Press Responses (2) - March 30, 2007

Curb mining abuses, say church leaders - Coalition urges binding legislation on human rights, environment

Art Babych, Anglican Journal -

May 30, 2007

Canada's reputation as a human rights leader is being damaged by environmental and human rights abuses of Canadian mining companies overseas, say church leaders and activists from the Philippines and South Africa.

"The Canadian government must enact binding legislation to ensure that Canadian mining companies adhere to internationally accepted human rights standards," said Bishop Sue Moxley, suffragan (assistant) bishop of the diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

She was speaking at a news conference on Parliament Hill May 29 as part of a delegation of church leaders and activists who want the federal government to adopt recommendations made in a federal roundtable report on the global impact of Canadian mining operations, released in March. An advisory group representing Canadian mining companies and civil society groups prepared the report.

"This ground-breaking report doesn't go far enough in many ways but it's a step in the right direction," Bishop Moxley said.

Bishop Moxley, who visited Cerro De San Pedro in Mexico in 2005 as part of a church leaders delegation organized by Kairos, said she was shocked by the environmental impact on the people. (Kairos is a Canadian ecumenical coalition of 11 churches and church-based organizations focused on eco-justice issues.)

"It was caused by Metallica Resources, a Canadian company headquartered in Toronto," she said. "Canada's reputation as a country with respect to human rights is being damaged because of companies like Metallica."

She added, "When I saw graffiti on walls that said, 'foreigners go home' - and I knew it was directed at me - at Canadians, my heart sank."

Kairos says Metallica has ignored Mexican court decisions that have consistently come down in favor of the community of Cerro De San Pedro.

Also at the news conference was Archbishop Roger Ebacher, chair of the social affairs commission of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Speaking in French, he said the government must ensure that Canadian mining companies do business outside Canada in a socially and environmentally responsible manner and that they conform to international human rights standards.

The delegation urged the government to take action on the roundtable report's recommendations without delay. "Every day that passes without accountability means more lives lost or endangered, more habitat destroyed or put at risk, more water polluted," said Thabo Madihlaba, representing the Environmental Justice Networking Forum in South Africa. "What's needed is for governments to hold companies to account. Our experience is that in countries where voluntary frameworks are in place, they just don't get results."

The news conference, moderated by Mary Corkery, executive director of Kairos, was held as part of the national "Dirty Waters" tour involving Kairos partners aimed at raising public awareness about the impact of Canadian mining operations overseas.

While in Ottawa, the church leaders and Kairos partners also met with members of Parliament and federal officials.

Art Babych is editor of Crosstalk, the newspaper of the diocese of Ottawa.