Canada: Home to a Dangerous Industry

Excerpt from Alain Deneault and William Sacher, Imperial Canada Inc.: Legal Haven of Choice for the World’s Mining Companies (Talonbooks, 2012)

Canada has acquired a new reputation as the home of home to oil, gas, and mining companies that benefit from our permissive mining regulations and preferential tax structure while perpetuating environmental damage overseas.

Three out of four of the world’s mining companies operate out of Canada while often conducting exploration and extraction projects located elsewhere. Ontario alone accommodates more than fourteen hundred of these companies, even though only forty-three mines are in operation in the province. The damage these companies inflict is experienced generally not by Canadians, but by citizens of other countries. As a result, a troubling number of farmers, indigenous people, and other citizens of countries around the world are angry about the actions of Canadian-based mining companies. It is no longer unusual to see the Canadian flag torched or disfigured during public demonstrations in South Asia, Africa, or Latin America …

  • For example, in El Salvador, the Episcopal Conference in May 2007 denounced the environmental destruction and public-health problems caused by the use of cyanide by gold-mining corporations, many of them Canadian [Fernando Cabrera Diaz, “El Salvador Government Considers Ban on Mining as Permit Freeze Leads to CAFTA Arbitration,” September 2, 2009].
  • In Guatemala, Canadian gold giant Goldcorp faces a complaint filed with the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade by communities living near the Marlin gold mine. Their complaint cites depletion of fresh drinking water and pollution, in violation of guidelines set out by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, 2008,; Cameron French, “Guatemalan Groups File Complaint on Goldcorp Mine: Community Groups Allege Water Contamination, Illness,” Reuters, December 9, 2009].
  • In Honduras, the same company’s activities are alleged to have led to a massive degradation of the Siria River valley: two studies carried out by academics from Newcastle University describe heavy-metal pollution and acidic-mine drainage, said to be responsible for poisoning people and cattle [Rory Carroll, “Gold Giant Faces Honduras Inquiry into Alleged Heavy Metal Pollution: Villagers and NGOs Have Accused Goldcorp of Poisoning People and Livestock by Contaminating the Siria Valley,” The Guardian (London), December 31, 2009].
  • In Mexico, Mariano Abarca Roblero, an opponent of an exploration project carried out in Chiapas by a Canadian mining corporation, Blackfire, was killed in November 2009; the suspects are alleged to be actual or former Blackfire employees [MiningWatch Canada, Report from the March 20−27, 2010, Fact-Finding Delegation to Chiapis, Mexico, to Investigate the Assassination of Mariano Abarca Roblero and the Activities of Blackfire Exploration Ltd., 2].

Alain Deneault and William Sacher wrote Imperial Canada Inc.: Legal Haven of Choice for the World’s Mining Companies (Talonbooks, 2012) to provide Canadian and international public opinion with tools to help ask critical questions about Canadian activities in the South and in Eastern Europe, as well as about the role of the Canadian government in relation to these activities. It is hoped that the evidence presented here will encourage Canadians to enter public debate about how the mining industry is regulated in Canada and to form an opinion on this topic independent from the one suggested by official agencies or media that belong to large Canadian financial conglomerates and tend to espouse their interests. Our goal is to deepen understanding of the harmful consequences of our ultra-permissive laws regarding the extractive industry, both for countries in the South, and indirectly, for all of us in Canada.

As a state wedded to the interests of mining companies, Canada recently has behaved in ways we may find unrecognizable, doing everything in its power — at the legislative, judicial, economic, financial, and diplomatic levels — to make itself into a legal paradise for the world’s extractive industry. Canadian citizens are concerned in this matter. We help fund the extractive industry through their savings, channelled toward the Toronto Stock Exchange by pension funds, insurance companies, and other institutions. We need to talk about the fact that our economy is still shaped by our colonial past. Public debate cannot be stifled forever, and the reality is that we are responsible for how the mining industry is regulated in Canada and how the world extractive industry is regulated here from now on, whether the companies involved were born in our country or have only recently become our guests.

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