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      Canada Mining Companies in Latin America Have Blood on Hands

      A new report finds that the corporate social responsibility governing Canada's mining industry brings human rights abuses and death to Latin American communities.

      Canadian mining companies came under renewed criticism Monday for their role in dozens of deaths, hundreds of injuries, and their systemic criminalization of mostly nonviolent grassroots activists protesting their operations in Latin American countries over the past 15 years, a new report found. The report sheds further light on the notorious human rights and environmental track records of Canadian corporations extracting resources abroad.

      Compiled by the Toronto-based Justice and Corporate Accountability Project at York University's Osgoode Hall Law School, the report documents incidents in over a dozen countries by 28 Canadian mining giants, including big names like Barrick Gold, Goldcorp and that have repeatedly garnered criticism for damning reports of human rights violations and environmental destruction at their mines. It also calls attention to the urgent need for greater accountability, both from corporations and the Canadian government, to treat reports of violence with the gravity they warrant.

      In total, the “The ‘Canada Brand:’ Violence and Canadian Mining Companies in Latin America” documents 44 deaths—30 of which are described as clearly “targeted”—across 11 countries and 403 injuries—363 of which happened during protests and other confrontations—across 13 different countries, between 2000 and 2015.

      It also records 709 cases of criminalization over the same period against opponents of mining activities, including arrests, charges, formal complaints and other litigation targeting activists and community leaders.

      The report lays bare differences in the kinds of violence communities face at the hands of Canadian mining corporations in different countries. Guatemala—home to contentious and controversy-embroiled mines like Tahoe Resources’ Escobal silver mine and Goldcorp’s Marlin gold mine—suffered the most deaths with 12 fatalities linked to four Canadian mining projects. Mexico, Colombia, and Peru followed with eight, six, five and four deaths, respectively, in connection with one or more Canadian mining projects.

      On the other hand, three Canadian projects associated with violence in Argentina—home to Barrick Gold's disputed Veladero mine—did not have blood on their hands with the deaths of activists, but clearly led in the number of instances of arrests, charges and detention of anti-mining activists with a total of 114 such cases. Honduras, Guatemala, Panama and Peru followed with 85, 71, 70 and 56 cases of criminalization tied to two or more projects.

      Meanwhile, Mexico was home to the largest number of Canadian mining projects linked to reports of violence and repression, with a total of six such mines.

      What’s more, the researchers found that Canadian companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange systematically exclude violent incidents from their required reporting. Human rights groups have used these reporting requirements in the past to launch complaints against mining corporations based on the argument that their negligent reporting is misleading for investors.

      The actual extent of violence and repression at Canadian mines in Latin America is likely much higher than what is detailed in the report, since the study only documented cases that could be corroborated by two independent sources. The authors note that additional reports of deaths, injuries, and other abuses also surfaced during the investigation, but could not be included based on the methodology. The report acknowledges that the number of cases of sexual violence most likely do not reflect the reality due to the fact that such abuses are chronically underreported. The authors also note that other kinds of human rights abuses suffered as a result of Canadian mining were excluded from the study.

      “We were not able to include death threats, deliberate burning of crops and property destruction, forced displacement, reported assassination attempts without reported injury, illness from environmental contamination, or psychological trauma from any of the violence due to the extensive resources required to document these incidents,” reads the executive summary.

      Despite being a partial picture, the authors stress that the report provides evidence of Canadian mining companies direct involvement in violence in Latin America and express hope that the study can act as a call to action for discussion at how to tighten regulations on the industry.

      The report is far from the first time the Canadian mining industry has been thrust into the spotlight for its rampant abuses. In fact, a number of high-profile international bodies — including four United Nations bodies and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights—have condemned the systematic abuses committed at the hands of Canadian companies, urging the Canadian government to reform its policy of industry self-regulation in favor of more strict requirements for extractive companies. Earlier this year, over 180 organizations from across Latin America penned a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau demanding the government act in the face of runaway abuses by Canadian mining companies.

      The barrage of criticism, though, has done little to stem the human rights violations at the hands of an industry that enjoys voluntary and non-enforceable “corporate social responsibility” codes governing its business practices.

      Nevertheless, local plaintiffs impacted by human rights abuses and environmental destruction in Latin American countries are increasingly seeking recourse in Canadian courts. As the new report highlights, though, it's a David vs. Goliath battle.

      teleSUR, 24 October 2016


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