Two Steps Back: An Open Letter to Jim Carr
Open Letter to Jim Carr from United for Mining Justice
Honorable Jim Carr
Minister of International Trade Diversification
House of Commons
June 27, 2019
Dear Minister Carr,
United for Mining Justice is a grassroots network of The United Church of Canada members and allies working for just extractive sector laws and practices. We write to you with consternation regarding the federal government decision to completely backtrack on its explicit commitment to create an independent ombudsperson with the powers needed to investigate allegations of human rights abuse linked to the overseas operations of Canadian mining companies. We are outraged that instead of following through with its commitment and taking the opportunity to make sectors that have well-documented histories of perpetrating serious human rights abuses overseas accountable, the federal government seems to have fully bowed to a powerful economic lobby to turn the proposal on its head.
Now, instead of investigating human rights violations, the mechanism proposed by the Canadian government will give industry the ability to lodge complaints against affected communities and the organizations that accompany them. This will lead to more stigmatization, defamation and criminalization of human rights and territory defenders doing their legitimate work protecting their land and water albeit at serious risk. Instead of taking a step forward, the Canadian federal government has taken two steps back.
We understand Canada as a racist, settler, colonial state. We have been challenged by Indigenous Peoples to acknowledge that Canada was founded on colonial violence and the domination of Indigenous Peoples, often designed to obtain access to valuable natural resources, including minerals and metals. Canadian companies’ contemporary involvement in mining in countries of the Global South, home to many partner organizations of The United Church of Canada, parallels the way in which resource-rich lands in Canada were and often continue to be acquired without obtaining the consent of indigenous peoples. Whether in Canada or around the world, this results in impoverishment, negative cultural, social and health impacts, community conflict and violence, and alienation from the land which is the basis of indigenous life and spirituality.
Canadian mining companies working overseas have been repeatedly denounced for the scale of violent attacks its operations foment. From the forced displacement of indigenous and rural farming communities to working in collusion with corrupt governments to advance their projects, Canadian mining companies, with the support of the Canadian government that promotes them through diplomatic and economic channels, have played a detrimental role in communities around the globe.
The civil suits against Canadian mining companies Nevsun, Tahoe Resources and Hudbay Minerals now in Canadian courts, have clearly shown the extent to which these companies use systematic violence, forced labour, rape and murder in indigenous communities in the poorest regions of the world for economic gain. The Canadian government has not only turned a blind eye by refusing to implement an accountability mechanism with teeth, but it has also opened the doors for companies to file complaints against the very people who have the courage to speak out. United for Mining Justice fully rejects this proposal and calls on the Minister and the federal government to repeal this misguided decision.
A concerted effort of dozens of Canadian civil society and grassroots organizations, members of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA), has called on the Canadian government to create and implement a mechanism to make the extractive sector more accountable at the urging of overseas partners who have repeatedly been victims of serious human rights violations near Canadian mines. We recognize the ongoing and steadfast work of the CNCA and its member organizations and continue to uphold their call while supporting their decision to withdraw from the MSAB if a credible ombudsperson office is not created.
United for Mining Justice understands the Canadian mining industry as part of a globalized economy where the rights of corporations and the drive to profits outweigh ethical considerations, including negative environmental, social, cultural and health impacts and the right to free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples. We believe it is past time for the Canadian government to take a stand and finally take action to make the mining sector more accountable. Without the ability to effectively investigate, the defining feature of an ombudsperson, the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) as it currently stands, does more to put lives of human rights defenders at risk than remedy the dire situation that they face at the hands of the Canadian extractive sector.
“It’s sad and maddening that the Canadian government once again mocks the world by standing by companies,” said Pedro Landa of the Reflection, Investigation and Communication Team of the Jesuits, a research organization that accompanies communities in defense of their territories from extractive projects in Honduras. “It continues to close its eyes to the violations committed by Canadian mining companies around the globe.”
“Murder, rape, and irreparable water contamination are just some of the violations that have been repeatedly documented and denounced,” said Diwa Marcelino, member of United for Mining Justice. “Indigenous and farming communities are being violently displaced from their territories and Canadian mining projects are forging ahead without free, prior and informed consent. Companies have been linked to corruption, yet, there is no mechanism to hold them to account.”