“Do you know?” Canada, mining and the global cry of the people

“Do you know?” asked Jennifer Henry, the Executive Director of KAIROS at a recent symposium entitled Mining Extraction and Justice: The Global Cry of the People. It is a question that has been deliberately directed to her as a Canadian, time after time, by KAIROS’ global partners.

“Do you know:

  • about the prominence of Canadian companies among mining corporations all over the world?
  • about the extent to which mining is impacting our water, health and physical environment?
  • about how the expansion of mining operations has resulted in countless forced displacements and greatly increased danger to community leaders who speak out against the industry?”
A group of Ontario young people stand on the edge of the Marlin Mine in San Marcos, Guatemala. The mine is owned by Goldcorp of Vancouver BC.

A group of Ontario young people stand on the edge of the Marlin Mine in San Marcos, Guatemala. The mine is owned by Goldcorp of Vancouver BC.

These questions hit home for participants in the two-day conference, which tackled  Canada’s prominent role in the mining industry, the impact of mining on the daily lives of affected people at home and around the world, and the possibilities for advancing mining  practices that promote human dignity and care for creation.

One of the principle messages expressed at the conference was the need to humanize the process — and to put a human face at the centre of mining policy and practice. This message was repeated by panelists including representatives from national and international NGOs, churches, communities directly impacted by mining in Canada and abroad, the mining sector, parliamentarians, and academics. Through their presentations, we encountered the human face from Asia to Africa to Latin America and back to Canada.

Having just returned from an MCC term in Latin America, where mining is a contentious issue to say the least, I thought of my own interactions with the stories and the faces touched by mining. During a short stint in Guatemala I visited the Marlin Mine in the western highlands, owned and operated by the Canadian-owned Goldcorp, where I experienced my own “Do you know?” moments.

We met community groups organizing protests to shut down operations due to unfulfilled promises, the lack of development programs and degrading health. We also met a family who had refused to leave their traditional lands and, as a result, were at risk from contaminated water and constant tremors from the mine. In both visits, when the local people requested international action and advocacy, everyone looked at me. I was, after all, the Canadian.

“Do you know?” Do we know about the extent of Canada’s role as a major player within the world of mining? If the answer is yes, we must then ask: “What are we doing about it?”

open-for-justice-logo-temp-TRANS.PSDConfronting the injustice perpetuated by the mining industry can overwhelm us, and make us feel both angry and helpless. But in this Advent season, as we celebrate the coming of Christ and the hope Christ brings, we can look to words of hope from the prophet Isaiah. In chapter 40, Isaiah speaks of God’s promise to comfort his people who are suffering. We also look to Luke 4 where Jesus claims the promises expressed in Isaiah 61: to embody the one who will bring good news to the poor, heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free.

These promises of hope and comfort also call us to action — to draw strength from and find our place within the many initiatives and campaigns already underway to work for mining justice.

Development and Peace, KAIROS and others groups, through the Open for Justice Campaign, are calling for more accountability of mining companies, and the ability of impacted communities to raise concerns publicly, safely and effectively through an ombudsman with real authority to enforce corporate social responsibility. In line with this campaign, and as a reminder of the personal responsibility of consumers, KAIROS invites all of us to join an Advent Campaign, “All I Want for Christmas is Mining Justice.”

AA-14-11-AllIWantForChristmasThe Canadian Mining Association, which was also represented at the symposium, is standing with Canadian NGOs like Publish What You Pay and Oxfam in petitioning the Canadian Government for more open and robust policies to eliminate corruption and help communities in mining areas around the world access promised financial and social benefits.

And then there are the countless efforts, projects and movements directly supporting local communities in mining areas as they demand truth and justice from mining companies and respective governments.

Together, let’s be inspired and stand with The Global Cry of the People, here in Canada and around the world.

Rebekah Sears is policy analyst with the Ottawa Office.

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