Monthly Archives: November 2015

Canada: B.C. Supreme Court Stays Lawsuit against Tahoe Resources, Denies Justice in Canada for Guatemalan Victims

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Source: Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network – MiningWatch Canada – Network in Solidarity with the Peoples of Guatemala

Canadian and US organizations are calling a British Columbia judge’s refusal to hear a lawsuit against Tahoe Resources over violence at its Guatemala mine site wilfully blind to the gravity of the case and the obstacles faced by the victims in bringing a transnational corporation to justice.

On Monday, November 9th, the BC Supreme Court declined jurisdiction over a civil lawsuit that seven Guatemalan men filed in June 2014 against BC-registered mining company Tahoe Resources for negligence and battery.

Six Guatemalan farmers and one student brought the suit against the company after being shot and injured by the company’s private security during a peaceful demonstration outside the Escobal silver mine in southeastern Guatemala on April 27th, 2013. Daily protests were taking place in response to the Guatemalan government’s approval of the company’s final mine permit and dismissal, without consideration, of over 250 complaints based on local concerns over water contamination and health harms.

British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Laura Gerow ruled the case should be heard in Guatemala, focusing heavily on the procedural costs and inconvenience of bringing the suit in Canada. Justice Gerow’s ruling ignored evidence presented to the court about Tahoe Resources’ quasi-military security strategy at its mine site, which was developed well before April 2013 and involved contracts with groups specialized in counterinsurgency techniques.

“Documentation submitted to the B.C. court provides evidence that Tahoe Resources contracted security companies ready for war, not communities peacefully protesting threats to their water and farms. Justice Gerow gave far too much attention in her ruling to the violence that took place in Guatemala in April 2013 and not enough to how Tahoe Resources’ decisions contributed to or failed to prevent this from occurring,” states Jen Moore for MiningWatch Canada.

In her ruling, Justice Gerow chose to ignore the power imbalances between a transnational mining company and Guatemalan farmers that are almost certain to hinder justice in the Central American country. Notably, she shrugged off the fact that senior Tahoe Resources executives ignored subpoenas earlier this year and in 2014 to appear in a Guatemala court where their mine manager had brought trumped up charges against a community leader. Those charges were eventually dismissed.

“It is unclear what persuaded the judge to think that the victims could get a fair trial in Guatemala, where mining abuses are so prevalent and so poorly addressed. Guatemala’s impunity rate hovers above 90% for every sort of crime, and an international commission recently unearthed a series of massive corruption scandals that implicated high-level government officials, including a number of judges. Justice has never been served in Guatemala in terms of holding a foreign company to account and it is unclear why Justice Gerow thinks this case would be special,” comments Ellen Moore of the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala.

“Perhaps it is a novel idea in the eyes of the B.C. judiciary to contemplate the connections between a Canadian company and its subsidiaries elsewhere. However, we urgently need B.C. courts to step up given that there are hundreds of mining companies that call Vancouver home, including many that are embroiled in conflicts abroad,” remarks Lisa Rankin from the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network.

“Justice is supposed to be blind to wealth and power, not turn a blind eye to abuse and impunity,” she concluded.

Jen Moore, MiningWatch Canada, jen(at), (613) 569-3439
Megan Whelan, Network in Solidarity with the Peoples of Guatemala (NISGUA), (510) 763-1403, megan(at)
Lisa Rankin, Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network, btscoordinator(at), (902) 324-2584

Photo: Giles Clarke


Time for diamond companies to stop hiding behind Kimberley Process

Amnesty International Press Release
16 November 2015

Diamond companies must stop using the Kimberley Process to claim that their diamonds are free from human rights abuses and conflict, Amnesty International said as the certification scheme holds its annual plenary in Luanda, Angola.

The Kimberley Process was created with good intentions in 2003 to stop so-called “blood diamonds” that fund rebel groups from entering global markets. But a September 2015 Amnesty International report exposed systemic weaknesses in the scheme. Armed groups in the Central African Republic (CAR), for example, are profiting from the country’s internal diamond trade, with diamonds from CAR finding their way into global markets despite a Kimberley Process export ban.

“The Kimberley Process was created to stop the international trade in blood diamonds, but it has not even achieved that limited goal. Meanwhile, the ethical problems facing the diamond sector have grown: our report exposed child labour, smuggling, exploitative working conditions and tax-evasion issues,” said Lucy Graham, Researcher in Amnesty International’s Business and Human Rights team.

“Despite evidence exposing the clear need for change, the diamond industry reacted defensively to our report and ignored the issues we raised. They continue to hide behind the veneer of respectability offered by the Kimberley Process rather than taking responsibility for what happens along their supply chains.”

The United Arab Emirates, one of the world’s biggest diamond trading centres, is expected to take over the rotating chair of the Kimberley Process on 1 January 2016. Amnesty International’s report exposed loopholes in the UAE’s system for preventing the trade in blood diamonds while finding that Dubai’s Tax Free Zone encourages diamond traders to make massive profits at the expense of developing countries.

“Governments like the UAE need to show leadership. This means new laws that ensure companies take responsibility for illegal acts and serious human rights abuses in their diamond supply chains,” said Lucy Graham.



Canadian Mining Companies Better Beware, the Liberals Are Coming for Them

By Justin Ling

November 6, 2015 | 8:37 pm

A regime change in Ottawa means that the government of Canada will be breathing down the necks of its mining companies operating in the the global south, a Liberal MP confirmed to VICE News.

John McKay, who has sat in the House of Commons since 1997, has repeatedly tried to push the previous Conservative government to set up penalties for mining companies who have breached human rights, environmental standards, or labor practises.

But his efforts to update the law, by way of bill C-300, were foiled — once in 2009, and again in 2011.

While McKay says the new government hasn’t discussed the bill yet, he’s optimistic the legislation will be returning in due course.

“That, I hope, would be a government initiative,” McKay says.

C-300 would have created a system to allow citizens of foreign “developing” nations to file complaints against Canadian mining companies, directly to either the minister of foreign affairs, or international trade. If the minister determines the complaint is legitimate, and that the company has broken international standards for business, then the company will lose all support from the Canadian government.

That support is nothing to blink at. One estimate says that the extractive sector receives $20 billion from Export Development Canada, a government agency, in subsidies and insurance alone. The Canadian Pension Plan invests millions more. Other departments and programs offer even more cash to the industry.

Calls have increased in recent years to do something to force the companies to behave responsibly.

Related: UN Report Alleges Forced Labor at Canadian-Owned Mine in Eritrea

Three-quarters of the world’s mining companies are said to be headquartered in Canada, which means much of the blame ends up on Canada’s doorstep when things go badly. One report, commissioned by Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada — an industry association which supports better regulation for Canadian mining abroad — found that Canadian companies were responsible for four times as many violations of human rights and environmental standards as other mining heavyweights like Australia and India.

In response to the allegations of misdeeds, the previous Conservative government installed an office to encourage Canadian companies to do more to respect international standards. A VICE investigation published in 2014 found that even the office’s own stakeholders referred to it as a “joke” and a “white elephant.”

Eventually, the Harper government put that idea out to pasture and rebooted their effort in 2014, and even received some accolades for its new approach. Under the new plan, the Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor was supposed to take complaints, mediate between those filing the complaint and the company, and find ways to address any possible problems. Ultimately, if the company refuses to play ball, the office can revoke their government assistance.

A new counsellor was appointed in March, but there has been no update from the office since then. A calendar lists just two events for the counsellor, both in October. Trying to subscribe to the office’s newsletter leads to a broken link. The office’s website says the most recent complaint was received in 2013.

McKay calls the whole thing a “half-assed measure.”

During the previous election campaign, VICE asked Trudeau what he would do in office to fix the problem.

“The Canadian mining industry has made significant efforts over the past while as an industry, but there are still a few actors that need to be, you know, cracked down upon and addressed more directly,” Trudeau said. When pressed, he referenced McKay’s bill and said it would be something that his government would go ahead with.

McKay says he’s optimistic that Trudeau will stick to his word. But, he adds, “if I need to jump start it, I’ll jump start it.”

Follow Justin Ling on Twitter: @justin_ling


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An opportunity for stronger action and renewed leadership to protect human rights at home and abroad