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Briefing on the Human Rights and Environmental Abuses of Canadian Corporations

by on December 28, 2009
 

With more than a thousand mining and exploration companies operating around the world, Canada is by far the most productive country when it comes to mineral extraction.

It is a source of great pride in some circles. However, as this briefing demonstrates, it is also a source of great fear and revulsion for tens of thousands of people around the world: the attendant victims of Canada’s mining industry.

In many cases, these victims, often residing on communally-held lands, are evicted from their homes and displaced without any form of compensation. Sometimes they are held back at gun point while their villages and property is destroyed; not to mention their graveyards, sacred sites, farmlands and other areas key to their culture and physical survival.

Local environments are also frequently contaminated with mercury, cyanide, uranium, arsenic and a host of other hazardous chemicals which families often end up consuming without knowledge, but with obvious consequences.

Further, when communities try to address these issues, either through direct confrontation and protest, by going to court, or by begging to be consulted before their lands and livelihoods are taken from them, they are frequently turned into criminals and treated as less-than-human beings: They are kidnapped, tied up, tortured, raped, shot, stabbed, burned, suffocated, executed. Others are arbitrarily detained by company security forces or arrested by state police, often because of false charges laid against them.

There are also cases where companies have used bribery, coercion and extortion to gain concessions which are inhabited and actively used by Indigenous People. And others where a company asserts it has consulted the local population and gained their “unanimous support” even though they have not.

This briefing is intended to provide an introduction to some of these aforementioned cases of abuse. It is by no means a complete accounting. However, time permitting, it will be extended upon request.

It is also intended to provide further evidence toward the need for legislation in Canada.

As you may know, Bill C-300, an Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries, is currently being discussed in the House of commons.

Bill C-300 represents the best available chance to ensure Canadian corporations comply with the basic form of law, and especially human rights standards and environmental regulations, as MiningWatch Canada has previously noted.

If Legislated, the Bill would:

  • Put in place human rights, labour, and environmental standards that Canadian extractive companies receiving government support must live up to when they operate in developing countries;
  • Create a complaints mechanism that will allow members of affected communities abroad, or Canadians, to file complaints against companies that are not living up to those standards;
  • Create a possible sanction for companies that are found to be out of compliance with the standards, in the form of loss of government financial and political support.

The importance of such regulations, while making some Canadians squirm in their chairs, cannot be understated. Nor can they be buried by desperate-sounding claims that Bill C-300 would bring “Congolese style politics — with its constant threat of harassment and shake-down — to Canada”, that it “amounts to a limit on Canadian sovereignty,” and that it just isn’t necessary because companies “are already accountable… with respect to responsible behavior.” And anyways it doesn’t matter, because they’re not doing anything wrong.

Reality speaks for itself, regardless of what we want, what we prefer, or what we’d rather not think about so we can sleep care free at night. Tens of thousands of people around the world have no such luxury. Instead, they are forced to bare an irreconcilable cultural, physical, religious, social, economic, cultural and environmental burden while benefiting the least, if at all, from the Canadian company’s activities.

Guatemala

HudBay Minerals – In September 2009, two Maya Qeqchi were killed and more than a dozen injured in two separate attacks connected to HudBay Minerals’ nickel mine in El Estor, Guatemala. In the first attack, HudBay’s private security forces opened fire on the Mayas while attempting to remove them from their land. One person was killed and at least eight others were injured by bullets. The second attack involved a group of men armed with machine guns opening fire on a mini-bus. Again, one person was killed, and nine others wounded. This is but the latest in a long line of attacks and human rights violations against Indigenous Peoples in El Estor, Guatemala. Indigenous People, who only want to live their own lives and meet their own needs, without being poisoned, molested and sacrificed.
(1) http://solidaridadconguatemala.blogspot.com/2009/09/comunicado-de-prensa-comunidades-de-el.html
(2) http://www.dominionpaper.ca/weblogs/dawn/2947

GoldCorp – In February, 2009, a research team from the Pastoral Commission for Peace and Ecology (COPAE) confirmed that Goldcorp’s Marlin mine in the municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacan, Guatemala, is poisoning local water supplies. Ever since the Marlin mine opened in 2004, the people of San Jose Ixcaniche have suffered from an array of serious health problems, including skin rashes, hair loss and unexplained “open wounds”. At least two infants from the community have died from unknown causes, since 2007. Despite the study, Goldcorp insists that there is no chemicals in the water, and that the health problems are the result of “bad hygiene”, a lack of water and “fleas”.

Goldcorp is also blamed for illegally purchasing local lands, depleting local water, negatively impacting crops and cattle, and damaging more than 100 homes as a result of digging and blasting at the mine. Further, some mining opponents have been “disappeared” and brutally murdered, while others have been arbitrarily arrested.
(1) http://www.rightsaction.org/articles/San_Miguel_022009.htm
(2) http://resistance-mining.org/english/?q=node/99
(3) http://www.catapa.be/en/news/500
(4) http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/2744
(5) http://intercontinentalcry.org/mining-re-sisters-from-guatemala/

Skye Resource – In early 2007, hundreds of police and soldiers forcibly evicted the inhabitants of communities living on their ancestral land, which the Guatemalan military government gave to the Canadian mining company INCO in 1965. Skye Resources now claims the land. In January, 2007, with the army and police at their side, company workers took chainsaws and torches to people’s homes, while women and children stood by. Skye Resources claims that they maintained “a peaceful atmosphere during this action.” Either way, the fact remains: it’s Mayan land.
(1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0K1XzNPTcMA
(2) http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/899

Mexico

Continuum – According to local community leaders, 13 freshwater springs have
completely disappeared as a result of Continuum’s reactivation of the historic “Natividad” gold mine in Oaxaca. Local water sources have also been contaminated by the mine—effecting food security, and gravely impacting the health of the local indigenous population.
(1) http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/1632

Fortuna – On May 6, 2009, a mass of federal and state police troopers brought a violent end to a community blockade near Fortuna’s Trinidad Silver Mine in the municipality of San Jose Progreso, Oaxaca, Mexico. The blockade was set up as a last resort, to resist any further contamination of their water supplies.
(1) http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/2644
(2) http://intercontinentalcry.org/violent-eviction-of-community-blockade-near-trinidad-mine/

New Gold – Situated near the Mexican village of Cerro de San Pedro, New Gold Inc.’s Cerro de San Pedro Mine was formally shut down in November 2009, after the Mexican Supreme Court canceled its environmental permit. The mine threatened to contaminate a region occupied by more than 1.3 million people. Incidentally, a similar ruling was issued by the same court in 2005—however, the company (along with the federal Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources, or SEMARNAT) ignored it.

Since the mine was shut down, several Community members and activists have received death threats from mine supporters, and government officials attempting to visit the community have been “stoned in their vehicles by mine employees.”
(1) http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/2036
(2) http://intercontinentalcry.org/mexican-high-court-rules-canadian-gold-mine-illegal/
(3) http://faomontreal.wordpress.com/2009/12/14/members-of-the-fao-attacked-in-cerro-de-san-pedro/

Blackfire Exploration – Also in November 2009, Mariano Abarca Roblero, “a passionate critic of Blackfire”, was murdered in front of his home in Chicomuselo, Chiapas, Mexico. Mr. Abarca was a respected member of the community, who endured threats, prison and violence due to opposition of the Calgary-based company’s mining project. Three individuals have been arrested in connection to the shooting of Mr. Abarca: one current Blackfire employee and two former employees.

Coincidentally, on December 8, 2009, the company’s gold mine was shut down by Mexican authorities. According to the Chiapas Secretary for the Environment, Blackfire has wrongfully polluted the environment with toxins, and diverted streams and built roads without any authorization.
(1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UUvYfZPKxQ
(2) http://intercontinentalcry.org/blackfire-mine-shut-down-over-environmental-concerns/
(3) http://www.miningwatch.ca/en/documents-show-corruption-and-intimidation-canadian-mining-firm-blackfire-its-mexican-operations-ott

Peru

Dorato Resources Inc. – In August 2009, Awajún and Wampis indigenous people in the Cordillera del Cóndor region of Peru near the Ecuadoran border, issued a statement giving Dorato Resources Inc. 15 days to voluntarily leave their territory. According to the Awajún and Wampis, Dorato was granted their mining concession in contravention of Rule 71 of Peru’s Constitution, which prohibits foreign companies to operate a mine near a border. Further, Dorato’s mine is located in the ancestral territory of the Awajún and Wampis. But even so, the Indigenous People have not been consulted by the government or the company. This is a violation of ILO Convention 169, the adherence to which is considered mandatory.
(1) http://www.ww4report.com/node/7729
(2) http://amazonasindigena.blogspot.com/2009/12/provocacion-indigenas-awajun-y-wampis.html

IAMGOLD (IAG) – The Awajun and Wampis also find themselves dealing with IAG, taking much the same approach as with Dorato. However, there is one major difference here: IAG’s operation is completely illegal, at least, according to the Ministry of Energy and Mines in Peru. Felipe Ramirez, a Director for the ministry’s Environmental Affairs office, stated in November, 2009 that the company has never even asked the govenrment for a permit to mine or explore on the Awajún and Wampis’ territory. “What they are doing is illegal,” the official stated. IAG denies any kind of wrongdoing on their part.
(1) http://intercontinentalcry.org/awajun-and-wampis-detain-gold-mine-employees/
(2) http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=347770&CategoryId=14095

El Salvador

Pacific Rim – A wave of Violence, kidnappings and death threats have been tearing through the northern state of Cabañas–where the Pacific Rim Mining Corporation has lost millions of dollars in its effort to exploit the region’s gold deposits. At least three prominent community leaders have been killed since the company’s El Dorado mine had its environmental license revoked in July 2008. Most recently, Dora “Alicia” Sorto Rodriguez was killed on December 26, 2009. “Alicia,” as she was known to friends, was eight months pregnant and carried her 3-year-old son in her arms as she was shot dead. The child was shot in the foot and is currently receiving medical care.

Amidst all of this, Pacific Rim is suing the government of El Salvador for refusing to let them go ahead with their mine, despite the overbearing environmental disaster that would ensue.
(1) http://therealnews.com/t/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=4118&updaterx=2009-08-13+02:14:31
(2) http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/2279/74/
(3) http://www.cispes.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=648&Itemid=1

Panama

Petaquilla Minerals, Inmet Mining – As a many as 24 local communities are opposed to the Petaquilla Gold mine project—which is owned by the Panama company Minera Petaquilla, and developed by the Vancouver-based junior company, Petaquilla Minerals and the Toronto-based company, Inmet Mining. The reason for the opposition, quite simply, is the “aberrant predation and destruction of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, where hundreds of hectares of virgin jungle and forest have been cut down, and where the mountain passes and rivers that made the area one of the most important in the world due to its rich biodiversity have been destroyed and polluted.” The communities say “they have never been consulted, but rather deceived, and their lands have been taken from them unfairly in many ways, including the destruction and burning of ranches of indigenous peoples, without even indemnifying the local residents.”
(1) http://ciampanama.org/es/noticias.php?idNoticia=380

United States

Barrick Gold – In early December, the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked construction on Barrick Gold’s Cortez Hills gold mine because of the “irreparable environmental harm threatened by this massive project,” situated on the flank of Mount Tenabo, a site of great cultural and historical importance to the Shoshone People. However, just one day after the court issued its ruling, Barrick Gold announced that it did not recognize the ruling, and will not cease construction of the mine.
(1) http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/2218
(2) http://intercontinentalcry.org/western-shoshone-prevail-at-ninth-circuit-court-on-mining-sacred-land/

Philippines

Central Gold Asia – Central Gold Asia, at the beginning of its activity, painted a rosy picture—complete with promises of employment and social development—before the eight local communities who would be impacted by their mine. After years of operation, however, the reality proved to be something else entirely. Farmers have been displaced with meager monetary compensation and relocated to lands which they cannot use for farming. Rivers have been closed off; while others have polluted, effecting rice fields and fish ponds and the waters sources of nearby communities. Worst of all, the port of Barrera, a long time source of livelihood for everyone living along the coastlines, is now a pit of toxic mine waste, which could easily overflow at any minute.
(1) http://intercontinentalcry.org/philippines-thousands-protesting-open-pit-gold-mine/

TVI Pacific – In Zamboanga del Norte, the indigenous Subanon are struggling to hold on to their culture and traditions. Based in Toronto, TVI Pacific, has made “a dumpsite” of Mount Canatuan, which the Subanon hold sacred, violated their customary law, and displaced them from their lands without compensation. Further, the companies security forces have threatened and physically assaulted the Subanon on numerous occasions.
(1) http://intercontinentalcry.org/canadas-tvi-pacific-faces-tribal-justice/
(2) http://pcij.org/i-report/2008/canadian-quandary.html
(3) http://www.miningwatch.ca/en/tvi-pacific-again-implicated-forced-evictions-its-canatuan-project-philippines

Placer Dome (Barrick Gold)
In 1993, the small island of Marinduque became the site of the worst industrial disaster in Philippines history. One of Placer Dome’s tailings dams unexpectedly burst, sending millions of tons of toxic waste down the Mogpog river. The resulting flash flood swept away everything in its path: homes, livestock, people. Three years later, a second tailings dam burst, sending even more waste down the Boac river in the opposite direction. Both rivers were biologically devastated. And the company refused to clean up them up, despite an order from the government of Marinduque. Instead, Placer Dome abandoned their mine project and snook out of the country. Today, both rivers remain biologically dead.

Almost ten years later, in 2005, the government of Marinduque filed a lawsuit against the company in a Nevada state court over both disasters, and for allegedly dumping waste in various freshwater areas. One year later, Barrick Gold bought a controlling share of the company. The case was thrown out in 2007, but it has since been reinstated.
(1) http://allan.lissner.net/mining-and-water-marinduque/
(2) http://pcij.org/stories/canadian-transnational-dumps-waste-responsibility-in-marinduque/
(3) http://protestbarrick.net/article.php?id=521

India

Aluminium Company of Canada (ALCAN), UAIL – For more than 16 years, local Indigenous communities in Kasipur have struggled to protect their lands and scared sites from UAIL’s presence in the Baphlimali hills of Orissa, India. Three villages were displaced by the company, while others—promised housing, schools and jobs by the government—continue to wait with empty hands. Several community members have also been thrown in jail under false charges of murder and theft. Others have been murdered. And the company has created massive rifts in communities by bribing individuals to keep them informed about local campaigns.
(1) http://www.montrealmirror.com/ARCHIVES/2003/112003/news2.html

Tibet

Continental Minerals, Silvercorp Metals, Eldorado Gold, Silk Road Resources, Maxy Gold Corp, Inter-Citic Minerals, Sterling Group Ventures Inc. – In 1999, the Chinese government launched the “Western Development Strategy”—a politically motivated plan to further consolidate control over Tibet through economic rather than military means. The strategy opened the floodgates to the destruction of Tibetan culture, identity, and their agriculture-based economies.

Tibetans want development in their territory and they want to end decades of poverty imposed on them by the Chinese government. However, at present they are denied the right to benefit and, since 1959, determine the use of their natural resources.
(1) http://stopminingtibet.com/

Papua New Guinea

Nautilus – Indigenous people from the Bismark Sea region of Papua New Guinea are deeply concerned about Nautilus’ experimental deep sea mining process off the East New Britain Coast. While the project has yet to move forward, the local population has never been consulted or informed about the real and potential effects of the mine. At a three-day conference in July 2008, indigenous representatives stated their emphatic opposition to the mine, stating their need and their right to maintain their health, livelihoods and resources.
(1) http://www.mediaglobal.org/article/2009-02-05/analysis-digging-in-neptunes-kingdom-the-first-deep-sea-mining-project

South Africa

Uranium One – The Toronto-based mining company, Uranium One—who’s “operations have been made possible with backing from the Canadian Embassy and CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) in South Africa”—has been accused of human rights abuses and the systemic violation of workers rights at their Dominion Reefs Uranium mine in South Africa. The Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board also has millions of dollars invested in the company.

For instance, in October 2008, workers alleged that they were denied access to protective gear while working in the uranium mine. The workers explained that they had nothing more than overalls. And now they suffer from a wide range of health problems, including cancer, asthma, and tuberculosis. In addition, four women have miscarried, and at least 12 workers have died since the mine opened in 2004.
(1) http://intercontinentalcry.org/uranium-company-accused-of-killing-communites-in-south-africa/

Tanzania

Barrick Gold – Tanzania’s Bulyanhulu and North Mara gold mines are monuments to everything wrong with the global mining industry. From day one, both projects have brought more harm than good to local communities. Several villages have been displaced, there have been murders and human rights abuses, the environment has been repeatedly contaminated, and workers have been frequently exploited.

Most recently, in July 2009, the Tanzanian govenrment banned the use of water from the Tigithe River near the North Mara mine to investigate allegations that the mine’s tailings dam was leaking. As many as 20 local villagers and more than 250 heads of cattle died in the weeks leading up to the ban. A recent study found extremely high concentrations of arsenic and other chemicals near the mine.
(1) http://www.africafiles.org/article.asp?ID=22228
(2) http://allan.lissner.net/category/someone-elses-treasure-tanzania/
(3) http://intercontinentalcry.org/tanzania-government-bans-water-use-near-barrick-gold-mine/

 
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  • December 28, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    Well done. Briefings are an effective format.

    Reply

  • Paul Rupp
    December 28, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    Kinross Gold Corp. and Barrick Gold Corp together operate Round Mountain Gold Mine in Nye County (Central Nevada). I worked about seven years for Round Mountain Gold and was a supervisor in Mobile Maintenance. Management wanted help to fire a Mexican tire man that was on my crew. I refused to help with their unlawful plan, I am also married to a wonderful Mexican lady for over ten years. Kinross Gold management manufactured a false record against me for not helping to fire a tire man that had done no wrong, the management also refused to pay for our sons injuries in an auto accident that occurred at Round Mountain Nevada. They finally paid after we threaten to file a lawsuit, our son is also Mexican.

    Round Mountain Gold Management used an electrical fire in a haul truck cab to disassemble a music radio and claimed that I had voided the warranty on the radio and fired me, even after all paper work and work orders prove my innocence.

    The Harassment and Retaliation AND False records were reported timely to MSHA and Nevada Mine Safety and Training Section. A letter personally handed to Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons was covered up and to this day Kinross Gold AND Barrick Gold continue to cover up the true facts and hide their Racist Ways and Unlawful Harassment and Retaliation.

    A person has no rights here in Nevada as Federal and State Oversight regulators work together with Big Mining Companies to cover up the truth and ruin peoples lives.

    For more information contact Paul Rupp,POB 125 Silverpeak Nevada 89047 OR Paul @ silverpeakitis@msn.com

    Reply

  • December 28, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    Thanks for putting this together – very effective and timely.
    Just 2 corrections I’d like to submit, updates more like:
    1) Alcan – now part of Rio Tinto and no longer Canadian – pulled out of Orissa in the wake of a concerted pressure campaign, but did nothing to rectify the situation they had a large part in creating.
    2) Inmet has extricated themselves from Petaquilla Gold. However, Petaquilla Gold still has not paid its environmental fines and has not fulfilled the conditions attached to its environmental impact assessment. Just another Canadian mining company operating illegally. Meanwhile Inmet is pushing ahead with its huge copper project in the same concession area, which will require a transportation corridor through the international Mesoamerican Biological Corridor as well as a deep water port in one of the few pieces of undeveloped Caribbean coast in Panama. Plus there’s still strong local opposition.
    cheers,
    Jamie

    Reply

  • December 29, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Jay: Thanks alot Jay. I actually wanted to take this a bit further but I’m gald with the way it turned out.

    Paul: Thank you for sharing your experience, Paul. The saddest thing of all, I think, is that it’s just a big game to them. They act like they can do “absolutely anything” they want to anyone, regardless of the consequences. I believe psychologists have a term for that (clears throat)

    In any case, I hope others will follow your lead here and share their own experiences here. There are just so many.

    Jamie: A thanks to you too, Jamie. I appreciate the updates.

    Reply

  • December 29, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    This free download Guidelines for Preparing Briefings http://rand.org/pubs/corporate_pubs/CP269/ is the best I’ve found for those interested in communications and pedagogy.

    Reply

  • Billy Jack Douthwright
    December 29, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    I agree this format presents the situation really graphically. And some comments:
    - Interesting that the only Canadian mining company named here with Canada in its name is no longer?
    - On that note it seems in a way appropriate that you began with HudBay Minerals, being a very thinly veiled declaration of colonial intent. That does seem like a rather appropriate name for a Canadian mineral extracting company in this day and age.
    - of course Barrick and Balckfire are synonymous with Canada, and Barrick’s public statement that they do not recognize the court ruling is of particularly great interest here on Onowaregeh!
    - The long list of Canadians joint-venturing with the PRC’s ongoing campaign against the Tibetan people also stands out, or maybe that’s just me personally since I consider the plight & struggle of Tibetans to be the most urgent in the world in this time, though each of the atrocities you described needs bearing witness to and I should admit more reflectively that there is something of an instilled semi-automatic disconnect that does register in relation to the indigenous realities of this continent?… this article is great, I wish ‘Canadians’ were entirely more aware of how all of this is undermining their place in the world though. It’s pretty amazingly sinister how well mainstream media shields the general populace from the truth, but of course it is also the primary responsibility of Canadian politicians to support them in doing so…

    Reply

  • December 30, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    Jay: Thanks, that’ll be useful.

    Billy: Actually, I began with Hudbay because they’re north of me, but now that you mention it, it is pretty fitting.

    Also, I agree, the situation with the Tibetans is pretty serious, even if some people want to brush them off and even applaud China because of how hardline some Tibetans were, like, 300 years ago. lol. It’s all serious though.

    “semi-automatic disconnect”, yes. It’s everywhere. We’re willing to support the stuff that fits with our own agendas or justifies our own pay cheques (and even that support is extremely limited) but when it comes to really stepping up, everyone’s suddenly too busy.

    If silence is a form of consent, then we need to take a long, hard look in the mirror (and figure out just who exactly we’re looking at…)

    Reply

  • January 5, 2010 at 9:49 am

    Great collection of information!

    IMO Bill C-300 is a decent opportunity to push for right now, but it does seem to have major defects. Rights Action have said that it would in fact perpetuate immunity[1] of mining companies. I wouldn’t go that far, but what MiningWatch say above about how it would implement standards which companies “must live up to when they operate in developing countries” seems to be misleading. Isn’t it true that the most severe punishment C-300 can mete out is withdrawal of government funding? My understanding is that it doesn’t allow for licenses to be revoked or anything on that order.

    Still, the mining companies are spending money trying to smear the bill, so I think that’s probably a good indication that it’s a step in the right direction.

    1. http://www.rightsaction.org/articles/Analysis_Bill_C-300.htm

    Reply

    • January 5, 2010 at 2:02 pm

      Macho,

      With all due respect to Rights Action, the commentary is a bit off the mark. Bill C-300 is certainly not the be-all and and-all, but it is an important first step. Without it we are left with the status quo: voluntary measures. Bill C-300 would impose sanctions on companies found to be out of compliance with a defined (but also evolving) set of standards, so in that sense they would have to live up to those standards if they did not want to be cut out of government support. It’s true that C-300 does nothing to end criminal impunity (not immunity) but it hardly “perpetuates” it; Peter Julian has proposed another Private Member’s Bill that as I understand it would specifically allow mining companies to be charged for the crimes they commit. C-300 is effectively a government accountability bill, not a corporate accountability bill, as it would directly affect government behaviour and only indirectly change corporate behaviour. Nonetheless, the vociferous and hyperbolic response of the industry tells us that they really fear this…

      cheers,
      Jamie


  • January 5, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Thanks for commenting, Macho. Bill C-300 is definitely a watered-down version of what’s actually needed, but as Jaimie says, it’s just the first step. Perhaps I should have stated that a little more clearly. At this point, we just need “something” to start dealing with these companies and Bill C-300 will definitely help with this.

    Also, for the sake of mentioning it, anything more “radical” (as in “obviously necessary if humans actually have rights”) would never get approval, unless it got a MASSIVE push here in Canada, with protests comparable to what we see in the South.

    The “smear effort” is very telling indeed. Anyone notice how close it resembles that nonsense about Obama being Adolf Hitler, lol.

    Reply

  • Billy Jack Douthwright
    January 9, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    I can sort of appreciate the discussions around this proposed ‘Bill’, but since it’s something evolving through Canada’s Parliament it also strikes me as being beside the point. Are First Nations really so mentally colonized that they do not realize that it’s their responsibility to define the laws of their lands?

    Reply

    • January 10, 2010 at 10:47 pm

      I’ve been thinking alot about your question, Billy Jack. It’s taken me to a few interesting places….

      In most cases, Indigenous Nations do have their own laws. But the problem is that Nation States won’t recognize them. Or, if they do, it’s on a “case by case” basis, or because they happen to coincide with their own laws, in which case they’re really just exercising theirs’. It’s the same thing with Tribal Sovereignty. As far as Nation States are concerned (strictly in the public sense. It’s a different story behind closed doors) Tribal sovereignty comes second to their own sovereignty.

      It’s true even if the laws are “protected” or reaffirmed by international agreements like ILO Convention 169—which Nation states are more inclined to recognize—they usually won’t recognize them unless it is in their own best interests. And it usually never is.

      Recognition is really what this all comes down to because the onus is on them to abide by their laws—and our own when their actions effect us.

      Our role is to make this happen. And also to implement our own laws (and exercise our own sovereignty) regardless of what any Nation State says or does. We are doing this more and more, eg. by physically removing companies, enforcing moratoriums on our land, and by demanding our right to consent.

      For general readers, I should add that, we don’t really have a choice, either. In so many of the cases listed in the briefing, the People’s cultures, religions, economies, and histories will either be cut to pieces or totally eradicated. It’s industrial genocide. And we can’t let this happen any more than “Joe Canadian” could stand by while every church, every library, every school, every house, and every grocery store is burned to the ground.

      That said, at this point I don’t think we don’t have any more time for rigidity, or to lay all our hopes on one single plan (the deathmark of any movement) like getting one or two laws changed. That doesn’t mean we have to settle for less, though. Just open things up.

      Personally, I believe we have to take a full spectrum approach by (1) physically exercising our rights; (2) organizing campaigns against the abhorrent laws and policies of Nation states that allow others to cause us harm; educating the citizens of Nation states; and (3) building a cohesive international movement. It’s slow moving and pretty varied, but I see it happening around the world.

      Bill C-300 is a part of it, a small but vital part. We certainly can’t lay all our hopes on it, but it would give Indigenous Nations a valuable tool, and it would set an important precedent for other Nations States to follow.


  • January 11, 2010 at 10:10 am

    I’m in full agreement. For me, the point of campaigning, educating the broader public, and trying to change the groundrules (i.e. regulation) is to reduce the external pressure on communities and Peoples, to increase their space to make and implement their own decisions. We do what we can to support people directly, but we don’t have a lot of resources to do so, and we know that if we don’t succeed in changing the rules then the same violations will happen over and over. There are many dimensions to this struggle, from the corporations’ capitalist imperative to maximise return on investment, to the complacent complicity of all of us with a bank account, an RRSP, or a SIN (i.e. part of the CPP), to the cultural and political integrity of the affected communities who have find ways to deal with these terrible external pressures.

    And regardless of any policies, rules, standards, or regulations, ultimately these struggles will be decided on the ground, whether it’s in Northern Ontario or the Amazon.

    Thanks for the excellent discussion, by the way!

    Reply

    • Billy Jack Douthwright
      January 21, 2010 at 7:20 am

      I’m considering your statement Jamie that these struggles will ultimately be decided on the ground, & Ahni your’s concerning implementing a full spectrum approach. These are sort of 2 quite drastically different takes on what would be essentially necessary for indigenous nations, everywhere, to heal, restore and steward our way of life across our territories.
      There can be all manner of direct engagement of indigenous asserting our rights across our territories and in solidarity, such as closing mining operations <> bringing it to the most factual physical level of environmental stewardship…
      … also, a world-wide indigenous solidarity movement needs to grow up around all of this, because it is equally our responsibility to force colonial entities to abide by our customary laws, which they can choose not to recognize by leaving our territories, our legal right of responsibility as stewards of our territories does outline these legal matters this starkly; until we enforce this we are failing-undermining our primary responsibility to ensure that the natural environment remains in balance in perpetuity, this obligation to future generations is an inseparable part of our cultural right; the fact that there are far more indigenous nations in the world than there are ‘nation state’ members of the UN, obviates the hypocrisy of UNDRIP as nothing more than superficial window-dressing. It does seem quite unfortunate to be having to put things this bluntly, but it has to be stated clearly, and, as far as indigenous laws governing distinct societies across Onowaregeh is concerned, the obligation falls upon First Nations collectively. In respect of this I am especially gladdened in the focus & resolve of the Algonquin community of “Barrier Lake”(‘ABL’), to be fully asserting-demanding proper (=legal, which cannot rightfully be said of most other First Nations’ treaty relations with colonists today!) nation to nation interactions at the international government level exclusively, and equally the truly-authentically grass-roots cosmopolitan appreciation & support given them by others, indigenous & non-indigenous alike. This is possible because the ABL present who they are completely/wholly, simply & authentically, asserting in no uncertain terms that their unceded territory is theirs and others must abide by mutually agreed treaties & otherwise not cause interference… I would like to go on now to indicate that where ‘Canada’ remains entrenched in their ways & means of practicing policies of clearly anti-indigenous intent, that ‘Canada’s’ legal position is faltering, possibly or probably quite a bit more than they yet realize {I’m referring to the governments here as the ‘average Canadian’ is quite apparently still completely-mindlessly in the dark concerning these facts} and are, along with their private sector corporate interests, steadily and at a noticeably increasing rate being pushed clear out of our territories.
      At the level of governments and private corporations of mal-intent this is wholly a good thing and very positive for First Nations, and because we can foresee these developments steadily escalating, world-wide indigenous solidarity is a timely new institution.
      It is also the appropriate time to claim the air-waves

      Further, more hinting for right now… Because I can see what is unfolding and a bit beyond the present and immediate future curves of how this will go, I’ve had to begin giving greater thought to the collective plight of colonists themselves since it is in fact their place in the world that is now more threatened. So far I only see the stark realities and it doesn’t quite feel appropriate to share that kind of awareness… waiting & watching instead for broader indications from the natural environment to inspire more positive potentials!…


  • January 11, 2010 at 11:32 am

    In my short essay Prepared to Lead http://www.scribd.com/doc/17270811/Prepared-to-Lead I attempted to put the present conflict in context for the World Indigenous Peoples’ Movement.

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  • January 11, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Your term industrial genocide reminded me of the power of moral sanction, something I wrote about http://www.publicgood.org/reports/pdf/The_Power_of_Moral_Sanction.pdf in an analysis of types of leadership and forms of resistance.

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