Latin American organizations call for stronger accountability of Canadian mining overseas

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Caritas Canada | 25 April 2016

Development and Peace and Mining Watch Canada are calling on Prime Minister Trudeau to give special attention to an open letter from close to 200 Latin American and international organizations urging for sweeping change to Canada’s foreign policy regarding the global mining sector.

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

Human rights, legal, environmental, Indigenous and farmer organizations with direct experience in mining conflicts in Latin America signed the letter. They welcome the Prime Minister’s gestures of support for Indigenous and human rights, while raising concern about Canadian mining from Mexico to Argentina.

“Under prior administrations,” the letter observes, “Canada’s human rights performance deteriorated considerably, not only in the eyes of the international community, but also from the perspective of the individuals, peoples and communities that live with the negative impacts of Canadian extractive projects.”

They express hope for change based on past support from Liberal Members of Parliament – including the Prime Minister – “towards the adoption of a legislative framework that would hold state agencies and companies to account for abuses related to Canadian mining companies’ overseas operations.”

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

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

Among the recommendations set out in the letter are:

  • Respect for the rights of Indigenous communities to self-determination and free, prior, and informed consent before any mining activities happen on their territories, as well as respect for non-Indigenous communities saying no to mining;
  • An end to Canadian government support, whether through aid, trade, technical assistance or diplomacy, that seek to influence the adoption or modification of regulatory frameworks in recipient countries for extractive projects;
  • The incorporation of international human rights and transparency standards in the regulation of credit agencies and public and private investment in extractive activities and safeguards on companies that receive state subsidies;
  • A guarantee of effective access to Canadian courts so that victims of violations caused by Canadian business abroad can obtain justice, truth, and reparations;
  • The creation of objective and impartial means to effectively monitor and investigate complaints of abuses in connection with Canadian mining companies abroad; and
  •  A halt to the pursuit of free trade and investment agreements that favor Canadian mining companies over people and the environment, in particular an end to investor-state international arbitration mechanisms, which foreign investors use to protect their investments and evade regulation or accountability for abuses.

In addition to being sent to the Prime Minister, the letter will be delivered to Canadian embassies in affected countries.

Download the open letter to the Prime Minister [pdf]

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Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights

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