions in the underground operation. As of 2018, PAS had over 4,000 employees and contract workers who do not belong to any union or labour association, or about 57% of its total workforce.


The following article discusses the global role of the Canadian mining industry, the destruction it has wrought around the world, and the fight by indigenous, environmental and NGO groups against this industry that resulted in the formation of Mining Watch Canada. Its url also includes a podcast interview with Joan Kuyek, who has fought the industry for decades and was the first national coordinator of Mining Watch Canada, as well as author of Unearthing Justice: How to Protect Your Community from the Mining Industry.



Mining is big business, especially in Canada. About half of the world's mining companies are headquartered here, which in 2017 amounted to 1,364 companies holding $260 billion in assets, and they work in more than 100 countries. An interview in the Halifax Examiner quoted today's guest as saying, "Mining -- the extraction of copper, gold, and other metals -- was one of the major reasons why Canada got settled in the first place. ... This was a colony that was there to extract. And our laws, our regulations, and policies are all shaped by facilitating extraction."

As past episodes of Talking Radical Radio have discussed over the years, the mining sector has an awful record when it comes to the environment and human rights. Profit-driven resource extraction is a constant threat to Indigenous peoples, sovereignty and rights. And in an era of climate crisis, it's relevant that more than a quarter of global climate emissions can be traced to mining -- and to be clear, traced not to fossil fuel extraction, but to extraction and primary processing of metals and other minerals. ...

Starting in the mid 1990s, people involved in three strands of struggle against Canadian mining companies started talking -- Indigenous groups within Canada, prominently including the Innu Nation and its fight against the proposed mine at Voisey's Bay in Labrador; environmental groups opposed to mining projects in British Columbia and elsewhere; and international NGOs that had run up against Canadian mining companies doing destructive things in a bunch of different countries. Together, they founded an organization called MiningWatch to act as a resource in all of these different kinds of struggles. And they hired Kuyek, who moved to Ottawa in 1999 to work as the organization's national co-ordinator. Since 2008, she has done similar work on a freelance basis.


Another form of violence involving Canadian mining companies is forcing mining workers to contine working during a COVID-19 outbreak, which happened at Barrick Gold’s enormous “Lama Project” in Argentina and Chile.

Chile’s official commission suggests letting Barrick keep permit for Pascua Lama

Pascua Lama project (red line is Chilean-Argentinian border)

On March 17, rank and file mineworkers at Barrick Gold’s “Lama Project” in Argentina sent out a media alert demanding that the Canadian company allow them to leave the camp and go home to their families, following fears of a COVID-19 outbreak at the camp. 

Workers noted that upon arriving at the camp to start their shifts yesterday, they were informed that a coronavirus alert had been activated, and rumours were circulating that an infected person had been at the camp. “All the controls, everything was a disaster...they [Barrick] aren’t telling us anything, we think we have the virus here at the camp and they’re just covering up the information,” said one worker. They note that they have been threatened with termination if they leave voluntarily. 

Echoing their concerns, the national secretariat of the Argentine Mine Workers Society (AOMA in Spanish) released a statement demanding that all operating mines in the country be suspended until March 31st. Hector Laplace, the General Secretary of the union, stated to the Argentinean press that “it is not the moment to analyze economic questions when workers' lives are being put at risk,” noting that if this was not done, “direct action would be taken to ensure this is the case.” ...

These mining camps are isolated and represent a high risk for infection. The majority of mining operations in South America have at least some portion of foreign employees, especially in the higher echelons. As well, the mining camps are isolated and in some cases very far from populations with adequate medical facilities. For example, San Juan, the closest city to the Lama camp, is approximately 370km away as the crow flies, but can take between 5 and 7 hours to get to by land. Camps also often have many workers on shift at any given time, working in confined spaces, with many sharing bathroom facilities and communal sleeping and eating facilities. Finally, the sanitary conditions at mining camps, like at the company’s neighbouring Veladeromine, can be very precarious especially for general workers and contracted employees. According to Argentine anthropologist Lautaro Clemenceau, “Conditions can often differ greatly…in terms of access to services and sanitary conditions at mining camps in the region.

Miners at the Lama camp said the conditions of the camp are deplorable: “The hygiene here in the camp is intolerable – we don’t have toilet paper, we don’t have hand sanitizer, we don’t even have soap to wash our hands; we are terrified of catching it [coronavirus].

As more cases of the virus are detected in Argentina, it is only a matter of time before the mining industry also takes a direct hit to its operations. To date, Argentine authorities have reported 79 cases of infection, and all are imported.

The Lama project is part of Barrick’s controversial Pascua Lama transborder gold exploration project, which straddles the Andes between Chile and Argentina. Barrick announced earlier this year that after years of generating conflict and tension among affected communities in both countries, the project was no longer economically viable.

Barrick’s Veladero mine, also controversial, shares the Lama camp and employs nearly 4,500 workers, including 40 foreigners.

We want to be safe and sound, just like Barrick’s motto says. If this is their motto, then they should respect it...We want to go home and be with our families,” noted one of the workers. “We are humans, we aren’t animals. This is why we need to be sent home urgently.”



First Nations in Quebec and Labrador are expressing deep concern over the movement of miners in and out of their communities bringing Covid-19 and possibly death to their communities. As the picture below, the industry of abandoning First Nations communities when financial, environmental and other problems arise. 


One of the many abandoned open pits from a previous era’s mining near Schefferville near Innu and Naskapi nations. Photo Credit: Arn Keeling

First Nations in Quebec and Labrador have raised concerns about the reopening of mining operations in Quebec, fearing that movement in and out of fly-in/fly-out camps will increase transmission of the novel coronavirus into their communities.

In a statement, Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) Chief Ghislain Picard noted that many mines in the province are located on First Nations territories. First Nations leaders have taken measures to limit access to their communities, which to date, have produced “encouraging results with a relatively stable positive case rate” of COVID-19, reads the release.

“We judge that Quebec’s decision to allow the resumption of mining operations in a hurry is dangerously compromising the efforts made by our communities to slow the spread of the disease in the regions,” Picard said. “In this regard, the movement and comings and goings (fly-in/fly-out) of mining workers is of great concern. I would also like to reiterate that the pandemic does not exempt governments from their duty to consult.”

After ordering the closure of mines in the province on Mar. 24, Quebec Premier François Legault added mines to the list of essential businesses earlier this week, allowing mines to restart operations as of Apr. 15. The government mandated mines must operate under strict sanitation and physical distancing measures, and put in place measures to minimize movement in and out of fly-in/fly-out sites, such as lengthening crews rotations to 28 days (up from 14) and the reduction of flights in and out of sites to the bare minimum.

The AFNQL stressed the vulnerability of their communities, and noted concern about the message that may be received by mine reopenings. “Resuming activities must not mean a loosening of preventive measures,” reads the release.

“In the face of COVID-19, our leaders prioritize the health and safety of our members above everything else, even the economy,” Picard said.

The AFNQL represents 43 First Nations communities in Quebec and Labrador, representing 10 Nations: Abenaki, Algonquin, Atikamekw, Cree, Hurons-Wendat, Innu, Maliseet, Mi’gmaq, Mohawk, and Naskapi.


The extreme working conditions amounting to virtual slavery in Nevsun's Eritrean mine has finally led to the Supreme Court of  Canada to allow a lawsuit to proceed against a Canadian mining company operating abroad. This ruling could have important implications for previous impunity which such companies have enjoyed in the past.

Help stop profits from slavery in Eritrea

 Nevsun can be sued at home for its human rights abuses in Eritrea

Take, for instance, the secretive African redoubt of Eritrea, one of the major contributors to the Mediterranean migrant industrial complex. Among other things, its people are fleeing a non-existent economy compounded by compulsory military service that pays conscripts next to nothing, overseen by the continent’s most determinedly dour regime. According to figures provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, almost 10 per cent of Eritrea’s 5.7 million people are on the run, and an astonishing 50,000 sought asylum abroad in 2017 alone. The country ranks behind China, and just ahead of North Korea, in terms of press freedom, while its per capita GDP is the third-worst in the world. As a result, Eritrea is entirely absent of the rule of law or humane governance.

Obviously, no Canadian company would want anything to do with such a place.

Where’s the eye-rolling emoji when you most need it? It’s worth pointing out that the list of Canadian corporations is a lengthy one, with a few rogues regularly making the news: Bombardier for alleged corruption in Azerbaijan and South Africa, for instance, or Barrick Gold for alleged gang rapes committed by security guards at the company’s Papua New Guinea mine. But the mining company Nevsun Resources Ltd. holds a special place in the heart of human-rights violation connoisseurs. The Vancouver-based miner isn’t Canadian-owned any longer – it was purchased by the Chinese outfit Zijin Mining in 2018 for $1.9-billion. But back when it was a local success story, it was infamous for operating the Bisha copper-gold mine in the Eritrean hinterlands.

Exploiting cheap (or free) local labour is the abiding innovation of colonial-style capitalism – it’s how business is conducted out there in the real world. Still, even judged by the lowest standards, the Bisha mine represented something special: a foreign multinational allegedly colluding with a repressive regime in order to mine precious metals with slave labour. Nevsun’s primary partner is the state itself, which owns 40 per cent of the operations and has earned more than US$1-billion in taxes and revenues from the mine since 2011.

Segen Construction, an Eritrean outfit known to use conscripted labour, worked with Nevsun. According to Human Rights Watch, when the allegations first surfaced in 2013, “Nevsun did not acknowledge that Segen had used conscript labourers at Bisha, but neither did it rule out the possibility.” In a statement to The Globe and Mail from that time, Nevsun said: “The company expresses regret if certain employees of Segen were conscripts four years ago.” Meanwhile, the state-owned trucking company Transhorn Trucking, which has allegedly killed at least four people in a variety of road accidents, was another example of why perhaps the partnership was a bad idea. ...

In 2014, three former Eritrean military conscripts filed a caseclaiming that they were seconded to Bisha during its development, and were forced to work 60-hour weeks in 50-degree heat for little or no recompense. They argued that this treatment represented “a breach of customary international law," a set of legal norms more fully developed after the Second World War to try and mitigate the worst effects of human savagery. Critically, they insisted that customary international law was a part of Canadian law, and that the case should therefore be heard in Canadian courts.

Mining companies tend to steer clear of developed world courtrooms at all costs, and Nevsun was no exception. While conceding that military conscripts may have been used to construct the mine, Nevsun nonetheless deployed a legal gambit that had never been encountered in a Canadian courtroom before. It asked the court to apply something called an “act of state doctrine,” which claims that courts in one country aren’t allowed to rule on what another country does. (Remember, Nevsun worked with and for the Eritrean government.) The act, the company’s lawyers insisted, effectively gave it blanket immunity in international courts for the behaviour in Eritrea. As such, Nevsun argued that the case should be heard in the Eritrean judicial system, where the courts are the plaything of the ruling dictator, Isaias Afwerki. ...

What does all of this mean? For one thing, Canada is home to almost half the world’s publicly listed mining and exploration companies, and so the ultimate legal resolution will have a global ripple effect. (At the present moment, Canadian mining companies operate in more than 100 countries, according to the government’s own statistics.) More important, the Supreme Court of Canada has now set a precedent in Commonwealth law for applying customary international law against companies operating in legal black-holes abroad. It means that the immunity that Nevsun assumed pertained to its partnership with the Eritrean state – an argument used in various guises by multinationals all the time – does not stand. It means that Canadian mining companies will be compelled to behave with less impunity and more oversight. And it may even mean that they have to take their human-rights auditors and corporate social-responsibility departments a little more seriously.


A just released report discusses how mining companies, are abusing and putting at risk the lives of indigenous and poor miners around the world during the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact ""Canada is home to almost 1,300 mining companies, constituting 75 percent of all the mining companies in the world" ( because of its lax laws governing mining, especially outside Canada and therefore the Trudeau government continues to be a major part of the problem in its failure to provide any significant regulation of the Canadian corporate mining and environmental abusers and killers.

In the Mining Watch Canada report entitled “Global Solidarity with Communities, Indigenous Peoples and Workers at risk from Mining Pandemic Profiteers”, the immediate threat of Covid-19 to the health and safety of communities and organizations that have been struggling to defend public health and their environments against the destruction and devastation of mining extractivism for decades is descibed. 


Voices from the Ground: How the Global Mining Industry is Profiting from the COVID-19 Pandemic

The mining industry is one of the most polluting, deadly, and destructive industries in the world. Yet to date, mining company responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have received little scrutiny compared to other industries seeking to profit from this crisis.  ...

Based on a collective analysis emerging from conversations with affected communities, workers, and civil society organizations, we have identified the following trends that exemplify this threat. A review of over 500 media sources, press releases, and reports on mining in the context of COVID-19 further informs these findings.

One: Mining companies are ignoring the real threats of the pandemic and continuing to operate, using any means available.

Mining companies and many governments have pushed to categorise mining as an essential service, enabling operations to continue despite substantial risk. In doing so, they have become key vectors for the spread of the virus and are putting communities, rural and urban populations, and their workforces, at great risk. In many cases, Indigenous and rural communities already face acute risk from the virus, especially communities whose health has been impacted by contamination generated by mining extractivism. They are struggling to protect themselves from potential outbreaks. 

Two: Governments around the world are taking extraordinary measures to shut down legitimate protests and promote the mining sector.

Free of public oversight and scrutiny, governments have imposed restrictions on people’s freedom of association and movement to protect public health. But these severe and even militarized measures compromise people’s ability to defend their territories and their lives. Land defenders face greater risk of targeted violence and some remain unjustly imprisoned, posing additional risks of infection. Governments have also deployed state forces (military and police) to repress legitimate, safe protests, especially in instances where there is long standing opposition to a company’s activities. In some instances, this has included the implementation of regulations or obstacles to access the justice system which entrench impunity. ...

Three: Mining companies are using the pandemic as an opportunity to whitewash their dirty track records and present themselves as public-minded saviours

At a time when entire countries are struggling to get the bare minimum of test kits necessary, companies have boasted about the millions of privately sourced test kits they have provided to affected communities and workers. This is poor cover for the long-term health impacts that regularly result from mining activities and the often underhanded ways in which these same firms operate. It also represents an affront to the greater public good and the collective efforts of many states and communities to secure public access to tests, highlighting the glaring asymmetries of power between multinational corporations and states in the Global South.  ...

Four: Mining companies and governments are using the crisis to secure regulatory change that favours the industry at the expense of people and planet.

While they frame mining as essential now and for global post-COVID-19 economic recovery, mining companies are lobbying to expedite administrative decisions and weaken the already-limited measures which do exist to address the social, cultural, environmental, and economic impacts of their activities that are almost always borne by affected communities with complete impunity. Whether explicitly, by suspending the little environmental oversight and enforcement there was, or implicitly, by making it more challenging for affected communities to get information and intervene in permitting processes, governments are making deep concessions to the mining industry – and companies are now lobbying governments to make such deregulation permanent.  

At the same time, companies are increasingly using supranational Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms, embedded in thousands of bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, to sue governments, especially in the Global South. They continue bringing or threatening suits in the hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars for decisions made by governments, courts and even human rights bodies, undermining national sovereignty to make decisions to protect public health and attacking the self-determination of people fighting to protect their wellbeing from extractive projects. ...

We call on national governments to respect and support the autonomous organizing and self- determining processes of mining-affected communities and Indigenous peoples. Their efforts are vital to protecting community health and the environment, informed by their own knowledge and traditions, as well as to the food sovereignty of rural and urban populations through small-scale agriculture and other productive activities. Economic “reactivation” must not promote more mining, but should, instead, acknowledge and bolster community-based initiatives.

We call on international human rights bodies to pay close attention and actively condemn human rights violations committed by governments and mining corporations during the pandemic and the recovery period to follow.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

We, the Yanomami, do not want to die. Help us expel more than 20,000 miners who are spreading Covid-19 throughout our lands.

Sign the petition to put pressure on the government. Our goal is 350,000 signatures.



Another example of the murder of local anti-mining activists by a Canadian mining company was the murder of anti-mineing activist Mariano Abarca  in Mexico in a case involving corruption that resulted in a RCMP investigation. The Canadian embassy supported the mining operation, denied any involvement in the investigation, refused to release a report on the investigation until a freedom of information request forced the release of a highly redacted document. 

Documents released from the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) under an access to information request raise serious concerns about the conduct of the Canadian Embassy in Mexico. Throughout a conflict involving Blackfire Exploration’s mining activities in the municipality of Chicomuselo, Chiapas that saw an activist shot and ultimately triggered a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) investigation over corruption, it appears the Embassy provided instrumental and uncon- scionable support to the operations of a Canadian mining company in Mexico.

Blackfire Exploration is a small, privately held, Calgary-based company that obtained mining concessions in Chiapas, Mexico in 2005. In 2008, its Payback mine began to produce barite, a mineral used for drilling petroleum wells. The mine operated for approximately two years before being closed by Mexican authori- ties for violating environmental regulations. Two much more serious scandals involving the mine bracket- ed its suspension: a week earlier on November 27, 2009, local anti-mining activist Mariano Abarca was murdered; and days later, allegations that the company was involved in the corruption of a local mayor surfaced in the Canadian news media. 

In March 2010, United Steelworkers, Common Frontiers, and MiningWatch Canada carried out a fact- finding mission to Chiapas at the invitation of the Mexican Network of Mine Affected Communities (REMA, by its initials in Spanish). The delegation looked into the impacts of Blackfire’s Payback mine in the town of Chicomuselo, where murdered activist and father of four Mariano Abarca lived, and in the outlying communities of Ejidoi Grecia and Ejido Nueva Morelia, where the mine was located. It produced a report in early 2010.

As part of its research, the delegation met with the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City. Although the Em- bassy repeatedly denied any involvement in the investigation of Abarca’s murder, the delegation knew that an Embassy Political Counsellor had travelled to Chiapas two months after Abarca’s death. The delegation requested a copy of the report from this trip, but the Counsellor refused to provide it. Several months later, the organizations filed an access to information request, and after 19 months DFAIT released Embassy documents dealing with Blackfire. The release consisted of more than 900 pages of sometimes heavily redacted emails, briefings, and other files dated from November 2007 to May 2010, spanning a period from before Blackfire’s mine was operating until six months after Abarca was killed.

Overall, the released documents suggest that in the case of Blackfire, the Embassy provided virtually un- conditional support in spite of the company’s behaviour and the Embassy’s awareness of the tensions around the mine site. The documents also establish that Mariano Abarca was known to the Embassy be- fore he was murdered. In July 2009, Mariano delivered a speech outside the Embassy in Mexico City, and in August 2009 the Embassy reported receiving 1,400 letters about Abarca following his arrest and deten- tion based on a complaint filed by a Blackfire representative in Mexico. Even after Abarca had been killed, the mine had been suspended, and corruption allegations had surfaced, the Embassy continued to defend the company to Mexican state officials and provided it with information on how to sue the state of Chiapas under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for closing the mine.  ...

An analysis of the DFAIT documents and ancillary materials supports the following conclusions. First, the Embassy’s active and unquestioning support may have acted as a disincentive for Blackfire to comply with local and international laws. Second, in doing so, the Embassy failed to uphold Canada’s own poli- cies, as well as its international obligation to promote universal respect for human rights.

The picture pieced together is tremendously unsettling, especially given Canada’s role as a top investor in Mexico’s mining industry. Approximately 75% of the world’s mining companies are headquartered in Canada, and many of these companies are associated with serious conflict. In 2011, Canada’s Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Counsellor reported that 204 of 269 foreign- owned companies in Mexico’s mining sector in 2010 were Canadian.

Canada’s prominent role in Mexico’s mining sector, and our findings in this case, lead us to make several recommendations, some of which are:

  • That Canada create robust eligibility criteria for all government supports to mining companies, includ- ing ensuring respect for the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous communities and for bind- ing democratic and participatory decision-making processes of non-Indigenous communities before mine prospecting and project development begins;

  • That Canada pass legislation to regulate Canadian mining companies operating abroad and provide affected communities with access to Canadian courts and an independent ombudsperson;

  • That Canada’s anti-corruption legislation be significantly strengthened and greater resources directed towards its enforcement;

  • That Canada instruct its embassies abroad to carefully assess the impacts of Canadian mining opera- tions on affected communities to ensure that commercial interests never outweigh collective and indi- vidual human rights;

  • That Blackfire Exploration Ltd. renounce any future attempt to reopen the Payback mine in Chico- muselo, or open any other new mines in the state of Chiapas.


Here's what happened when the murder of Mariano Abarca and Canadian government coverup reached Canadian courts in 2019. You guessed it - not much. 

The following article is translated from Spanish by Google Translator.

Canadian Justice Refuses To Investigate The Role Of Its Embassy In Mexico In The Assassination Of Mariano Abarca​  


Federal Court Judge of Canada accepts the possibility that Mariano Abarca would not have been assassinated, if the Canadian Embassy in Mexico had acted otherwise; However, he denies ordering an investigation.

We share the press bulletin of the Abarca Family, the Mexican Network of Affected and Affected by Mining (REMA), MiningWatch and Other Worlds regarding the ruling of the Canadian Federal Judge - July 29, 2019 (Chiapas, Mexico City, Ottawa, Toronto, Kamloops) .-

In a judgment ruling issued on July 18, the Canadian federal judge, Keith Boswell, admitted the possibility that Mariano Abarca "may not have been killed" if the Canadian embassy in Mexico "[would] have acted differently." Mariano Abarca was a community leader from Chicomuselo, Chiapas, assassinated on November 27, 2009 in the framework of the fight he undertook against the social and environmental impacts generated by the barite mine of the Canadian mining company Blackfire Exploration.

This was stated in the first instance in a process that the Abarca family began to request the legal review of the decision of the Commissioner for the Integrity of Public Administration of Canada, not to investigate the actions and omissions of the Canadian embassy in Mexico , around the criminalization and murder of Mariano Abarca. The Abarca family believes that the embassy's actions, including exerting pressure on the Chiapas authorities in favor of Blackfire to silence protests in the community when they learned that Mariano was being criminalized and threatened, put his life at greater risk. . However, and despite his admission of the relevance of the embassy's influence, Judge Keith Boswell refused to order the Commissioner to investigate his conduct. ...

In the 26-page decision, the judge devoted only a substantive paragraph to analyze the facts before concluding that it was "reasonable" to consider that the embassy had not violated any code of conduct. The judge appears to base this conclusion on the assumption that the policies on corporate responsibility, corruption and human rights defenders that the complainants identified were not binding on Canadian public officials who responded to the social conflict with Blackfire. In addition, it ruled that the commissioner's decision not to investigate was 'acceptable', without having made a serious assessment of the high public interest in ensuring that adequate public oversight of the actions of Canadian public officials around mining conflicts around the world . "This decision shows that there was very little will on the part of the judge to study and analyze the evidence in depth, since it did not consider the arguments that we presented. The reading of the ruling, which reveals very little consideration in the face of such a regrettable and serious situation of a matter of public interest in Canada and in several other countries where similar claims of human rights violations by mining companies persist, continues to surprise us. that they act with the support and protection of the Canadian government through its diplomatic missions, who are perceived with increasing distrust, ”said the family's lawyer, Miguel Ángel de los Santo.



In a report released in the last week of July, Global Witness identified a record number of land and environmental activists totalling more than 200 who were murdered last year.

"Canada is home to almost 1,300 mining companies, constituting 75 percent of all the mining companies in the world. Non-profit advocacy organization Mining Watch Canada has been monitoring Canadian mining companies' global actions since its founding in 1999." (


An employee of a Canadian-owned gold mine in Cocula, Mexico is among two people still missing days after local police freed ten others said to be victims of a kidnapping. The group was travelling in an SUV about 30 minutes outside of Coculaon Friday when kidnappers dressed as police or military personnel abducted them. 

Global Witness today revealed the highest number of land and environmental defenders murdered on record in a single year, with 212 people killed in 2019 for peacefully defending their homes and standing up to the destruction of nature.

The NGO’s annual report also shed a light on the urgent role land and environmental defenders play in fighting climate breakdown, opposing carbon intensive and unsustainable industries that are accelerating global warming and environmental damage. It points to how, under increased crackdown and surveillance during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, the protection of these activists is all the more vital for rebuilding a safer and greener planet.

On average, four defenders have been killed every week since the creation of the Paris Climate agreement in December 2015. Countless more are silenced by violent attacks, arrests, death threats or lawsuits. 

Shockingly, over half of all reported killings last year occurred in just two countries: Colombia (peaking at 64) and the Philippines (rising from 30 in 2018 to 43 in 2019). Globally, the true number of killings was likely much higher, as cases often go undocumented.

These killings include the murder of Datu Kaylo Bontolan, murdered in the Philippines after opposing illegal mining in the area. A Manobo leader, he was one of many indigenous people killed in 2019, asserting their right to self-determination and protecting their ancestral lands from those looking to exploit their natural resources.

Mining was the deadliest sector globally with 50 defenders killed in 2019, with agribusiness remaining a threat, particularly in Asia – where 80% of agribusiness-related attacks took place.

There have also been increasing threats and attacks in Romania, including the killing of Liviu Pop. A ranger working to protect one of Europe’s largest, primeval climate-critical forests, Liviu was shot and killed after protecting trees in a country where organised criminal gangs are decimating these forests.

Activists still campaigning and under threat include Angelica Ortiz, one of the prominent Wayuu women defenders from La Guajira, who for years has opposed the largest coal mine in Latin America, as part of efforts to protect water rights for communities living in one of Colombia’s poorest regions. Throughout this campaign, she was threatened and harassed. ...

“Agribusiness and oil, gas and mining have been consistently the biggest drivers of attacks against land and environmental defenders – and they are also the industries pushing us further into runaway climate change through deforestation and increasing carbon emissions. 

“Many of the world’s worst environmental and human rights abuses are driven by the exploitation of natural resources and corruption in the global political and economic system. Land and environmental defenders are the people who take a stand against this. 

“If we really want to make plans for a green recovery that puts the safety, health and well-being of people at its heart, we must tackle the root causes of attacks on defenders, and follow their lead in protecting the environment and halting climate breakdown.”  ...

Key stats: 

  • Over half of those killed were from mining-affected communities in Latin America. The Philippines was the country with most mining-related deaths, with 16 people killed.
  • Logging was the sector with the highest increase in killings globally since 2018, with 85% more attacks recorded against defenders opposing the industry.
  • Over two thirds of killings took place in Latin America, which has been consistently ranked the worst affected continent since Global Witness began to publish data in 2012.
  • Asia has consistently been one of the worst regions for attacks related to agribusiness - a long-time driver of attacks against defenders. In 2019, over 85% of agribusiness related attacks recorded were in Asia. Of these, almost 90% of these were documented in the Philippines.



The Trudeau government, despite its 2015 election promises has done virtually nothing to improve the record of its mining companies, which make up at least 50% of the world's mining companies, when it comes to the environment and the murder of environmentalists. However, a 2019 Supreme Court ruling may be about to force changes in this regard, according to the Mongabay report released this week. 

A study published this month analyzed 2,743 environmental conflicts registered in the Environmental Justice Atlas. Showdowns around mine sites are the most common type of environmental conflict globally, with 21% of global environmental conflicts and 20% of the associated assassinations linked to mining, according to the study. Image from Scheidel et al (2020).


  • Canada is home base for nearly half of the world’s mining companies, but the country’s efforts to improve corporate accountability for environmental and human rights violations have fallen short, observers say.
  • Internal documents show the government has stressed a voluntary approach to regulation, despite campaign promises to address abuses and outcry from campaigners.
  • A government spokesperson says Canada has launched new initiatives to safeguard environmentalists and land-rights activists and to promote corporate responsibility.
  • A recent Supreme Court decision could open the country’s legal system to allow victims of corporate abuses overseas to sue companies in Canada.

Home to nearly half of the world’s major mining companies, Canada has failed to fully implement promised reforms to hold corporations accountable for abuses committed overseas, according human rights advocates.

Ahead of its 2015 election win, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party promised to create an independent ombudsperson to investigate companies that violate human rights or poison the environment when extracting resources in the developing world, along with better protections for land rights campaigners there.

Officials with Global Affairs Canada, the foreign ministry, began meeting with human rights activists, as described in internal government files. Going into one meeting, in March 2017, campaigners told Mongabay they felt a sense of optimism: after a decade of Conservative Party rule, when officials froze NGOs out of the decision–making process, a new administration promising “sunny ways” and increased corporate accountability wanted to hear from them.

Today, though, land rights campaigners opposed to Canadian mining operations face more threats than ever, according to the activists. And while the government’s rhetoric has stressed human rights and accountability, it hasn’t introduced binding rules to crack down on companies that commit abuses overseas.

But a decision by Canada’s Supreme Court earlier this year could provide an avenue for redress in the courts when campaigners say the political system has failed....

Just over 600 pages of partially censored Canadian foreign ministry documents, accessed under freedom of information laws, detail the Trudeau government’s approach to human rights defenders and the mining industry. They include internal policy briefings for officials, minutes from meetings with activists and others, background research, and other correspondence for 2017 and part of 2018. A litany of abuse allegations dogging Canadian mining companies features prominently.

The documents cite data in bold from the Toronto-based Justice and Corporate Accountability Project, a legal advocacy group, noting that “28 Canadian mining companies and their subsidiaries were linked to 44 deaths, 403 injuries, and 709 cases of criminalization, including arrests, detentions, and charges in Latin America between 2000 and 2015.”

“Considering that over 60% of mining concessions held by foreign companies in Ecuador are in Canadian companies’ hands, mining issues are of great interest to Canada,” reads a 2017 internal foreign affairs department briefing on Ecuador’s human rights situation that was marked “secret” and included in the documents. ...

Examples include the recent death of Mexican labor campaigner Óscar Ontiveros Martínez. He was allegedly murdered on May 12 by forces linked to organized crime groups operating around a mine in Guerrero state owned by the Canadian company Torex Gold Resources, according to the Ottawa-based advocacy group MiningWatch Canada. His assassination is believed to stem from his involvement in a 2017 strike at the mine. There have been at least three other murders and one disappearance related to the labor action. In a letter responding activists’ inquiries, Torex Gold Resources said that the deaths “were criminal matters that were quite outside of our control.”

And Vancouver-based Pan American Silver, which operates eight mines in Central and South America, has been accused of polluting land and stoking violence in Peru and Mexico, including threats against local community members, according to research released in March by the Environmental Justice Atlas. Pan American Silver denies the charges.

“However, strong opposition by some indigenous and environmental groups continues to pose problems for mining development. Local human rights organizations have reported abuses from mining companies, (including, in the past, from Canadian companies), and from security forces hired by these companies,” the briefing continues.

When it comes to environmental conflicts between companies and communities, Canadian firms are overrepresented compared to their international peers, McGill University natural resources researcher Leah Temper told Radio Canada International. She was part of an international team that published a study on global environmental conflicts this month in the journal Global Environmental Change. Canadian firms are involved in 8% of the more than  2,700 conflicts analyzed in the study, Temper said. ...


No mined material has caused more deaths than asbestos. " Asbestos causes an estimated 255,000 deaths (243,223–260,029) annually according to latest knowledge, of which work-related exposures are responsible for 233,000 deaths (222,322–242,802)." (

Governments in Quebec and Ottawa have ended official support for asbestos mining  [Jet  Belgraver/Al Jazeera]Quebec Asbestos mine

"Canada’s past dedication to the mining of chrysotile asbestos and its track record of permitting the production and use of asbestos in thousands of products laid the groundwork for exposing its citizens. ...

Vancouver’s shipyards exposed many Canadians, and Quebec is home to many of Canada’s early asbestos mines. ... 

Since 1996, asbestos-related disease has accounted for around a third of workplace deaths in Canada."


In Canada asbestos-related deaths continue to rise because Canadian governments did little to stop asbestos mining until it was banned in 2018, despite knowing it mining towns being declared the most dangerous towns in the world by doctors in the 1970s.

The open pit of the now closed Jeffrey mine in Asbestos, Que is seen in a 1955 photograph. Photo from the Canadian Press

Data shows asbestos #1 killer of workers: The open pit of the now closed Jeffrey mine in Asbestos, Que

Between 2000 and 2016 the number of Canadians dying from mesothelioma increased from 292 deaths in 2000 to 510 in 2016 – an increase of 70 per cent. In total, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada, almost seven thousand Canadians died from mesothelioma during this period. ...

These figures represent only a small fraction of the number of deaths caused by asbestos. In addition to mesothelioma, asbestos causes more than twice as many cases of lung and other cancers, as well as asbestosis. ...

By 1966, Canada produced 40 percent of the world’s chrysotile asbestos. By the 1970s, doctors had declared the asbestos mining towns in Canada to be among the most dangerous in the world, with rates of mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases increasing.


Canada's asbestos mines also became exporters of asbestos-related death. 

Effects of asbestosis

An unknown number of deaths abroad are attributable to Canadian exports. As of 2009, Canada was the world’s fifth-largest producer of asbestos, after Russia, China, Kazakhstan and Brazil.

Canada’s position that asbestos can be used safely ignored the reality of its key markets, like India, where asbestos tiles, cut by hand, are a common building material, and safety regulations are little-known. Canada sent almost 70,000 tonnes of asbestos to India in 2010, worth $40-million.

Canada’s last export of raw asbestos was in November, 2011, after the Quebec mines shut down. But Canada continues to export products, such as building materials, that contain asbestos.


double post


The following article discusses Canada's role through its mining companies in the extrajudicial attacks under the Duterte regime. Let me assure you that this has not just happened under Duterte but has been going on for decades. On my first trip to the Philippines in 1988 when I met my wife, I also met a representative from the Australian union movement that had sent him to the Philippines to try to help Filipino unions suffering from human rights abuses and murders. When I asked him how his six months in the country had went, he replied "It's been a success. They only murdered six union leaders while I've been here".

MiningWatch Canada and the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP-Canada) have launched an electronic Parliamentary Petition in response to increasing extrajudicial attacks on civilians and human rights defenders in the Philippines since 2016.

“The Philippines is now one of the two most dangerous countries for those who defend human and environmental rights according to Global Witness,” says Patricia Lisson of ICHRP-Canada, adding that “this year the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report on the Philippines found serious human rights violations, reinforced by harmful rhetoric from high-level officials against, among others, human rights organizations, lawyers, political and judicial actors, journalists, trade unionists, and religious groups.”

Canada is implicated in these rights abuses, both through the role Canadian mining companies play in the country and through Canada’s military aid to the Philippines.

Canadian OceanaGold’s copper-gold project in the village of Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya, has long been accused of serious human rights and environmental abuses. “In 2018, local indigenous people, who have peacefully opposed the mine for years, were falsely accused of sedition against the state, making them targets for extrajudicial killings, which have become so common in the Philippines,” says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada, “and then this year a large police force violently dispersed a peaceful and authorized blockade of a road to the mine, even though the mine has been without a permit to operate since June of 2019.”

Even as the human rights situation in the Philippines has steadily deteriorated, Canada has continued to provide military aid to the country. “Given the grave human rights situation in the Philippines Canada should not be selling the country military equipment and providing defense cooperation,” says Patricia Lisson of ICHRP-Canada, “Canada should add the Philippines to its list of countries to which it will not export military goods and technology.”

Canada falls short in protecting Philippine human rights defenders both at the consular level in the Philippines and through its corporate accountability mechanisms at home. “When some of the people who were falsely accused, and faced a real threat of extrajudicial killing because of their opposition to OceanaGold, sought assistance from the Canadian embassy in Manila their requests for help were not met,” says Catherine Coumans, “and at the same time we still do not have an Ombudsperson in Canada who has the investigatory powers to compel witnesses and documents that are necessary to address complaints against Canadian mining companies.

The electronic Parliamentary Petition addresses these concerns raised by MiningWatch Canada and ICHRP-Canada.

For more information contact: