Editor, The Times:
Drive-by shootings in Mexico, rapes and murders in New Guinea, the disappearance and murder of citizen-activists in Guatemala, heavy metal and cyanide poisoning in Honduras, the killing of 70 unarmed people in the Congo, eviction without compensation, sweetheart deals with paramilitary groups and widespread corruption and environmental degradation nearly everywhere. What do these events have in common ? They’re not the activities of Al Qaeda but business-as-usual for Canadian mining companies operating abroad.
Moving under the cover of trade deals that allow companies to sue governments, often in countries where human rights and environmental safeguards are weak, these companies often enlist the support of despotic regimes to push back on their own peoples, in the name of corporate “rights”.
Last year, 10,000 protestors opposed a Canadian junior mining company when it wanted to open a silver mine near Lake Titicaca in Peru. Before the government had pulled the company’s tenure, five protestors lay dead, courtesy of the Peruvian army. That company claims to have spent $25 million and is now seeking redress for its lost “rights”.
You may ask yourself why you haven’t heard anything about this before. Because it is disturbing, you may even want to dismiss it as pure fabrication. A number of SLAPPs (strategic lawsuit against public participation) have taken place and, when the word gets out, voices are effectively silenced. Only one province, Quebec, has anti-SLAPP legislation.
Nevertheless, the issue of mining accountability has been brought up in Parliament, through a private member’s bill (C-300) which surfaced in 2009 and which was narrowly defeated. All of the Conservatives, including Kamloops MP Cathy MacLeod, voted against it. A number of Liberals curiously, were absent for the vote notwithstanding the Liberal origins of C-300.
Unfortunately, ordinary Canadians have been made into unknowing, and hopefully disapproving, investors, and partners, in these acts of terror that are being perpetrated on virtually every continent by Canadian mining companies. The CPP administers over $150 billion on behalf of Canadian workers and it, as well as the Quebec Pension Fund and BCMC, which manages the pension funds of British Columbians, invests billions in the activities of these mining giants. Investment houses and Canadian banks also invest heavily. Those less transparent investment vehicles, like mutual funds, trust funds, RRSPs, and the like, form the conduits for cash used to prop up the culpable corporations.
When political efforts fail, there’s just one way for disapproving individuals to signal their distaste for this incredible race-to-the-bottom. We need to follow the lead of Norway. In ‘09, Norway pulled its pension plan investments from one prominent, arguably the most shameful, Canadian mining giant. When our paper ballots fail, voting with our personal investment dollars might impact the share prices enough to cause institutional investors to rethink what they’re doing with our money.
Canada Day has just passed, and we may want to ask ourselves what we were celebrating. I was not celebrating the activities of Canadian mining companies.