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Following abuses in Guatemala, Canadian NGOs propose a national human rights ombudsperson to oversee the mining sector

Author: National Observer (Canada), Published on: 11 December 2017

“Raids, incarceration and decimated Indigenous land stains Canada's reputation in Guatemala”, 6 of December 2017

…To many Guatemalans… Canada is a country synonymous with mining — a lucrative industry in Guatemala, which is rich in gold, silver, zinc and nickel… Two of the Canadian companies, Tahoe Resources and Hudbay Minerals, are now subject to court cases in Canada for alleged breaches of tort law. The lawsuits stem from extreme acts of violence allegedly committed by mine security personnel against locals opposed to the projects. Both companies deny the allegations against them and legal proceedings against Hudbay started last week… Canadian mining companies could soon face new federal scrutiny for their activities, both in Guatemala and around the world…“

According to a 2016 report by York University’s Osgoode Law School, 28 Canadian mining companies have been tied to at least 44 deaths, 403 injuries and 709 cases of “criminalization” across Latin America between 2000 and 2015. About a quarter of this violence took place in Guatemala, but the report noted that Canada’s federal government and industry do not typically disclose such incidents.”…

… Asked about Canada's reputation in Guatemala, a Global Affairs Canada spokeswoman...said …"We want Canadian companies operating in Guatemala to be part of the solution, by respecting human rights and all applicable laws, and by conducting their activities in a socially and environmentally responsible manner and by reflecting Canadian values,"...To make sure Canadian companies comply however, a human rights ombudsperson for the extractive sector is desperately needed, said Jean Symes, [member] of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA)…[T]o be effective, it says the ombudsperson must be independent of government; have the resources and authority to conduct thorough investigations; must make public recommendations for remedy and harm prevention; and be able to monitor the implementation of those recommendations…[M]ust also have the discretionary ability to summon testimony and documents from mining companies, said Symes…

[T]he UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights scolded Canadian corporations and governments for having “patchy practices” on Indigenous consultation, environmental pollution and preventing violence against human rights defenders, both in Canada and abroad. It too, recommended the creation of a human rights ombudsperson to oversee the extractive sector…

…According to the Mining Association of Canada (MAC)…the association and its members support “the existence of consequences” for companies that work in “bad faith or refuse to engage respectfully in resolving conflicts.” ...The MAC now supports the installation of a human rights ombudsperson, provided the goal is conflict resolution, but rejects many of the powers and responsibilities sought after by civil society groups… “On this point, we do not share the views of some NGOs that want a mechanism that is quasi-judicial with far-reaching, unworkable investigatory powers"… Toronto-based Barrick Gold…said it supports the creation of an ombudsperson…Tahoe Resources…said it has no official position on the creation of an ombudsperson, but is very supportive of remediation for those harmed, or perceived to have been harmed by mining projects…



Read the full post here

Related companies: Barrick Gold Hudbay Minerals Tahoe Resources (part of Pan American Silver)