Justin Trudeau and the Sludge of Canadian Mining Companies – by Jaime Porras Ferreyra (New York Times – November 3, 2016)


Jaime Porras Ferreyra is a writer and a consultant in international affairs.

MONTREAL — “Canada is back,” says Justin Trudeau, the charismatic and bilingual prime minister of Canada, at international gatherings, seeking to showcase the imprint he wants to put on Canadian foreign policy in contrast to that of his predecessor, Stephen Harper.

The prime minister has used very precise terms in his speeches: justice, environmental care, democracy and human rights. He even dared to invoke some of them during his official visit to China in September, although the Chinese did not applaud him for it.

Mr. Trudeau, who was elected last year, has already taken some steps toward his ambitious agenda. He welcomed thousands of Syrian refugees, he included Canada in the fight against climate change, and he offered troops for United Nations peacekeeping forces. Latin America also began to feel the effects of this diplomatic turn.

Starting in December, Mexicans will no longer need visas to travel to Canada. The Canadian government also announced an aid package for Colombia in the wake of the peace agreement there (although it is not clear what will happen to this aid now that Colombian voters have rejected the accord).

Trudeaumania moves forward with specific steps, a fresh style and velvety words. But Mr. Trudeau has been silent when it comes to one key issue for Latin Americans, an issue that has soiled Canada’s image with thick layers of sludge: the reprehensible behavior of mining companies in the region. Mr. Harper enthusiastically promoted Canadian participation in extractive industries beyond its borders, and in the last few years, between 50 percent and 70 percent of mining projects in Latin America have been carried out by Canadian companies.

Reports by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs and the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project have shown how some Canadian companies harm the environment, ignore the interests of indigenous communities, pressure governments to write favorable local laws, and support the criminalization of social protest, among other questionable behavior.

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