Sexual Assault and Canadian Companies Operating Internationally

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Sexual Assault and Canadian Companies Operating Internationally

I posted this in "Canada and Murder of Environmentalists under Liberal and Conservative Governments" thread in the Environmental Justice section, but I feel the discussion needs its own thread concerning the actions of Canadian companies operating largely with impunity internationally, especially in poorer countries. 

Barrick Gold, which is headquartered in Toronto and was until 2019 the largest gold mining company in the world, "generated significant controversy around the world, including allegations of mass rape[58] and other violent abuses,[59] hundreds of murders,[60] forcible eviction and mass arson.[61] Barrick and certain of its executives have been charged at various times and in various jurisdictions with bribery,[62] conspiracy,[63] forgery, money-laundering,[64] tax-evasion,[65] and incalculable environmental damage.[66]" (

In Papua New Guinea Barrick Gold security guards have been involve d in mass rape. 


A group photo of Porgera community women and men who say they were raped or violently abused at the gold mine owned by Barrick Gold Corporation. (

At least 130 women were raped by security guards at Barrick Gold Corporation’s open pit mine in Porgera, Papua New Guinea. Some say the compensation they received was inadequate. ...

As of September 2010, Barrick employed a private security force of 443 guards — 279 from Porgera, 153 from around Papua New Guinea, and 11 supervisors from outside the country —to detain trespassers and hand them over to police, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

After first ignoring their stories, the company finally acknowledged the problem in 2010 and in 2012 it created a process to compensate the women for the abuse they suffered. In return, the women signed waivers promising not to sue the company in any court in the world.

These rapes are undisputed by the mining company. The only matter in dispute is whether the women received justice. And a new joint report by the human rights clinics at the Harvard and Columbia law schools says they did not. ...

One of the report's authors, Sarah Knuckey, who presented her findings in front of the United Nations this week, says while Barrick Gold created an "innovative remedy approach" in 2012 — one of the first company-created mechanisms like it in the world — the process has still resulted in a deep feeling of unfairness among the women who went through it.

Earlier this year, 11 women who were raped by the company's guards but did not sign away their rights, received 10 times as much compensation from the company because they had attorneys advocate on their behalf, according to the report released Thursday.

"In July 2015, Barrick offered each of the 120 women an additional payment, but taken together, the initial packages and additional payment remain significantly less than the international settlement [that the 11 women received]," the report states.

The company's mechanism had "specific positive features that other companies should look to as guidance," the report says, but it "falls short" and "is not a model that other corporations should replicate wholesale."

"The women, if you ask them now, are you happy with the remedy that you received, many of them will say something like, this remedy is like a mother giving a crying child a small snack," says Knuckey. "They feel insulted, and embarrassed and in some ways quite ashamed about the remedy they got."


With the sexual abuse and racism displayed towards women working at within Canadian mining firms and towards those in surrounding communities in Canada, it is hardly surprising that such attitudes would manifest themselves internationally as shown in the last post. 

1. Indigenous Communities and Industrial Camps
“In research conducted in the Fort St. James area (Shandro et al. 2014), data from the local RCMP showed a 38 per cent increase in sexual assaults during the first year of the construction phase of an industrial project, as well as an increase in sex work in areas where there is an increase in industrial traffic (Shandro et al. 2014). Indigenous women are particularly vulnerable to being victimized by sexual assault (Department of Justice 2015), and particularly so when industrial camps are located near remote communities” p. 22.  ...

2. Indigenous Gender-based Analysis
“Violence-related deaths among Indigenous women is five times higher than the national average for Canadian women.85 The risk of sexual violence, substance abuse and sexually transmitted infections due to rape and sex trafficking is particularly high for Indigenous women and girls in proximity to industrial camps.”86 ....Indigenous women are disproportionately affected by the negative socio-economic effects of development and are less likely to benefit from employment opportunities.”87 ....“Though limited data is available on the experience of gender-diverse Indigenous peoples in the mining industry, one study found that 43% of gender-diverse Indigenous participants in Ontario had experienced physical or sexual violence and 67% had been forced to move as a result of their gender identity.” ...

3. Women in Canadian Mining
In 2018, Peltier-Huntley conducted an on-line questionnaire survey of employees working in management positions within mining and those who had left mining occupations. Of 540 who responded (please note the points below are direct quotes from the document):

  • 214 (39%) respondents shared 251 stories of their experiences with (n = 109 or 43%) or observations of (n = 96 or 37%) discrimination (n = 116 of 46%) and harassment (n = 117 or 47%) incidents in the mining industry. (p.90)

  • The most common aggressors were identified as male or men (n = 33 or 21%), supervisor (n = 30 or 19%), worker (n = 18 or 12%), manager (n = 16 or 10%), and senior (n = 12 or 8%). P.91

  • Aggressors were often in a position of power (n = 75 or 48%), such as a client, supervisors, or manager. The receivers were most often identified as: I (n = 56), indicative of a first-hand account or by their gender: female or women (n = 52). There were a few accounts of women being the aggressor (n = 4) toward other women or men, or men being the receiver of aggressions (n = 7) from other men. The term “bullying” was used most often when men received inappropriate behaviour from other men. (p. 91)

  • Harassment (n = 116) included the attacks which were personal in nature, overt, and may have occurred on multiple occasions, such as bullying. Discrimination (n = 117) incidents were more general, less personal, and often subtle in nature. Some incidents (n =18 or 7%) were described in such a way that it was not possible to determine the severity of the action. The method of administering the offence was described in terms of involving physical contact (n = 16 or 6%) or comments (n = 107 or 43%). Comments could include texting, emailing, or verbal communication. The nature of the offences was identified in 161 (64%) cases. The nature of offences were deemed to be sexual and/or sexist (n = 144 or 89%), racist (n = 11 or 7%), religious (n = 4 or 2%), or homophobic (n = 2 or 1%). All of the 16 incidents involving physical contact were also sexual in nature. Of the 251 incidents, 109 (43%) involved first hand experiences; the vast majority (n = 98 or 84%) of those at the receiving end of the incident were women. A further 46 (18%) incidents were witnessed by the survey respondent, where 60% (n = 28) of the witnesses were men. 78% (n = 36) of the survey participant who were confided in after the incident occurred (n = 46 or 18%) were male. (pp. 92-93)

  • The setting in which these incidents occurred were mainly at the workplace (n = 184 or 73%). Some incidents occurred off-site, such as at a conference, or after work hours (n = 16 or 6%). Thirty-seven (17%) of the 214 respondents who shared their experiences with harassment and discrimination in the Canadian mining industry indicated they had multiple examples of inappropriate behaviour to share. (p. 93)

    From: Peltier-Huntley, Jocelyn. 2019. Closing The Gender Gap In Canadian Mining: An Interdisciplinary Mixed Methods Study. Unpublished Msc Thesis. Saskatoon: University of Saskatchewan. (available from the online University repository)  (


In addition to the numerous rapes carried by Barrick Gold Corp security guards in its Papua New Guinea mine, Barrick Gold has also been accused of being involved in rapes, murder, pollution and attacks on media personnel related to  its Tanzanian mine. A Tanzanian government inquiry concluded that Tanzanian police have killed 65 people and injured 270 locals near the mining site while working for Barrick Gold Corp. 

Lucia Marembela Mwita.

Lucia Marembela Mwita.  First woman to speak out about rapes at Tanzanian Barrick Gold Corp Mine

Welcome to North Mara, one of the biggest mines in Tanzania, which since 2006 has been operated by London-listed Acacia Mining and predominantly owned by the world’s biggest goldmining company, Barrick, a Toronto-based firm that holds a 63.9% stake.

For the past two decades, this mine has been a place of danger, extreme violence and allegations of environmental contamination. ...

Although Tanzania is nominally at peace, over the years police and security guards have been accused of killing dozens – possibly hundreds – of local people, injuring many more and raping countless women.

There have also been reports of contamination from mining chemicals, but journalists and human rights activists who have tried to investigate these cases have sometimes found themselves the subject of intimidation, harassment and even threats of deportation from police and state authorities. Acacia says it is not involved in any crackdown on the media and it promotes transparency.

An investigation by the Guardian and its partners in the Forbidden Stories journalism collective has been told violence continues – albeit at a lower level – while the health problems associated with possible chemical pollution remain a concern. ...

It is running a vast and remote mine that is a major contributor to the national economy. The disparity of power with local villagers could hardly be greater. Most locals here are from the Kuria indigenous community and many are illiterate. ...

Police dump the bodies outside the homes’ ...

Nearby villagers were forbidden from artisanal mining, which had been an important source of income before the mining company arrived. Locals – sometimes armed with machetes – intrude inside the mine to look for granules of gold among the waste rock and on the edge of the tailings pond. The situation is often volatile.

On some days, the guards accept bribes and turn a blind eye.  On others, they are ordered by their bosses to crack down. The worst period was around 2010-14.

“I’ve seen a lot of people get shot, some beside me. We would enter in a group and then run if they see us. We would hear the next day who had died. Police dump the bodies outside the homes,” said one local man who asked to remain anonymous, referring to conflicts at that time. He said tensions remained. “It happened many times. The villagers get very angry. Why are they treating us like animals?”

The nearest general hospital in Tarime was treating five to eight cases of gunshot wounds from the mine every week from around 2010 to 2014, according to Dr Mark Nega, a former district medical officer. ...

Such killings were initially played down or denied. Journalists who tried to investigate found themselves harassed by police, or believed their stories had been spiked following pressure from state authorities.

After pressure from activists and lawyers, Acacia acknowledged 32 “trespasser-related” fatalities between 2014 and 2017. Of these, six died in confrontations with police at the mine.

International watchdog groups say at least 22 were killings by guards and police during the same period. Tanzanian opposition politicians have claimed 300 people have been killed since 1999.

“For such a high number of violations to have occurred outside a conflict zone in a business context is shocking and exceptional,” said Anneke van Woudenberg, the executive director of Raid, a UK corporate watchdog. 

The owners blame police. ... But the authorities work under a memorandum of understanding with the mine whereby local police work at the service of the mine in return for fuel, food, accommodation and daily stipends.

After a lawsuit against the company in 2015 by plaintiffs represented by the UK law firm Leigh Day was settled out of court with no recognition of liability, the number of shootings has declined and no rapes have been reported.

There is a new wall around operational areas. The mine and local authorities say they are educating guards and police and punishing those who break the law. ...

Then there are environmental problems that may prove to be Acacia’s enduring legacy long after the gold is mined out. 

There can be few places in the world where so many people live so close to a vast toxic tailings dam, waste rock dump and chemical processing facility. About 70,000 people live close to the mine, many of them drawn by the prospect of jobs or gold. ...

John Nyamboge Ntara, of Matongo village, said that up until September 2017, 168 of his cows had died after grazing on land close to the tailing reservoir. “We worry for our kids,” he said. Acacia said it had investigated these claims and found no evidence supporting the allegations. ...

But pollution concerns have been backed by several studies. In 2012, scientists found arsenic levels were “an order of magnitude” higher than the drinking water recommendations by the World Health Organization. Four years later, a study of Mara river fish found significantly higher concentrations of chromium, nickel, copper and selenium downstream of the mine than upstream. ...

Rape victims are also speaking out about their experiences and the waivers they were encouraged to sign in return for modest sums of compensation. The first was Lucia Marembela Mwita, who was caught by guards in 2009. “They took me to the airstrip in a car. One raped me. The other kept watch. It became a routine for any women they caught.”

Another woman, Nyamhanga Kichele Mwita, was ordered to lift up a large rock and told she would be beaten if she dropped it. As she clasped it, they stripped and raped her. She later found she had HIV.

Many of the victims say they kept quiet because they were ashamed to tell their husbands. Boke Makolele still has trouble walking because the guards struck her knees, ankles and the small of her back with a kilungo, or wooden baton. “They beat me a lot because I didn’t want to do it. After they dumped me, I went to hospital in tears. It hurt so much,” she said. “I never told anyone. I was afraid.”

Eventually, more than a dozen women complained and after the case was picked up by lawyers and international NGOs, they were paid off by the company, though it made no admission of liability.

Looking back, the women believe they were deprived of their legal rights. “They called us and said sign here. We didn’t even get to take the document home to read. We weren’t aware what was written on the paper,” said one. “I think they were trying to silence us.”