This letter was first published in The United Church Observer in September 2017
I was the keynote speaker at the United for Mining Justice National Conference in Manitoba last month. I
spoke of the 2014 Mount Polley Mine disaster that happened in my Secwepemc Territory in central British Columbia. We continue to feel the brute impacts from polluted water, severely declined salmon stocks, and a total lack of accountability from the mining company that dismisses all of our concerns.
In the May 2017 United Church Observer, the feature article, “What’s next for divestment?” troubled me
greatly. UCC members have educated the pension board about the issues and don’t support the inherent violence connected with Goldcorp projects such as the Marlin Mine in Guatemala. Pension board chair Marcus Robertson, stated, “First and foremost, we are charged with ensuring that there are sufficient assets to pay the pensions when people retire.” Fair enough. Then he said, “all the other stuff is nice, but it’s second.”
“All the other stuff” is not nice at all. “Sin industries” that are not part of the UCC investment portfolios, such as tobacco, alcohol and pornography, are funded by the pursuit of gold. Rape, violence, murder, drugs, alcohol abuse and other social ills are all linked to mining, all over the world- including Canada. Canadian mines export the models for more than just failed tailings dams- and Indigenous communities are the hardest hit.
The connection between imperialism, mining gold and the church is what led to the colonization and genocide of millions of indigenous peoples in the Americas in the first place. Reconciliation starts by acknowledging an injustice, and addressing it with solutions that are collaborative and socially responsible.
Divesting will set a precedent on reconciliation, and answer the Truth and Reconciliation Commission call to uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. There are investments other than gold that will ensure your responsibilities to the pension fund, and impacted communities, are met.
Jacinda Mack coordinates First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining (FNWARM), an organization formed by First Nations Women leaders of Northern BC to address the impacts of mining in their communities. FNWARM seeks to improve standards of health and safety, social and economic inclusion, and the recognition of Indigenous rights and title. Find out more at http://fnwarm.com/