The Dirty Business of Canadian Big Mining Corporations: El Salvador, the Philippines and Canada
FMLN-Vancouver Forum on Environment: 20 February 2010: Post-Event Write Up
The Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN) Committee of Vancouver hosted the public forum on “Environment: Legislation and Challenges in Canada and El Salvador,” last February 20, 2010 at the Sunset Community Centre in Vancouver.
It brought together as speakers Senora Lourdes Palacios, the FMLN legislator from El Salvador, Doctor Chandu Claver, Chair of BAYAN-Canada, a progressive coalition of Filipino ogrganizations, and Peter Julian, Member of Parliament of Canada.
Senora Palacios talked about the Vancouver-based mining company Pacific Rim, the resistance of the Salvadoran communities against the mining corporation and the killings of anti-mining activists from that conflict. The Pacific Rim Mining company, using its US-based subsidiary and the Central American Free Trade Agreement, has sued the Salvadoran government for refusing to grant the company extraction rights in the potentially destructive El Dorado mine. Under the US-Central America free trade agreement, foreign companies that feel their profit potential is threatened by local governments can sue the host country for cash compensation.
Doctor Chandu Claver, physician and community activist from the Cordillera region of the Philippines described briefly the situation of the Cordillera people and their struggle for the defense of the ancestral domain and for self-determination. Dr. Claver also spoke on the environmental destruction wrought by big mining companies in the Philippines, of which several are Canadian owned. In the indigenous mountain areas, Terra Nova and Ivanhoe Mines, both Canadian mining companies own investments and interests in the Cordillera. In the southern part of the Philippines, the Subanen indigenous peoples of Zamboanga del Norte continue to suffer the destruction of their communities and environment from the operations of the Canadian mining firm Toronto Ventures Inc (TVI) in their ancestral lands. Similar to what is happening in El Salvador, resistance from the communities against the big foreign mining companies have resulted in the killings and disappearances of community activists and the militarization of villages.
Member of Parliament of Canada Peter Julian talked about Canadian legislation relevant to these issues — Bill C300 and Bill C54. Bill C500 empowers the Canadian government to investigate complaints of human rights and environmental abuses leveled against mining companies; if found guilty, these corporations could lose support from Export Development Canada or the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.
MP Peter Julian described Bill C-54 as a stronger piece of legislation that he himself proposed that would allow foreigners to sue Canadian companies in Canadian courts for human rights abuses, regardless of where the abuses take place. It replicates the United States’ Alien Tort Claims Act, which survivors of torture in other countries have used to sue their torturers in US courts.
Calls for international solidarity, for educating the Canadian public on the activities and operations of big Canadian mining corporations, for support of stronger Canadian legislation were affirmed at the public forum.