MAC: Mines and Communities

Canada's new corporate ombudsperson needs real power

Published by MAC on 2018-12-23
Source: Statements, Ecologist

The campaign is underway to ensure that Canada's Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise is as effective as possible in dealing with human rights violations related to mining continues. 

Canadian civil society organizations, as well as overseas communities affected by Canadian mining companies, welcomed the announcement of the ombudsperson last January but have been disappointed by the ongoing delays to get the office up and running.

See previous MAC article: Indigenous Xinka march in Guatemala to banish Canadian mine

Over 200 organizations from 56 countries ask, "Where is Canada's Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise?"

10 December 2018

Montreal - Today, on International Human Rights Day, over 200 organizations from 56 countries around the world have sent a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau asking, "Where is Canada's Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise?" The Canadian government announced the creation of this office in January 2018, but has yet to appoint anyone to the position. In the meantime, human rights violations related to mining continue to take place around the world.

"Canadians across the country, including thousands of our members, worked for over a decade to convince the Canadian government that a voice for justice for communities affected by Canadian mining companies was needed" said Serge Langlois, Executive Director of Development and Peace. "An independent and effective Ombudsperson should be put in place urgently to ensure that Canadian companies are accountable to the people who have been harmed."

The Canadian Ombudsperson will be empowered to independently investigate alleged human rights abuses arising from a Canadian company's operations abroad, and to recommend sanctions, including the withdrawal of government services, such as trade advocacy and Export Development Canada support. Canadian civil society organizations, as well as overseas communities affected by Canadian mining companies, welcomed the announcement of the ombudsperson last January but have been disappointed by the ongoing delays to get the office up and running.

The letter was initiated by Padre Dario Bossi of the Latin American Catholic Church-led network Iglesia y Mineria at the Thematic Social Forum on Mining in Johannesburg, South Africa. Several Development and Peace partners that work with mining-affected communities, including Iglesia y Mineria, participated in the forum, and expressed the urgency for Canada to take action on this promise.

"We, the undersigned activists and organizations, have been working for many years defending the human rights of communities affected by the activities of natural resource extraction companies around the world. We ask you to take action quickly to name the ombudsperson, and to ensure that this office will have the power and resources to independently investigate, report, recommend remedy, and oversee the implementation of remedy for victims of human rights and environmental violations caused by the activities of Canadian mining companies abroad," states the letter.

To read the letter that was sent to Prime Minister Trudeau today, click for English Version -

For more information or to book a media interview, contact:

Kelly Di Domenico, Communications Director
514 257-8711 ext. 365

Dwyer: Canada's new corporate ombudsperson needs real power

Emily Dwyer

3 December 2018

Canada has a clear choice: Be a world leader or a laggard when it comes to human rights and the mining industry.

Canadian mining companies operating overseas have been associated with widespread and egregious human rights abuses including murder and rape. The current system relies on voluntary industry initiatives to respect human rights. It is clearly not working.

But this could soon change. Canada is poised to have an Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise, with an appointment expected by the end of the year. Once established, the ombudsperson's office will be the first office of its kind in the world.

And here's the decision point: Canada can either invest the ombudsperson with real powers to investigate abuses and redress the harm caused by Canadian companies, or it can create a position without adequate powers, call it an ombudsperson, and leave individuals and communities harmed by Canadian mining companies with nowhere to turn to for help.

In the Philippines, people living where Canadian-Australian mining company OceanaGold operates allege they have had their homes demolished, their water and land contaminated and are beaten by security forces if they protest their conditions. Perpetrators have not been brought to justice. And in 2011 in Guatemala, 11 women were gang-raped by security forces during a forced relocation to make way for a Skye Resources mine. Security forces are able to act with impunity. An ombudsperson's office would be able to look into the alleged abuses and be a clear point of contact for those harmed by Canadian mining companies.

It matters that Canada, in particular, act to end these abuses. Canada is the headquarters to more than 55 per cent of the world's largest extractive companies with operations in more than 100 countries. Large transnational companies have considerable power and influence over law making and law enforcement in the countries in which they operate.

The Canadian government also actively promotes international mining activity, with loans, insurance and diplomatic support from embassies and trade commissions. In 2016, the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) provided between $14 billion and $28 billion to oil and gas companies worldwide. Canada's reputation as a human rights champion is being tarnished. This kind of government support must be conditional on industry respect for human rights. Yet there is virtually no regulation in Canada to prevent companies operating overseas from taking advantage of weak environmental and labour laws, nor anything to hold them accountable for violations of human rights.

The abysmal human rights record of Canadian companies has not gone unnoticed. In the last three years, at least four United Nations bodies have called on Canada to act. As recently as June 2018, the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights called for the creation of an ombudsperson's office in Canada.

Those harmed by Canadian mining companies are looking to the soon-to-be-appointed ombudsperson to both prevent and redress these human rights abuses.

Many mining companies, content with the status quo, want the government to renege on its commitment to appoint a real ombudsperson. But for Canada to truly be a world leader, the ombudsperson must be able to operate at arm's length from government and be free from any political or corporate interference.

This independence also relates to the ability to investigate. The ombudsperson must be able to order the production of documents, and summon witnesses and compel them to give testimony under oath. And the office must have the budget to do the job.

Finally, confidence in this newly created office is key. Those harmed by Canadian mining operations will have no faith that their concerns will be properly heard, investigated and remedied if the ombudsperson is not seen to be invested with those powers. It is clear that refraining from committing human rights abuses cannot be left to voluntary industry measures. The ombudsperson's office must not amount to mere window dressing. It needs to have real heft.

What is needed is an ombudsperson with the power to help prevent Canadian complicity in corporate abuse and to help ensure Canadian companies respect human rights. What is needed is for Canada to be a leader.

Emily Dwyer is the coordinator of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability.

Mining affected communities ask: Where is Canada's Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise?

Joint press release

27 November 2018

Geneva - 2018 has been another dangerous year for human rights defenders seeking justice in cases involving large extraction companies, including Canadian companies. At the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights this week, mining affected communities from Guatemala and Papua New Guinea are asking “where is Canada’s Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise?” The Canadian government committed to create this mechanism more than ten months ago and has yet to appoint anyone to the post.

“Once established, the Ombudsperson’s office will be the first of its kind in the world” said Gabriela Quijano, Legal Advisor at Amnesty International. “An effective Ombudsperson is needed to ensure corporate accountability for Canadian companies overseas and remedy for people harmed.”

The Canadian Ombudsperson will be empowered to independently investigate alleged human rights abuses arising from a Canadian company’s operations abroad, and to recommend sanctions, including the withdrawal of government services, such as trade advocacy and Export Development Canada support. But thirty-five Canadian civil society organizations, as well as overseas communities affected by Canadian mining companies, are denouncing the lack of action and progress.

“Companies must live up to their responsibilities to respect human rights and must be held accountable when they harm people,” said Angelica Choc, a Maya-Q’eqchi’ human rights defender from Guatemala who launched a civil suit in Canada against HudBay Minerals for the 2009 killing of her husband, Adolfo Ich Chamán.

“There are so many men and women in our place who have suffered from violent acts by the mine’s security and we have nowhere to turn for justice,” said Joycelyn Mandi, one of many women directly impacted by security forces of Barrick Gold’s mine in their community of Porgera, Papua New Guinea. “Our legal system is weak and it is very hard to go to court overseas. We have written to the Canadian government to create a strong Ombudsperson, but we are losing even that hope.”

“When the Canadian government announced the creation of an Ombudsperson in January 2018, it affirmed that the office would have sufficient resources and all the tools required to conduct independent investigations, including to compel witnesses and documents. This is absolutely critical if the Ombudsperson is to be effective” said Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada. “It is essential that Canada take responsibility and demonstrate global leadership now.”

For more information or to book a media interview in Geneva, contact:

Emily Dwyer
Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability
email: coordinator[at]
mobile: +1-819-592-6657

Catherine Coumans
MiningWatch Canada
email: catherine[at]

Gabriela Quijano
Amnesty International
email: gabriela.quijano[at]

The ecological costs of Canadian mining

Julian Vigo -

18 December 2018

Canadian mining companies are destroying the earth and disregarding human rights.

The commercial space company, Moon Express, has announced that it was setting up Moon Express Canada in order “to leverage Canadian space science and technology in the exploration of the Moon and its resources”.

What surprised me about this revelation was that Moon Express Canada is apparently planning to mine the moon with its partner companies on board.

Micro and nano space technology company Canadensys Aerospace Corporation, geological imaging company Gedex, LiDar systems developer Teledyne Optech, and mining technologies and robotics company Deltion Innovations, which has been outspoken about making Canada a leader in space mining.

Rights violation

As I read the reports, I shook my head wondering how Canadian mining companies have been permitted to amass so much damage to the earth and human rights, much less now being enlisted to destroy the moon.

Canada is no stranger to ecological destruction in its mining practices, within the country and also in Latin America. The Mexican Network of Mining Affected People (REMA in Spanish) has been outspoken in recent years over the problems of Canadian mining on indigenous lands.

It has also criticised the use of the Canadian diplomatic corps to negotiate deals between Canadian mining companies and local leaders who violate the rights of the people to property, safe environment, open consultations with public consent, lawfulness and legal security.

One company which has effected enormous damage on Mexican land is Goldcorp, which has broken national laws in purchasing collectively owned property in Carrizalillo, Guerrero and in Mazapil, Zacatecas.

The encroachment of Canadian mining companies in Mexico today shows them operating 65 percent of the mining projects around the country, amounting to 850 mining projects at various stages of development from exploration through to construction and extraction.

Manipulate and abuse

These mining projects have resulted in serious health issues, environmental contamination and destruction, the criminalisation of social protest, as well as the use of threats, harassment, smear campaigns, surveillance, arbitrary detentions and the assassination of political leaders and activists who speak out against these mines.

Mariano Abarca was murdered after he opposed a Canadian mine in Chiapas where he was detained in 2009. In 2014 in Guerrero, Mexico, 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teacher Training College in Ayotzinapa, disappeared with no trace of their whereabouts, except for the remains of 19-year-old Alexander Mora Venancio.

Many believe that the recent and nearby inauguration of Torex Gold’s El Limón-Guajes gold mine in Cocula, Guerrero is related to these students’ disappearance and murder, given that a mine manager had already been murdered, workers kidnapped, and communities protesting over broken promises, contaminated water, and health problems.

Similarly the Honduran leader, Beta Cáceres, was murdered in her home on 3 March 2016 after recent protests against the construction of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam in Río Blanco and various schemes to grab land from the people against which Cáceres was fully mobilised.

It is common to find these companies levelling criminal charges at the protestors - including sabotage, terrorism, rebellion, conspiracy, and incitement to commit crime.

Open-pit mine

Because of the money these companies attract to the local economy, their power within the community is tremendous - and this includes their ability to manipulate and abuse the local laws and collaborate with organised criminals.

In addition to human rights violation, there is grave ecological and biological damage produced by these Canadian mining companies.

For instance, there is strong evidence of serious health impacts in Carrizallillo, Guerrero which was presented at the International People’s Health Tribunal in 2012 in connection with Goldcorp’s Los Filos mine, one of the largest gold mines in the world.

These impacts included, but were not limited to, a high incidence of eye, skin, respiratory, and gastrointestinal problems, as well as a significant increase in premature births and malformations in newborns - and that’s just the shortlist.

Mining within Canada is no less controversial. It was recently announced that Gahcho Kué, an open-pit mine, is expected to produce between 6.6 million and 6.9 million carats of diamonds in 2019, and each year thereafter through the end of 2021.

Disastrous effects

Gahcho Kué is one of the world’s largest new diamond mines which opened in September 2016 on a remote mine site on the Canadian tundra just on the edge of the Arctic Circle, and is jointly operated by De Beers and Mountain Province Diamonds.

While diamond mining is not Canada’s primary industry, Canada is the fifth largest diamond producer in the world and the ecological damage produced by diamond mining are well known.

Uranium levels in nearby Kennady Lake are expected to increase by a factor of 11,000 during the mine’s operation due to acid mine drainage which causes damage to the ecosystem.

Other common problems associated with diamond mining include erosion, formation of sinkholes, loss of biodiversity, and the contamination of soil, groundwater, and surface water by chemicals from mining processes.

Badly executed diamond mining has caused serious problems ranging from soil erosion, deforestation, and the forced migration of local populations. There are also many cases of diamond miners having re-routed rivers and constructed dams to expose riverbeds for mining, all with disastrous effects on fish and wildlife.

Consuming less

Just over the last few weeks, we have seen Canadian mining companies continue their expansion into Western Australia, India, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of Guinea, and into Yukon and Nunavut.

While there seems to be little that individuals can do to stop these powerful companies, we need to address that the common denominator between mining and humans is our consumption.

With this knowledge in mind, it is imperative that we push back against mining, conduct a mental inventory of what we purchase and consume, and that we ask ourselves which objects which do we absolutely need to live and which items can we live without.

In the absence of an ecological revolution, the future of our planet depends on our ability to consume less.

This Author

Julian Vigo is an independent scholar, filmmaker and activist who specialises in anthropology, technology, and political philosophy. Her latest book is Earthquake in Haiti: The Pornography of Poverty and the Politics of Development (2015). You can follow her on Twitter at @lubelluledotcom



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