Canada accused of complicity in mining companies' abuse of women and girls

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By Nadia Prupis, Common Dreams, Oct. 4, 2016

The Canadian government is failing to protect women against human rights abuses by supporting and financing mining companies that are involved in discrimination, rape, and violence abroad, according to a new report submitted to the United Nations on Monday.

The report (pdf), written by EarthRights International (ERI), MiningWatch Canada, and the Human Rights Research and Education Center Human Rights Clinic at the University of Ottawa, states that the Canadian government continues to support these corporations instead of holding them to account, despite its obligations to do so as a member of the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Canada's complicity in the abuse is especially noteworthy because it is home to a majority of the world's mining company headquarters, which operate at more than 8,000 sites in over 100 countries.

In one case outlined in the report, Indigenous women and girls living near Papua New Guinea's Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) gold mine accused security personnel at the site of engaging in a decades-long campaign of sexual violence, including gang rape. The companies that run PJV—Barrick Gold and Placer Dome—also reportedly allowed environmental devastation and other forms of violence against men and women, as well as forced displacement, extrajudicial killings, and arbitrary detention, the report states.

The community has been fighting for redress since 2005. Although Barrick Gold established a so-called "Remedy Framework" in 2010 to compensate victims, less than half of the women who filed claims received remuneration, and those that did say it was not enough to "reflect the gravity of the harm suffered," the report states.

Similar abuses, and lack of accountability, occurred in Tanzania, Colombia, and Guatemala, the groups continue. At the Fenix nickel mine near El Estor, Guatemala, women were reportedly gang raped by police, military, and security personnel during a forced eviction. Despite these and other abuses, the Canadian government continued to provide support to the owners of the mine. In a leaked email between the Canadian embassy and the mine's then-owner, Skye Resources, the native community is referred to as "invaders" and a property conflict is described as "an anarchic free-for-all land grab."

"The allegations against Canadian corporations are not isolated incidents," said Marco Simons, general counsel at ERI. "There is a systemic pattern of reported abuses associated with Canadian extractive sector companies operating outside Canada."

Under CEDAW, Canada is required to do all it can to eliminate discrimination against women by any corporations that work in foreign countries, including through prevention and punishment measures. It is also obligated to compensate victims.

As Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada summed up, "Despite calls from civil society, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, individual members of parliament, and numerous U.N. treaty bodies to take proper legislative action to regulate its corporations, ensure accountability for involvement in harm and access to a remedy for victims of corporate related abuse, Canada has failed to do so."

Salvador Herencia-Carrasco, director of the Human Rights Clinic, said, "With this submission, our organizations hope that Canada and other home states implement mechanisms to assure that private extractive companies respect environmental standards and the human rights of women."


Related news:

Honduran activist wants Trudeau to pressure Canadian mining companies on human rights abuses

By Marina Jimenez, The Toronto Star, August 16, 2016

Father Melo lives every day as though it is his last. He knows assassins are out to kill him. And, eventually, they may succeed.

“I cannot walk in the streets or ride my bike,” said Melo, a Jesuit priest, human rights activist and radio host from Honduras. Melo, whose real name is Ismael Moreno Coto, travelled to Toronto this week to talk about the risks he faces in his home country at an event hosted by Canadian Jesuits International.

“I have police patrolling outside my house but I don’t know if they are protecting me or watching me. I am the government’s No. 1 enemy.”

Honduras is one of the deadliest places in the world to be an environmental activist, according to Global Witness, an international non-governmental organization focused on natural resource exploitation.

Between 2010 and 2014, 101 environmentalists were killed in the country, and few of the cases have been prosecuted. This is a fact Melo knows well. On March 2, 2016, Berta Cáceres, a recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize and a close friend of Moreno’s, was shot to death.

Such impunity seems shocking in a country of just eight million, and one with a strong Canadian presence. Canada signed a free-trade agreement with Honduras in 2014, and an estimated 100,000 Canadians visit each year. But it’s the mining sector where Canada has the biggest impact: 90 per cent of all foreign mining investments in Honduras are Canadian, according to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), a Washington, D.C., think-tank.


Open letter to Justin Trudeau demanding reforms to ensure that Canadian mining companies comply with the highest international human rights standards

The letter can be viewed here