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What is Canada's role in the mass migrant march from Honduras?

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Twitter photo via @pedroultreras

Mainstream news reports have focused on the drama of the thousands of people walking from Honduras, and who have now entered Mexico, with the hope of reaching the United States. What is driving this mass displacement of people? What is Canada's role in this?

Left-wing Libertad y Refundación Congressman Jari Dixon has tweeted that the migrants are not "seeking the American dream" but "fleeing the Honduras nightmare."

On June 28, 2009, a military coup overthrew elected president Manuel Zelaya who had increased the minimum wage by 80 per cent, opposed new mining concessions, and aligned his country with the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America - Peoples' Trade Treaty, known as ALBA -- originally proposed as an alternative to the Free Trade Area of the Americas)

Author-activist Yves Engler noted at that time that the Harper government did not call for Zelaya to be returned to power, did not announce plans to suspend aid to Honduras, nor did it exclude the Honduran military from its Military Training Assistance Program.

"From 1996 - 2006 Canadian companies were the world's second-biggest investors in Honduras, trailing only U.S. corporations in levels of foreign investment," according to Engler.

"Six months after the coup Ottawa endorsed an electoral farce and immediately recognized the new right-wing government," noted Engler.

That "election," held on November 29, 2009, brought the conservative National Party under Porfirio Lobo Sosa to power.

By October 2010, Canada and Honduras began bilateral negotiations on a free trade (a.k.a. investor rights) agreement. Those talks were concluded by August 2011. The deal was signed in November 2013 and came into force in October 2014.

A new mining law was also pushed through.

In 2012, U.S. political activist Jody Williams wrote:

"The proposed law would accelerate the licensing process for new mines in Honduras, including open-pit mines, and simplify the rules for mining companies planning to operate in Honduras. It would also reduce environmental standards and privilege water use by mining companies."

She added, "In creating this new law, the Honduran government has bent over backwards to meet the needs of Canadian and other mining companies, but has carried out almost no consultations with Honduran civil society and community organizations."

The Honduran Congress passed and ratified the law in January 2013.

Now Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, who like Lobo is also a member of the conservative National Party and ran in elections (in 2013 and 2017) rife with allegations of fraud, presides over a country where violence is rampant.

"For years, Honduras has had one of the highest per capita homicide rates in the world," writes Sandra Cuffe in Al Jazeera.

Cuffe adds, "Women and girls make up nearly half of the first wave of the northbound exodus, according to statistics released on Saturday by officials from a shelter in southern Mexico. Of the 5,109 people accounted for, 1,565 are women and 952 are girls."

Despite this, I can find no comments on Canada's Global Affairs website or from our self-described feminist prime minister on this situation.

As the migrants trudge through Chiapas, one would hope the Canadian government -- given its role in exacerbating the reasons for this mass displacement of people -- might step forward with a statement of apology and support.

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.

Twitter photo via @pedroultreras

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