Canadian companies that impact human rights defenders accompanied by Peace Brigades International
There are numerous Canadian companies operating in Latin America whose operations have impacted human rights defenders accompanied or associated with Peace Brigades International field projects. An initial overview is as follows:
Concerns have been expressed about the Calgary-based companies Canacol Energy and Parex Resources being involved in fracking pilot projects in Colombia.
Toronto-based Frontera Energy also co-owns a 236,000 barrel per day pipeline from the Magdalena Medio region to Coveñas on the Caribbean coast that could “move increased crude output” if fracking is approved beyond the pilot projects.
The Luis Carlos Perez Lawyers’ Collective (CCALCP) and the Regional Corporation for the Defence of Human Rights (CREDHOS) have highlighted concerns about these companies as well as the relationship between Canacol Energy and US based-ConocoPhillips (that also has an office in Calgary) as outlined in this article.
2- Canadian owned dam on the Sogamoso River in Colombia impacts human rights (November 15, 2019)
When Colombian human rights defenders from the Luis Carlos Perez Lawyers’ Collective (CCALCP) and the Regional Corporation for the Defence of Human Rights (CREDHOS) were in Toronto they stopped at the office of Brookfield Assets Management.
That’s because in 2016 Brookfield bought a majority share in the Colombian power generation and distribution company Isagen.
Isagen owns five hydroelectric dams in Colombia, including the controversial Sogamoso Hydroelectric Dam which is located 30 kilometres west of Bucaramanga.
United Nations Special Rapporteur Michel Forst highlights, “In November 2018, Frontera Energy signed two agreements with the Ministry of Defence for a total of US$1,343,106 to secure army protection for its activities.”
Franklin Castañeda of the Committee in Solidarity with Political Prisoners (CSPP) says, “A few days after signing the first contract worth more than $1 million, a representative of this company filed charges and testified against the leaders of the protests.”
El Espectador further reports, “On November 27, 2018, at 2:45 in the morning, an operation of 200 men, between members of the Police and the National Army, who landed in two helicopters, captured them in San Luis de Palenque.”
Three of the community leaders remain in prison and five are under house arrest while they await their trial more than 15 months after their arrest.
In September 2019, the CSPP and the Social Corporation for Community Counseling and Training (COSPACC) told the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in Geneva, Switzerland “how Frontera Energy has influenced the investigation process against the social leaders who protested against it.”
In August 2019, PBI-Colombia accompanied the Cahucopana organization in Puerto López (Bajo Cauca, Antioquia) who conducted a workshop with social leaders in the area in order to determine protection and self-protection measures.
According to the Colombian National Agency of Mining there are 27 Canadian companies operating in the country with 42 mining titles for copper, silver and gold.
In March 2019, Mining.com reported, “Antioquia Gold of Calgary has announced the successful start of production at its Cisneros gold mine 80 km northeast of Medellin, in Antioquia. [The mine] has now reached the planned commercial rate of 500 t/d.”
Furthermore, the website for Toronto-based Continental Gold says it “is the most advanced large-scale gold mining company in Colombia and is presently developing it’s 100%-owned Buriticá project in Antioquia for scheduled production in 2020.”
The Financial Post has reported, “In 2017, one of [Toronto-based Gran Colombia’s] mines faced protests by a local mining collective that lasted 42 days.”
In 1994, Vancouver-based Eco Oro Minerals Corporation (then called Greystar Resources) acquired mining rights in the Santurbán Páramo and began carrying out exploration related to their proposed Angostura open-pit gold and silver mine. The Luis Carlos Perez Lawyers’ Collective (CCALCP) has worked to defend this ecosystem.
On March 13, 2019, PBI-Honduras posted, “According to the latest report on mining in Honduras by CEHRPODEC, in September 2019 there were 471 concessions for mining projects in the country.” That includes:
First Point Honduras S.A. (the report lists four names associated with the company who are Canadian and who live in British Columbia), page 44
Cobra Oro de Honduras S.A. (linked in the report with Glen Eagle Resources Inc., Quebec; Sociedad Mercantil Santa Barbara Mining Inc, Vancouver, British Columbia; Breakwater Resources Inc., Canada), pages 49-50
American Pacific S.A. (linked in the report with Morumbi Resources Inc. and Ascendant Resources in Toronto, Ontario), page 50
PBI-Honduras has posted, “On November 17, PBI-Honduras observed a self-consultation of the municipality of Namasigüe, Choluteca, which was carried out with the technical support of our accompanied organization, CEHPRODEC.”
PBI-Honduras adds, “According to the final vote count, 97% of the residents rejected the installation of mining projects and photovoltaic plants.”
The mining projects appear to involve Montreal-based Glen Eagle Resources Inc. and its Honduran subsidiary Cobra Oro.
8- PBI-Honduras accompanies CEHPRODEC at annual march against extractivism (September 6, 2019)
PBI-Honduras has explained that CEHPRODEC (the Honduran Centre for the Promotion of Community Development) is focused on “the defence of human rights, in particular on economic, social, cultural and environmental rights.”
CEHPRODEC has previously raised concerns about the toxic legacy in the Siria Valley from the Vancouver-based Goldcorp San Martin mine that was closed in 2010. The water there is now polluted with heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, and mercury.
In June 2019, PBI-Mexico accompanied the Civil Observation Mission to an information meeting about the Ixtaca mining project in the south-central Mexican state of Puebla. Vancouver-based Almaden Minerals Ltd. (through its Mexican subsidiary Minera Gorrion) owns the Ixtaca project.
Commenting on the TC Energy (formerly TransCanada Corp.) Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline and the RCMP raid on Wet’suwet’en territory, Educa Oaxaca, stated:
“It should be remembered that TransCanada was the first private company to build and operate gas pipelines in Mexico, where it currently has more than 1,618 kilometers of gas pipelines. In November 2018, its planned Tuxpan-Tula and Tula-Villa de Reyes gas pipelines were suspended due to the resistance of indigenous peoples in Veracruz, Puebla, Hidalgo and the State of Mexico.”
Martha Pskowski has noted that the murders of Rarámuri land advocates [Isidro Baldenegro Lóperz, Juan Ontiveros Ramos and Julián Carrillo Martínes] in the Sierra Tarahumara region in Mexico “discouraged some Rarámuri people from speaking out when the energy company TransCanada began building a natural gas pipeline through the area.”
She comments, “Investors and companies in the U.S. and Canada have done little to ensure that their money isn’t driving criminalization and attacks on local advocates. Until the companies take clear steps to prevent the violence, they are complicit in — and benefit from — the weak rule of law in their partner countries.”
In November 2018, PBI-Canada and PBI-Mexico brought two human rights defenders from Mexico to share their concerns about the intentions and impacts of Vancouver-based Fortuna Silver Mines in the south-eastern state of Oaxaca.
Salvador Martínez Arellanes and Neftalí Reyes Méndez visited Toronto and Ottawa with firsthand information and updates about the concerns being expressed by the residents of Santa Catarina Minas, a community in the Central Valleys Region of Oaxaca.
Martinez Arellanes is an Indigenous leader from Santa Carina Minas, while Reyes Méndez is with the Oaxacan Territorial Defense Collective and EDUCA, a non-governmental organization based in the city of Oaxaca that promotes justice, equality and social participation.
Mexican human rights groups are raising concerns about the Mayan Train project that has attracted the interest of Canadian investors.
Members of the Focal Group include: The Mexican Centre for Environmental Law (CEMDA), the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC), the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Project (ProDESC), and The Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research (PODER).
On January 15, 2019, Diálogo Chino reported, “Italian, Canadian and Chinese companies have shown great interest in the Mayan Train.”
Residents from the communities of San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc – an area known as La Puya – have been fighting against the Progreso VII Derivada-El Tambor mine located just north of Guatemala City since March 2010.
During this time, the mine was owned by Vancouver-based Radius Gold.
The Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA) has highlighted, “Although Radius Gold sold its shares in the local Guatemalan subsidiary Exploraciones Mineras de Guatemala S.A. (EXMINGUA) to KCA in August 2012, it retains an economic interest in the mine.”
NISGUA notes, “The company’s 2013 audited financial statements state that three quarters of the cost of the sale transaction will be paid to Radius once gold shipments commence from the property and that Radius also anticipates quarterly payments from KCA based on gold production.”
On May 7, 2019, PBI-Guatemala reported that it had accompanied the case of Eduardo Bin Poou, a Q’eqchi human rights defender and vice president of the Fishermen’s Association of El Estor, Izabal, who had been unfairly criminalized by being charged with the crime of trespassing on protected areas.
Human rights defenders in the department of Izabal oppose the open-pit Fenix nickel mine in the municipality of El Estor because it is causing serious environmental damage and irreparable harm to Lake Izabal, Guatemala’s largest freshwater lake.
The mine was first developed by Toronto-based Inco, then owned by Toronto-based Hudbay and Vancouver-based Skye Resources, and is now operated by the Russian-owned Solway Group that is based in Zug, Switzerland.
PBI-Guatemala accompanies the Human Rights Law Firm (BDH) that represented Eduardo in court.
The K’iche’ People’s Council in Defense of Life, Mother Nature, Land and Territory was formed in 2008 by Maya K’iche’ Indigenous peoples of northern Guatemala.
The organization is led by Aura Lolita Chávez Ixcaquic, a Maya K’iche human rights defender based in the city of Santa Cruz in the region of El Quiché, which is predominantly Mayan.
In March 2013, the Montreal Gazette reported, “Chávez has been branded a threat to national security and a terrorist for speaking out against the development of Canadian-owned mines against the people’s will.”
In that article, Chávez states, “Canadian companies are the main protagonists in this invasion that brings only death and destruction. And when we say we don’t want it, they say we are ignorant, or brutes, or we don’t understand the benefits. But we have a right to say no.”
On July 29, 2019, PBI-Guatemala posted, “Yesterday we accompanied the Chicoyogüito community [AVECHAV] in commemorating the eviction of their lands on July 28, 1968. The ceremony took place outside the Creompaz facilities.”
CREOMPAZ is a United Nations training base for peacekeepers, located about 220 kilometres north-east of Guatemala City.
In Canada Looks South (University of Toronto Press, 2012), it was noted that, “In 2009, Ottawa made a CAD$250,000 grant to CREOMPAZ to enhance Central American armed forces’ capacity to participate in UN peace missions.”