Canadian mining companies, precisely including Yamana Gold, have been linked for the first time to the violation of human rights in Latin America, an issue that prompted a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) that took place on October 28 last. in Washington.
The hearing was the result of years of work carried out by the Working Group on Mining and Human Rights in Latin America, made up of various citizen, humanitarian and professional organizations throughout the continent. The work is published here in its full version.
That investigation, and the presentation before the IACHR, were accompanied by Mining Watch of Canada, a non-governmental organization whose representative Jenifer Moore spoke of "omission" and "complicity", referring to the Canadian government, which demanded a radical change in its foreign policy so as not to validate the action of the mining companies with their silence. The organizations of the Working Group called for Canada to stop protecting the extractive industry at the expense of the rights of indigenous people and neighbors affected by the activities of mining companies on the continent.
- Download the report The Impact of Canadian Mining in Latin America and Canada's Responsibility, in pdf format
"The Canadian state's policy is empty and it is complicit in the violations that we are seeing," said Moore. For the Commission, this is a first. Its responsibility in cases of human rights violations refers to the States. In this case, the claim of the social organizations is that the Canadian State has responsibility with respect to what the companies of that country do abroad.
How did Canada respond? Dana Cryderman, alternate representative of that country to the Organization of American States (OAS) suggested that the alleged violations or abuses reported "are clearly outside the scope of Canada's obligations" under international and regional law. He stated that the countries where Canadian mining companies operate have their own “legal and judicial channels” which are the ones that should be exhausted before resorting to other organizations. The message: go question the states that allow such activities in their own territories.
Shin Imai, from the Justice and Corporate Responsibility Project, replied that for economic gain there are no borders. "But when human rights violations appear, they say: that is not our problem."
The Rapporteur for Canada to the IACHR, Rose Marie Antoine, commented: “Despite the assertions about the good policies of Canada, in the Commission we continue to see recurring cases, very very serious, of human rights violations as a result of the actions of some companies ”. The lawyer is also a rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Afro-descendants, something she was in charge of recalling during the hearing to state that she has long known the accusations against Canadian extractive companies.
Antoine listed, among the conflicts caused by these types of companies, forced displacements, violation of the inhabitants' environmental rights, health and access to water, even in some cases the criminalization of human rights defenders themselves.
The executive director of the IACHR, Emilio Álvarez Icaza, called this meeting part of the “first generation hearings”, not linked to traditional interpretations of the law. For this reason, he said, the commissioners had more questions than answers, although the IACHR made it clear that it is an issue that generates great concern and should not be neglected.
The argument under discussion, not yet explicit, is whether to consider mining companies as a kind of "state agent" of the country in which they reside, as a way of transferring responsibility to that country for what these corporations do abroad.
The Working Group on Mining and Human Rights in Latin America is made up of the Latin American Observatory of Environmental Conflicts –OLCA– (Chile), José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective –CAJAR– (Colombia), Foundation for Due Process –DPLF– (regional) , Honduran Center for the Promotion of Community Development –CEHPRODEC– (Honduras), National Assembly of Environmental Affected People - ANAA– (Mexico), Marianist Social Action Association (Peru) and Red Muqui (Peru). Other organizations have collaborated with the Task Force, providing information on the main human rights violations committed by Canadian mining companies in the projects examined. In this sense, the report would not have been possible without the valuable contribution of: the Legal Assistance Network against Mega Mining –REDAJ– (Argentina), Citizen Forum for Participation for Justice and the DH – FOCO– (Argentina), Bienaventurados los Pobres –BEPE– (Argentina), Humanitarian Action Corporation for Coexistence and Peace of Northeast Antioquia –CAHUCOPANA– (Colombia), Committee for the Defense of Water and the Páramo de Santurbán (Colombia), Federation of Peasant and Indigenous Organizations del Azuay –FOA– (Ecuador), Intag Newspaper (Ecuador), Union of Community Water Systems of Azuay –UNAGUA– (Ecuador), National Table Against Metal Mining (El Salvador), Pastoral Peace and Ecology Commission of the Diocese de San Marcos –COPAE– (Guatemala), Veracruzana Assembly of Initiatives and Environmental Defense - LA VIDA - (Mexico), Human Rights Center of the Mountain –TLACHINOLLAN– (Mexico), Coordinator of the United Peoples of the Valley of Ocotlán (Mexico), Coordinator Regional Community Authorities - Community Police –CRAC-PC– (Mexico), Wirikuta Defense Front (Mexico), Peasant Organization Emiliano Zapata (Mexico), Pro San Luis Ecológico (Mexico), Environmental Incidence Center –CIAM– (Panama) , Committee for the Closure of the Petaquilla Mine (Panama), Committee for the Defense of Donoso (Panama), Rural Coordinator for Life (Panama), Peace and Justice Service –SERPAI– (Panama), Land Defense Association, El Water, Life and the Environment of the villages affected by the Huaquillas S.AC. District and Province of San Ignacio, Cajamarca (Peru), Provincial Ecological Municipality of San Ignacio, Cajamarca (Peru), Pastoral Social de Dignidad Humana (PASSDIH) of the Archdiocese of Huancayo (Peru), Red Agua, Desarrollo y Democracia –REDAD– (Peru ), Vicariate of the Environment –VIMA– of the Apostolic Vicariate of San Francisco Javier de Jaén (Peru).