MAC: Mines and Communities

Memorial University Honouring Hand of Inco While Ignoring Hurt of Many

Published by MAC on 2005-10-27

Memorial University Honouring Hand of Inco While Ignoring Hurt of Many

Letter to Editor, October 27, 2005

Inco CEO Scott Hand received a honourary degree from Memorial University at this year's fall convocation. Besides celebrating being honoured at Memorial, Mr. Hand recently forged a takeover of Falconbridge that will make Inco the largest nickel mining company in the world. Inco probably has or will have more offices and holes in the ground in countries around the world than most countries have embassies. Memorial may as well be honouring the Queen of England.

But should one who has climbed the ladder of a mining company that has books and films documenting its pollution, union busting, cozy relationship with dictators, and cancer stricken nickel refinery workers be awarded with anything but dishonour? Did the Inco Innovation Centre gift to the university boot out the Queen and other potential contenders for honorary degrees this year and nullify the fact that the soon to be honouree makes his living from a company that is still one of Canada's top mining polluters, in the midst of labour, community and environmental protests in Indonesia, Guatemala, and Kanaky-New Caledonia, and a multi-million dollar clean-up of contamination at part public expense in Ontario?

Memorial students and alumni are also finding it hard to stomach that the former Thompson Student Centre, a building built for and by students, has been largely replaced with a research and development centre for a multinational mining company.

While a hunger strike was ending in Indonesia in protest of Inco, Memorial and Inco's top brass including Mr. Hand officially opened the Inco Innovation Centre with fine dining alarmingly to the exclusion of students. The irony continued into that evening during a panel discussion on 'innovation' that featured several photographs of Albert Einstein as one of the world's most notable innovators. Einstein was also a man who fled Hitler Germany at a time when, as confirmed by a court in the Nuremburg Trials, Inco nickel was being sold to the Nazis for military-political reasons. Today, Einstein is more than welcomed in the centre that Inco built while Inco continues to enjoy the profits reaped from wars.

I wonder what Einstein would have said if he were alive today or would he paint 'paradox' on his house like the farmer in Indonesia who has been disenfranchised from his fertile land for the Inco golf course and now struggles on a small garden plot on the outskirts of the well irrigated golf course.

Regarding Memorial's response or lack thereof to the student concerns aired at the Inco Innovation Centre official opening, I ask if an abuse occurs against a person, a community, or nature and only one person or ten people complain, does that make the abuse fine for everyone else to ignore? A university is an unlikely home for a 'ignorance is bliss' shield.

The many Canadians who came forward during the second World War and asked that the Canadian government stop Canadian Inco nickel from being sold to make weapons used to kill Canadian soldiers were also in large part incredibly ignored by the powers that be. But a chapter was written then just as a chapter is being written now at Memorial University where stands were taken and not taken.

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