Time to counter human rights abuses by Canada’s mining companies

by Alex Neve, The Star, Thu May 08 2014

The stories mount, stories of human rights abuse and injustice: “mining activists shot,” “mine operations suspended,” “company accused of water pollution.” Far too often a Canadian mining company is behind the story. Canadian mining companies lead the mining world; but none aspire to lead the world in mining-related human rights abuses.

There is a common theme to all the cases: lack of an effective remedy open to the individuals and communities that suffer human rights harms associated with Canadian mining operations. Victims have nowhere to turn for justice. Not in their home country, nor in Canada.

Over the last two decades, as Canadian companies dig in evermore far-flung corners of the world for gold and other precious metals, disturbing accusations of human rights abuses follow. Troubling allegations are currently before Ontario Superior Court involving the killing of a local activist and school teacher, the shooting of a young man and the gang-rapes of 11 women, each crime alleged to have been carried out by a Canadian company’s private security forces in Guatemala. Remarkably, the case has made it past the unfair procedural hurdles that usually keep cases of this sort from ever going to trial. It still remains to be seen whether justice will be served.