Saturday, April 9, 2016
Violent Colonial Canadians
We decry the baby seal hunt and tolerating bare knuckle brawling in ice hockey, but otherwise the great northland is generally viewed as a fairly peaceful nation with sensible gun control legislation. But if you believe that extends to Canadian companies engaged in resource extraction from third world nations, think again.
First, this is really big business for Canada. “More than 50 percent of the world’s publicly listed exploration and mining companies had headquarters in Canada in 2013, according to government statistics. Those 1,500 companies had an interest in some 8,000 properties in more than 100 countries around the world.” New York Times, April 2nd. And Canada’s track record in dealing with the people of such developing nations and the surrounding environment is anything but stellar.
“For decades, overseas subsidiaries have acted as a shield for extractive companies even while human rights advocates say they have chronicled a long history of misbehavior, including environmental damage, the violent submission of protesters and the forced evictions of indigenous people…
“In a 2014 report, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a policy group in Washington, concluded that Canadian companies, accounting for 50 percent to 70 percent of the mining in Latin America, were often associated with extensive damage to the environment, from erosion and sedimentation to groundwater and river contamination. Of particular note, it said, was that the industry ‘demonstrated a disregard for registered nature reserves and protected zones.’” NY Times. The above is a photo taken at a peaceful protest against Hudbay Mineral, Inc. in Peru’s Canchis Province. We’ll hear more about Hudbay’s activities immediately below.
How bad can it get, really? Really?! These events in Lote Ocho, Guatemala are extreme but not that uncommon, according to the NY Times: “Her husband was away in the fields, she said, when the truckloads of soldiers, police officers and mining security officials arrived. A half-dozen armed men swarmed into her one-room house, blocking her exit and helping themselves to the meal she had made for her children.
“For a long time, the woman, Margarita Caal Caal, did not talk about what happened next that afternoon. None of the women in this tiny village high in the hills of eastern Guatemala did, not even to each other. But that day, Mrs. Caal said, the men who had come to evict her from land they said belonged to a Canadian mining company also took turns raping her. After that, they dragged her from her home and set it ablaze…
“Mrs. Caal has taken her case to the courts, but not in Guatemala, where Mayan villagers like her, illiterate and living in isolated areas, have had little legal success. She has filed in Canada, where her negligence suit, Caal v. Hudbay Mineral Inc., has sent shivers through the vast Canadian mining, oil and gas industry…
“But Mrs. Caal’s negligence claim and those of 10 other women from this village who say they were gang-raped that day in 2007, as well as two other negligence claims against Hudbay, have already passed several significant legal hurdles — suggesting that companies based in Canada could face new scrutiny about their overseas operations in the future. In June, a ruling ordered Hudbay to turn over what Mrs. Caal’s lawyers expect will be thousands of pages of internal documents. Hudbay, which was not the owner of the mine at the time of the evictions, denies any wrongdoing.
“Canadian law does not provide for huge American-style payoffs, even if the court rules in the plaintiff’s favor. But the Hudbay case is being watched carefully because it appears to offer a new legal pathway for those who say they have suffered at the hands of Canadian subsidiaries. A ruling in this case, experts say, could also help establish powerful guidelines for what constitutes acceptable corporate behavior.” NY Times.
In the end, we are what we show the world when we think no one is looking, what we do when we think that there a no consequences. Just as Americans violently misbehaved with its Iraqi and Afghan prisoners, as we gloss over civilian casualties from misfired military efforts as “tolerable limits for collateral damages,” so too must Canada take direct responsibility for its chartered companies operating wantonly overseas.
I’m Peter Dekom, and while Canada is a cherished ally, we cannot give her carte blanche when she supports companies that severely violate both the environment and the most basic human rights.