Posts Tagged ‘Canada and Honduras’

Canadian mining is murder

Homegrown companies are among the worst human rights offenders on the planet


March 9, 2016

Four days after the assassination of Honduran indigenous leader Berta Cáceres captured worldwide headlines, a vigil to remind of the blood on Canada’s hands for all those who have died protesting Canadian mining projects abroad interrupted the mining industry’s annual confab in Toronto on Sunday, March 6.

The vigil held by the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network at the convention of the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) was presided over by Anglican priest Maggie Helwig. “We are here to name the dead,” she said.

The vast majority of killings have not been solved or, in many cases, even investigated.

The names of some two dozen victims of such violence were read out at the PDAC vigil. The protesters were then escorted out by police.

Canadian mining companies are among the worst human rights offenders on the planet. The most recent evidence of that is a 2014 report submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. A 2009 report commissioned by PDAC but never made public also detailed targeted assassinations and persecution of activists and union leaders opposing Canadian projects abroad. 

It’s impossible to know exactly who killed each of these people. The vast majority of the cases have not been solved or in many cases even investigated. But they all have something in common: all were assassinated and all resisted Canadian mining projects. 

Merilyn Topacio Reynoso Pacheco The 16-year-old was killed and her father seriously injured in an April 2014 attack. The activists, part of the Peaceful Resistance in Defense of Natural Resources of Mataques-cuintla, Jalapa, had led the fight for a referendum on development of Tahoe Resources’ Escobal mine in southeastern Guatemala. 

Adolfo Ich Chamán The respected community leader was hacked by machetes and then shot in the head on September 27, 2009, allegedly by security personnel working for Hudbay’s Fenix mining project in El Estor, Guatemala. A multi-million-dollar lawsuit filed in Canadian court by Chamán’s wife alleges negligence on the part of the company. The ex head of security for the mine is on trial in Guatemala for Chamán’s murder and the wounding of at least 10 others.

Telésforo Odilio Pivaral González The member of the Committee in Defense of Life and Peace in San Rafael Las Flores was killed near Tahoe Resources’ Escobal mine in Guatemala on April 5, 2015. According to a statement released by members of the “We Are Human Rights Defenders” campaign, González, who had taken part in protests against expansion of the silver mine, was attacked “by unknown persons with firearms.”

Mariano Abarca Roblero The anti-mining activist was killed outside his home in Chiapas, Mexico, on November 27, 2009. He had blamed Calgary-based mining company Blackfire Exploration for contaminating local rivers, loss of crops and the deaths of livestock. Blackfire’s open-pit barite mine in Chiapas was closed in 2011 over environmental concerns.

Dora “Alicia” Recinos Sorto A member of the -Cabañas Environment Committee, which had been campaigning against the reopening of Vancouver-based Pacific Rim’s El Dorado gold mine in El Salvador, Sorto was shot and killed on December 26, 2009, as she returned home from doing her laundry. She was eight months pregnant. 

Ramiro Rivera The vice-president of the Cabañas Environment Committee was gunned down on December 20, 2009. His anti-mining activities against Pacific Rim in El Salvador were believed to be behind the killing. In an earlier attempt on his life, a would-be assassin shot Rivera eight times in the back and legs, but he survived.

César García Moreno A member of the farmers’ rights group Conciencia Campesina, García was active in the movement opposing multinational gold-mining company AngloGold Ashanti in Cajamarca, Colombia, when he was killed on November 2, 2013.

Rigoberto López Hernández The Honduran activist was found with his throat slit and his tongue cut out on May 3, 2014, an assassination that activists say was clearly meant to send a message over his opposition to the iron oxide mine in Quita Ganas.

José Isidro Tendetza Antún The indigenous leader, vice-president of the Shuar Federation of Zamora, was found bound and buried December 2, 2014 (with signs of torture and strangulation on his body). He was last seen on his way to a meeting of protesters opposed to B.C.-based Corriente Resources’ Mirador copper and gold mine in Ecuador. 

Rafael Markus Bangit An elder of the Malbong tribe in Kalinga province in the Philippines and regional council member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, Bangit was at the forefront of opposition to mining activities on indigenous land, including against Calgary-based TVI Pacific. He was gunned down by a hooded assailant on June 8, 2006. 

Kibwabwa Ghati The 23-year-old Tanzanian farmer was shot and killed by police near Barrick Gold’s North Mara mine on November 6, 2012. Police accused him of trying to steal from the mine, but some media -reports suggest he may have been caught in the crossfire as other men tried to get into the facility. 

Emerico Samarca The director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood -Development, which opposed large-scale mining in the Philippines, including by Canadian company TVI Pacific, was killed in Lianga on September 1, 2015, by alleged members of a paramilitary group. 

Demetrio Poma Rosales Killed protesting Barrick Gold’s Pierina open-pit gold mine in Peru’s Ancash region on September 19, 2012. 

Juan Francisco Durán Ayala The student anti–mining activist disappeared after posting flyers as part of a campaign against Canadian mining company Pacific Rim in Cabañas, in northern El Salvador, on June 17, 2011. The Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador suspects local mayors with ties to organized crime had a hand in his killing.

José Reinel Restrepo The parish priest of the municipality of Marmato, Colombia, was killed on September 2, 2011, days after travelling to Bogotá to register his opposition to the open-pit gold mine proposed by -Toronto-based Gran Colombia Gold.

Jerónimo Rodríguez Tugri and Mauricio Méndez Both were killed February 8, 2012, when police opened fire against indigenous Ngöbe-Buglé protesting a new Panamanian law allowing Vancouver’s Corriente -Resources access to indigenous lands. 

Henry Tendeke, Taitia Maliapa, Paul Pindi, John Wangla, Pyakani Tombe, Yandari Pyari, Jerry Yope, Jackson Yalo, Joe Opotaro, Aglio Wija, Mina Mulako, Alonge Laswi, Manata Pita and Pyakane Eremi Fourteen of the dozens of people killed since 1993 by security forces defending Barrick’s Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea. 

Alvaro Benigno Sanchez The 23-year-old was killed by two men reportedly employed as security guards by a U.S.-Canada-owned Glamis Gold subsidiary in Guatemala on March 13, 2005. 

Damodar Jhodia, Abhilash Jhodia and Raghunath Jhodia Murdered on December 16, 2000, in the Kashipur region of Orissa, India, reportedly over their opposition to a mining project partially owned by Rio Tinto Alcan. 

Exaltación Marcos Ucelo The community activist, secretary of the Xinca Indigenous Parliament, was kidnapped, tortured and found dead on March 18, 2013, because of his opposition to Tahoe Resources’ Escobal mine in Guatemala.

Unnamed mine worker He died of heat exhaustion and dehydration at Nevsun’s Bisha Mine in Eritrea (date unknown). His death is the subject of a Canadian lawsuit against BC’s Nevsun Resources.

Rachel Small is a member of the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network.

(I include this article which while not specifically about Honduras provides insight into Canada’s push for a Free Trade Agreement with Honduras)
January 8, 2014

Commercial motives driving Canada’s foreign aid, documents reveal


Internal CIDA analysis of bilateral aid programs suggests Canada’s commercial interests have become a key consideration in determining how much aid a developing country will receive

The federal government is evaluating trade and investment opportunities in dozens of developing countries to help determine how foreign aid should be disbursed, raising questions about whether Canada’s push for “economic diplomacy” is an effective way to reduce global poverty.

An internal analysis of bilateral aid programs, produced by the Canadian International Development Agency and obtained by The Globe and Mail, suggests Canada’s commercial interests have become a key consideration in determining how much aid a developing country will receive. The report, titled Reviewing CIDA’s Bilateral Engagement, was written shortly before CIDA was merged with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in June.

The CIDA assessment is the clearest sign yet that Canada’s development objectives were shifting even before the merger was announced in the 2013 federal budget. And it comes as Foreign Affairs has instructed officials to make opening new markets to Canadian goods and services the dominant focus of Canada’s foreign policy.

A majority of the three dozen countries included in the foreign aid report are promoted as destinations for Canadian aid in part because of the commercial benefits they can offer to Canada.

For example, Indonesia is “an important commercial and political partner” for Canada in Asia, and growing commercial interests in Egypt and Jordan mean those countries should both continue to receive foreign aid, the document says.

Benin is favoured because it provides a stable political and investment climate, while Ghana is a “promising economic partner.”

More than a dozen countries are identified as having mineral resources that are of interest to Canadian firms, including Mongolia, Peru, Bolivia and Ghana. The conflict-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo is of “strategic interest” to Canada, the document notes, because of significant investments in that country’s extractive sector by Canadian companies.

Stephen Brown, an aid expert at the University of Ottawa and author of a book about CIDA, said the document suggests that trade interests are increasingly winning out over development values.

“Over all, the government seems to have forgotten that Canadian law defines the purpose of Canadian foreign aid as poverty reduction,” he said. “Even before the merger, we’re seeing huge emphasis – not in every country, but in the majority of countries – on what Canada has to gain and especially what Canadian private companies have to gain.”

Margaux Stastny, a spokeswoman for International Development Minister Christian Paradis, wrote in an e-mail that Canada’s development work remains focused on improving the lives of those who are most in need. But she added that the goal of reducing poverty cannot be addressed in isolation, meaning security, governance and trade must also be taken into account.

Mr. Paradis has noted that the “vast majority” of global markets the federal government is targeting for trade and investment are located in developing countries. “By stimulating the economy in these countries and helping them create an environment conducive to investment, we are contributing to the well-being of people living in poverty,” he told an audience in Montreal late last year.

Poverty, aid effectiveness and other considerations, such as domestic politics and regional security, are also considered but appear to receive less attention over all in the partly redacted document. In the case of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the assessment notes that that there is “tremendous need” in the African country, which is among the poorest countries in the world, and points out that Canada has worked there to prevent sexual and gender-based violence.

The report was produced in March, 2013, less than two weeks before the government announced it would eliminate CIDA as a standalone agency. It was provided to The Globe in response to an access-to-information request.

The decision to merge CIDA’s development work with the Foreign Affairs and International Trade department prompted criticism from some international development experts and non-governmental organizations, who worried Canada’s commitment to poverty reduction and humanitarian aid would be diluted. Others welcomed the amalgamation, saying it would reduce conflicting messages in Canadian foreign policy and could help increase overall resources for poverty-reduction efforts.

Although commerce and politics have played a role in Canada’s development decisions in the past, aid experts say the emphasis on favouring developing countries that offer trade and investment benefits to Canada is a more recent shift.

Diana Rivington, a former director of human development and gender equality at CIDA, said the change shows a greater focus on the short-term benefits Canada can gain from development work. “What I see in these choices is a vision of Canada that is not as broad as it was,” she said.

Scott Gilmore, founder of a development organization called Building Markets, said he does not see a problem with Canada’s foreign aid benefiting domestic interests when it is also helping people in developing countries.

“It’s not a zero-sum game,” said Mr. Gilmore, who is also a member of an external advisory group that is being consulted about the CIDA merger. “There are lots of things that Canada can do that maximize our ability to reduce poverty which also – simultaneously – are of benefit to Canada, either [to] our foreign policy interests or our trade interests.”

In 2011, the federal government announced it would launch a series of jointly funded pilot projects involving Canadian mining companies and non-governmental organizations – a move often cited as an example of CIDA’s work with the private sector. The agency also established a new institute aimed at providing regulatory advice to developing countries with significant mineral potential.

The projects were criticized for providing what was seen by some as indirect subsidies for mining companies’ corporate social responsibility programs. Proponents argued CIDA’s work with the extractive sector can help harness those companies’ resources to help improve the lives of people in poverty.

Hélène Laverdière, the NDP’s international development critic, said the CIDA assessment demonstrates that Canada is increasingly using foreign aid to further its trade interests. “That’s not the job of our international assistance, and the ODA Accountability Act is very clear that [aid] should focus on poverty reduction, taking into account the perspectives of the poor and human rights, of course.”

The handful of countries where commercial interests do not appear to be a significant factor include Haiti, which is of “long-term foreign policy interest” because of its large diaspora community in Canada and past commitments. Aid to Afghanistan is important to honour past sacrifices and commitments, and to “burden share” with Canada’s allies, and development efforts in the West Bank and Gaza should continue because they have been welcomed by Israel as crucial support for peace in the region.

Kim Mackrael is a parliamentary reporter in Ottawa.

Free trade with Honduras

Canadian Aid, Honduran Oil

Ottawa funds set to encourage oil investment

by Sandra Cuffe   March 12, 2014

Canadian funds are laying the groundwork for controversial oil activity. ILLUSTRATION: Daniel Rotsztain.
Canadian funds are laying the groundwork for controversial oil activity. ILLUSTRATION: Daniel Rotsztain.

LA CEIBA, HONDURAS—Oil extraction may be on the horizon in Honduras, and Canadian aid is helping set the stage.

The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) has been financing technical assistance to the hydrocarbon sector in Honduras as part of a $9.5-million Sustainable Energy Access project managed by the Latin American Energy Organization (OLADE). During the first part of the five-year (2012–2017) project originally approved by the Canadian International Development Agency, OLADE initiated a review of the regulatory framework in Honduras and examined the oil and gas potential in the country.

Seismic surveys, studies and drilling over the past 50 years in Honduras have identified several areas with hydrocarbon potential. They are mainly located both offshore and inland along the Caribbean coast and the Moskitia, a remote, primarily Indigenous region in the northeast, bordering Nicaragua.

The Honduran government has granted a slew of natural resource concessions in the wake of the June 2009 coup d’état that ousted President Manuel Zelaya. Some Indigenous organizations have voiced their flat-out opposition to oil and gas activity, expecting the industry to further benefit transnational companies at the expense of local communities.

“Right now [resources] are up for grabs and there’s an unparalleled exploitation of that by transnational and foreign capital,” Miriam Miranda, General Coordinator of OFRANEH, a federation representing the 46 Indigenous Garifuna communities spread out along Honduras’ Caribbean coast, told The Dominion. “There’s no respect for international laws and international jurisprudence on the rights of Indigenous peoples.”

Honduras ratified International Labour Organization Convention No. 169 on the rights of Indigenous and tribal peoples in 1994 and voted in favour of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007. A report produced by OLADE in 2013 with Canadian funding outlined Honduras’ obligations under international law and the importance of free, prior and informed consent. But that same year, Honduras approved hydrocarbon activity despite no prior consultation with affected communities.

In April 2013, the Honduran government granted British multinational BG Group a contract for oil and gas exploration and eventual exploitation in a 35,000-square-kilometre area off the coast of the Moskitia. Local residents weren’t consulted until the fall of 2013, months after the contract was signed.

In February 2011, faced with interest from oil companies and an outdated law, the Honduran government announced a one-year moratorium on concessions to allow time for a new hydrocarbon law to be passed. The contract with BG Group went forward regardless, and the regulatory framework is now under review by the Canadian-funded OLADE project. BG Group was issued a renewable four-year environmental license for exploration on January 17, 2014. Chevron has also expressed interest in offshore exploration in Honduras.

“By stimulating the economy in these countries and helping them create an environment conducive to investment, we are contributing to the well-being of people living in poverty,” DFATD spokesperson Nicolas Doire wrote in an email to The Dominion.

Stephen Brown, a professor of political science at the University of Ottawa, is concerned that extractive sector regulatory reviews funded by Canadian development aid are part of an increasing subordination of development priorities to Canadian commercial interests.

“When Canada helps revise—or what they call ‘modernize’—regulations, they present it as being good for the country and therefore good for the country’s poor,” Brown told The Dominion in a telephone interview. “There’s a bit of a logical leap there that that will actually happen.”

Brown points to the example of Colombia, where Canadian aid was used to fund the revision of mining and oil legislation, reducing royalty rates and weakening environmental protections.

“If we’re helping rewrite codes in the interests of Canadian companies, then no matter how much you talk about win-win, it doesn’t mean that it’s true,” said Brown.

Canadian companies are expected to benefit from a new Honduran mining law enacted in January 2013 after revision by advisors funded by the Canadian government. A Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement was signed on November 5, 2013.

Sandra Cuffe is a freelance journalist with a penchant for coffee and geckos. She tweets as @Sandra_Cuffe.