The Canadian government is failing either to investigate or to hold the country’s massive extractives sector accountable for rights abuses committed in Latin American countries, according to petitioners who testified here Tuesday before an international tribunal.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) also heard concerns that the Canadian government is not making the country’s legal system available to victims of these abuses.
“Canada has been committed to a voluntary framework of corporate social responsibility, but this does not provide any remedy for people who have been harmed by Canadian mining operations,” Jen Moore, the coordinator of the Latin America programme at MiningWatch Canada, a watchdog group, told IPS.
“We’re looking for access to the courts but also for the Canadian state to take preventive measures to avoid these problems in the first place – for instance, an independent office that would have the power to investigate allegations of abuse in other countries.”
Moore and others who testified before the commission formally submitted a report detailing the concerns of almost 30 NGOs. Civil society groups have been pushing the Canadian government to ensure greater accountability for this activity for years, Moore says, and that work has been buttressed by similar recommendations from both a parliamentary commission, in 2005, and the United Nations.
“Nothing new has taken place over the past decade … The Canadian government has refused to implement the recommendations,” Moore says.
“The state’s response to date has been to firmly reinforce this voluntary framework that doesn’t work – and that’s what we heard from them again during this hearing. There was no substantial response to the fact that there are all sorts of cases falling through the cracks.”
Canada, which has one of the largest mining sectors in the world, is estimated to have some 1,500 projects in Latin America – more than 40 percent of the mining companies operating in the region. According to the new report, and these overseas operations receive “a high degree” of active support from the Canadian government.
“We’re aware of a great deal of conflict,” Shin Imai, a lawyer with the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project, a Canadian civil society initiative, said Tuesday. “Our preliminary count shows that at least 50 people have been killed and some 300 wounded in connection with mining conflicts involving Canadian companies in recent years, for which there has been little to no accountability.”
These allegations include deaths, injuries, rapes and other abuses attributed to security personnel working for Canadian mining companies. They also include policy-related problems related to long-term environmental damage, illegal community displacement and subverting democratic processes.
For the complete article, please see IPS.