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URGENT ACTIONS

Demand Accountability from the United Church of Canada Pension Board

The Board that controls the pension investments of the United Church of Canada, Canada’s largest protestant Christian church, is refusing to put into practice a vote in August 2015 that would see the Church divest from Goldcorp Inc. This was the third motion presented to the General Council around divestment from the gold mining giant since 2009, when members of the church, through a group called Mining the Connections, acted on a call from community and church partners in Guatemala and El Salvador to do so. While the controversial Marlin Mine is at the heart of the call for divestment, Mining the Connections has also pointed to the lack of consultation and free, prior and informed consent around Goldcorp’s Cerro Blanco mine and the violence-ridden Escobal mine, which Goldcorp had a major stake in developing. 

Hold Canadian Exractive Companies Accountable

  • If the approval of a mine meant you would be kicked out of your home, would you expect a chance to say no to this project?

  • And if it went ahead, would you expect to be compensated?

  • If your drinking water were poisoned or water sources dried up, would you expect someone to fix the problem?

  • If you and your neighbours exposed wrongdoing by the company involved, would you expect to be able to do that without being threatened or physically harmed?

 

The Canadian mining, oil and gas sector is a huge player internationally, with over 8,000 projects in over 100 countries. Yet there are virtually no regulations in Canada to prevent companies from taking advantage of weak environmental and labour laws in other countries, or to hold them accountable for violations of human rights.

 

Those harmed by Canadian companies abroad often have nowhere to seek justice. Victims can face significant barriers to accessing justice in their own countries, including heavy costs, inadequate or non-existent court mechanisms, and corruption.

 

United Church partner the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA) is calling on the government to open Canada for justice to those alleging harm by Canadian mining companies overseas. This includes establishing an out-of-courts mechanism—a human rights Ombudsperson for the Canadian extractive sector.

In the early morning of February 24, 2016, a fire broke out at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines’ (UCCP) Haran Mission Center in Davao City. An initial investigation ruled arson as the cause. Five people (including two children) were burned and two buildings were destroyed. The mission center shelters about 700 Lumad—Indigenous peoples from the region of Mindanao who have been displaced by heavy militarization.

 

The United Church’s Beaconsfield Initiative has studied the impact of Canadian mining interests in the Philippines since 2006. At our recent 42nd General Council in August 2015, commissioners recommended extending the work of this initiative. This included calling for the end of human rights violations of people and people’s organizations of the Southern Philippines, and encouraging government action that requires Canadian mining companies to respect the rights of Indigenous peoples, labour rights, and the right to a healthy environment.

On February 19, Cosigo Resources, a Canadian mining company, and the U.S. Tobie Mining and Energy filed an arbitration notice in the U.S. state of Texas. Their legal basis: the free trade agreements between Colombia and the United States and Canada. These stipulate that foreign corporations can sue governments before investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) panels – for example if they believe that a country’s labor, environmental or social standards would be bad for their bottom line.

 

The companies had been granted mining licenses in Colombia’s Amazonas Department only days after the area in question had been declared the Yaigojé Apaporis National Park. The rainforest on the border to Brazil is home to seven indigenous peoples and a hotbed of biodiversity. The national park was established in 2009 at the request of the indigenous communities.

 

Cosigo Resources spent years in the Colombian courts attempting to get the national park status overturned and open the land to exploitation. In 2015, the Constitutional Court in Bogotá ruled that the national park is lawful and that gold mining would not be permitted there.

 

The mining companies are now seeking to run roughshod over Colombia’s judicial system by taking the case before an ISDS panel in Texas. They are suing the Colombian government for no less than $16.5 billion – as compensation for the alleged value of the gold deposit the miners had intended to exploit.

A prominent environmentalist and Defender of Commons who campaigned vigorously against an Australian-owned mineral sands mine in South Africa has been shot dead in his home on March 22. For a decade a community on the Wild Coast has been resisting a foreign company’s attempt to mine titanium in their area. Activists claims that this has led to the assassination of their leader Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe, chairperson of the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC).  Now, others fear for their lives.

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©United for Mining Justice.   

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