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As the widow of a slain Mayan community leader looked on, lawyers clashed in a Toronto courtroom on Tuesday over whether a Canadian mining company, HudBay Minerals Inc., can be held liable for alleged violence at a Guatemalan mine owned by a subsidiary.
Lawyers for HudBay, who are trying to have the case tossed out, say allowing it to proceed would “wreak havoc” with the well-established corporate law principle that parent companies are not liable for the actions of their subsidiaries. They also claim it would encourage “meritless” cases against other mining companies.
“They are trying to change the law,” HudBay lawyer Robert Harrison told court Tuesday on the second day of a two-day hearing on the firm’s motions to have the case thrown out.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs, and Amnesty International Canada, which intervened in the case, denied their arguments are radical. They argued that HudBay itself can be held liable for alleged negligence in the case, alleging the company’s executives made key decisions “on the ground” for its subsidiary about its security guards, relations with nearby indigenous people, and the “forced evictions” of Mayan protesters who claim the mine’s land as their own.