Canada: Supreme Court dismisses appeal for investigation into murder of Mexican environment defender
"End of the Road for Justice in Canada: Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Appeal by Family of Murdered Mexican Environment Defender", 23 Jan 2023
The Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear an appeal from the family of assassinated Mexican environment defender Mariano Abarca, effectively shutting the door in Canada to any investigation into the role Canadian diplomacy may have played in endangering Mariano’s life.
Mariano Abarca, an outspoken community leader in the struggle against the social and environmental impacts of Canadian mining operations in his hometown of Chicomuselo, Chiapas, was murdered in 2009. Believing that the Canadian Embassy’s unconditional support for Blackfire Exploration put Mariano at further risk in the weeks and months before his assassination, his family filed a complaint under Canada’s whistleblower law in 2018. Ignoring over 1000 pages of evidence documenting the Embassy’s actions in support of the company, the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner – whose responsibility is to look into complaints by whistleblowers and ensure confidence in the public sector – refused to open an investigation.
Upon judicial review, one federal court judge conceded that “perhaps Mariano Abarca would not have been murdered” if the embassy “[had] acted in a certain way”. Nonetheless, legal challenges of the Commissioner’s decision failed to elicit an investigation, culminating with the Supreme Court dismissal on January 12 of the family’s application for leave to appeal.
With accountability mechanisms in Canada having failed Mariano Abarca’s family, they will now turn for justice to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
“We have exhausted all avenues to get at the truth in Canada,” says Mariano’s son Jose Luis Abarca. “My father was murdered 13 years ago and today, we are no closer to understanding the role Canadian officials may have played in putting his life in danger. While the actions of these Canadian officials go uninvestigated, Canadian embassies around the world continue to provide significant diplomatic support to Canadian mining companies, likely putting the lives of other human rights and environment defenders at risk. It is time we turn to international bodies to hold Canada accountable...”
Legal Counsel for the family Nicholas Pope says, “By denying leave to appeal, the Supreme Court of Canada has ended the possibility for Canadian administrative and judicial inquiry into the wrongdoings of Canadian officials in Mariano Abarca’s case..."