UN must challenge Canada’s complicity in mining’s human rights abuses – by Meera Karunananthan (The Guardian – April 24, 2013)


Canada is due for review at the UN human rights council – abuses by its mining companies must not be overlooked

Canada is scheduled for its universal periodic review (UPR) at the UN human rights council on 26 April. The UPR is an international mechanism established in 2006 to hold governments accountable for their human rights records. According to Ban Ki-moon, the review has the potential “to promote and protect human rights in the darkest corners of the world”.

When Canada stands before the UN to have its “darkest corners” examined, the international community must not turn a blind eye to its complicity with a global mining industry whose corporations are among the worst human rights and environmental offenders in the world.

The abuses by Canadian mining companies are a systemic part of an economic development policy that disregards human rights and disdains the environment. It is no coincidence that Canada is now home to 75% of the world’s mining companies, the majority operating overseas. The Canadian government has accelerated its pursuit of investment treaties in the global south to serve the interests of the extractive industry. These treaties allow companies to challenge environmental, public health or other resource-related policies that affect mining profits.

At the same time, Canada allows its corporations to benefit from a climate of impunity, offering no legal recourse for adversely impacted communities and demanding no accountability in exchange for generous public subsidies, as the EU and other jurisdictions do. These conditions have made Canada a haven for the global mining industry.

Canadian mining companies are operating at the heart of violent conflicts around the world. Although the industry often claims the violence is localised and specific, there is an unmistakable pattern of social conflict surrounding mining projects. Anti-mining activists are being brutally attacked and killed for voicing their opposition to mega-mining project in communities throughout the global south. Yet impacted communities have been unsuccessful in bringing their cases to Canadian courts.

Last year, a Québec court of appeal rejected a suit by citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo against Montreal-based Anvil Mining Limited for allegedly providing logistical support to the DRC army as it carried out a massacre, killing as many as 100 people in the town of Kilwa near the company’s silver and copper mine.

The supreme court of Canada later confirmed that Canadian courts had no jurisdiction over the company’s actions in the DRC when it rejected the plaintiffs’ request to appeal. Kairos Canada, a faith-based organisation, concluded that the supreme court’s ruling would “have broader implications for other victims of human rights abuses committed by Canadian companies and their chances of bringing similar cases to our courts”.

For the rest of this article, click here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2013/apr/24/un-canada-mining-human-rights

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