Canada Environment & Climate Change World Politics & Affairs

The Effect of Canadian Mining in Latin America and the Caribbean

Justin Trudeau has made a commitment to fighting climate change and human rights violations both locally and abroad. Locally, Justin Trudeau held a conference with all provincial and territorial leaders in 2016 to create an action plan to transition towards a low-carbon economy.

He has also welcomed Syrian refugees and has attempted to address Aboriginal issues to varying degrees to success. Internationally, Trudeau attended the Paris conference on climate change and has pledged to work with the United States and Mexico to fight climate change.

Along with all of the actions and promises he has made, Justin Trudeau pledged to become a leader in fighting climate change. However, the actions of Canadian mining companies in Latin America and the Caribbean contradict his words.

Canadian mining companies have dominated the Latin American and Caribbean landscape since the 1990s. Their investment in the region has gained momentum due to free trade agreements, foreign investment promotions, and ongoing negotiations with different Latin American and Caribbean countries. The largest Canadian mining corporations are present in this region, including Barrick Gold, Tahoe Resources, and Goldcorp.

Over the years, there have been several articles and reports that outline the environmental and human rights violations that mining magnates have carried out since their arrival in Latin America and the Caribbean. These documented incidents include displacing indigenous communities due to the mineral value of their ancestral lands, wiping out towns where miners used to live, and causing irreparable damage to the land.

These actions lead us to question what actions the Liberal government will take in addressing the environmental and human rights violations that have been committed in Latin America and the Caribbean by large Canadian mining companies. Furthermore, it is necessary that we question how Canada’s reputation as a leader in human rights is affected by the dark side of the mining industry.

If you do a quick Google search for Canadian mining companies in Latin America, you will find an abundant list of articles and reports of human rights violations by these magnates to local communities. At the same time, if you look up results on Justin Trudeau and Latin America, you will find that he is attempting to re-establish a rapport with the region and he appears to be successful. However, how will this rapport continue while Canadian mining companies wreak havoc in the region?

In early 2016, approximately 200 Latin American organizations called on the Canadian Prime Minister to address the actions carried out by Canadian mining corporations in the region. The recommendations outlined by these organizations, which include respect for Indigenous communities and their ancestral lands, suggest that the Prime Minister is not entirely fulfilling his promise to fight climate change and address human rights violations.

It is necessary to remember that the violations carried out by these corporations have been continuing for decades in the region. Additionally, this region tends to receive less focus due to the current state of other parts of the world. As a result, it could be that Trudeau is not paying much attention to the historical violations of human rights in Latin America because Canada’s priorities are elsewhere at the moment.

Moreover, the violations committed by Canadian mining corporations are overshadowed by their promises of corporate social responsibility, which occur in the form of building newer infrastructures to the towns and communities that reside near the mines.

These corporate social responsibility actions are used to disguise the environmental and social atrocities that occur as a result of mining practices, as it was seen in the case of the Pascua Lama mine owned by Barrick Gold on the border between Chile and Argentina. Luckily, the halting of the Pascua Lama mine provides a prospective future to communities and organizations that fight against Canadian mining corporations.

The people and communities affected by these Canadian magnates have already taken action. However, we have yet to see how the Liberal government and Justin Trudeau will act towards their relationship with Latin America and the Caribbean and how it ties in with their promise to fight climate change and continue with Canada’s reputation as a leader in human rights.

It is necessary to acknowledge that, in order to be considered a leader in human rights and against climate change, Justin Trudeau also needs to pay attention to the actions carried out by Canadian companies in the Americas.

2 comments on “The Effect of Canadian Mining in Latin America and the Caribbean

  1. Kaan Ibrahim

    Great article.

    I agree with you with a certain extent that Canada should take action to stop what these corporations are doing, but shouldn’t some of the responsibility of prosecuting the mining corporations fall to the countries in which these corporations are operating in? Surely it is up to those countries to enforce their own environmental and human rights laws as Canada does not have jurisdiction in these areas.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Kaan,
      First of all, thank you so much for reading and for leaving a comment on this article!
      Your question is a very important one, because you’re right: the countries where the mines are set up should be in charge of properly enforcing their environmental laws. However, laws are not really effectively enforced in Latin America (Chile is a sort of exception for this in the region. They are known for properly enforcing laws better than their neighbours). In addition, one of the recommendations that the 200 LatAm+Car organizations gave to Justin Trudeau was to ensure that people affected by Canadian mining companies had “guaranteed access to Canadian courts so victims of violations for Canadian mining abroad can obtain justice; and the assurance that Canadian mining companies in Latin America conform to international human rights standards established in treaties.” (Direct quote from one of the articles I linked in the article)

      So yes, in retrospect, local governments *should* effectively enforce their laws. But the communities who are directly affected by the mines tend to be largely forgotten, ignored, and cannot rely on the authorities. That’s why they are taking a more international approach to it. They have already experienced that their own leaders won’t stand up for them.

      Once again, thank you for your comment and please let me know if I answered your question fully! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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