MAC: Mines and Communities

Pressure mounts on MUN's President Meisen to answer allegations of human rights abuse by partner Inc

Published by MAC on 2005-10-20

Pressure mounts on MUN's President Meisen to answer allegations of human rights abuse by partner Inco as CEO receives honorary degree

Society for Corporate Environmental and Social Responsibility - Memorial University of Newfoundland Chapter - FOR IMMEDATE RELEASE

Thursday, 20 October 2005

St. John's - For years now, students, faculty, and staff have been up in arms about Memorial University's partnership with the Canada's largest nickel mining company, Inco. Now, as Inco's CEO Scott Hand is awarded an honorary degree at a convocation ceremony (Friday, October 21, 10:00pm at the Arts and Culture Centre), pressure is building on MUN's President Axel Meisen, to make a statement regarding the allegations of Inco's human rights abuses in their operations in Indonesia, New Caledonia, and Guatemala.

Memorial's University Public Relations have skirted the issue for sometime now, but a recent column in the Newfoundland newspaper, The Independent, directly challenges Dr. Meisen to make a statement, and has become a rallying point for people on campus looking for a straight answer from the administration.

"The main problem of getting Dr. Miesen to speak on the human rights abuses," Laura Molyneux, an organizer for Memorial's Society for Corporate and Environmental Responsibility explains, "is that there are so many other things wrong with this relationship. Environmental issues, privatization issues, academic freedom issues. The administration has come up with statements for all of these issues, but has stayed silent on the allegations of human rights abuses. Now, we're demanding a straight answer from them".

Student Union President to Boycott Inco's CEO Ceremony

The Memorial University of Newfoundland Student's Union (MUNSU) is also opposed to the relationship, and more specifically, to the granting of an honorary degree to the Inco CEO. So much so that MUNSU President Cletus Flaherty is officially boycotting the ceremony (as approved by the MUNSU council, unanimously). "Memorial's own by-laws say that these awards are to 'recognize an extraordinary contribution to society or exceptional intellectual or artistic achievement.' Scott Hand, the figurehead of a company that has been associated with human abuses, hardly meets this criterion. There are too many questions surrounding Scott Hand and Inco. I believe conferring a degree upon him at this time is doing a major disservice to MUN and its graduates."

The official association of human rights abuses comes from a 1999 United Nations Truth Commission report that states Inco's Exmibal nickel mine was directly involved with the killings of Guatemalans including academics, and labour leaders. Many other abuses have and continue to be committed, but none as high profile.

"It's easy to buy a university building," Laura Molyneux asserts, referring to Memorial's newest building, the Inco Innovation Centre, "all you need is money. But to practically sell an honorary degree - as a supposedly credible university - what does that cost us? If the administration can't be accountable to its students, its faculty, and even to its own bylaws, if it's can't defend their partner's action or their own action (of inappropriately awarding the degree), then to whom, is Dr. Meisen and his administration accountable?"

For Media Enquiries contact: Chad Griffiths, CESR Organizer at: (709) 691 1985

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