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Supreme Court decision on Vancouver mining company could have international human rights impact, expert says

An upcoming decision from Canada’s top court on whether allegations of human rights abuses filed against a Vancouver mining company will go to trial in Canada could set a groundbreaking precedent, according to a human rights watchdog.  Four plaintiffs, all Eritrean refugees, allege the mining company — called Nevsun Resources Ltd. — is complicit in violations of international law norms against forced labour, slavery and torture stemming from the construction of an Eritrean mine.  Sixty per cent of the venture is owned by Nevsun through subsidiaries...While Nevsun is set to argue at the Supreme Court of Canada that allegations of human rights violations at the Bisha mine should not be heard in Canadian courts, a mining watchdog says foreign nationals need a way to hold Canadian companies accountable at home for their operations overseas...The Supreme Court’s decision could have a significant impact on how Canadian companies operate overseas, said Karyn Keenan, director of Above Ground, a group that works to ensure that companies based in Canada or supported by the Canadian state respect human rights wherever they operate...Because the alleged violations occurred abroad, said Keenan, a decision in favour of the plaintiffs could go two ways.  The SCOC could decide that international plaintiffs can hold Canadian companies accountable in Canadian courts only when violations occur in countries where plaintiffs have little or no access to justice because of corruption or violence.  Or it could decide Canadian companies should be accountable to the Canadian justice system regardless of the situation in the country where its operation is located...

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