October 22, 2018
Visiting Mexican Senator Napoleón Gómez Urrutia – who is a member of President-Elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s cabinet – is asking Ottawa to investigate labour and environmental violations committed by some Canadian mining companies in his country.
For many years, the National Union of Mine, Metal, Steel and Related Workers of the Mexican Republic, together with environmental and human rights defenders and affected communities, have criticized the companies that have violated the human rights of the inhabitants of the areas where they operate and of their workers; adding that the environment has been polluted without any sanction from the federal government.
Some well-known cases are those of Blackfire in Chiapas, where the community defender Mariano Abarca was murdered in 2009; Excellon Resources in Durango, where the company repressed the Ejido La Sierrita and suppressed the campaign by its workers to unionize in 2012; and Torex Gold Resources in Guerrero, where three members of the Mineworkers’ Union, the brothers Víctor and Marcelino Sahuantitla Peña and Quintín Salgado Salgado, were killed during the last year for demanding a democratic union.
“None of these murders was investigated or punished by the Mexican or the Canadian authorities,” said Urrutia.
The argument of the Canadian mining companies that the Government of Mexico will not allow the Canadian ombudsman to investigate the activities of Canadian companies in its national territory is false, said Urrutia.
“The new government should cooperate with the efforts of Canada to force its companies to respect human, labour and environmental rights, as well as to make it clear that the murders and other injustices of mining companies, whether Mexican or foreign, will not be left unpunished,” he said.
For these reasons, Urrutia said, the Canadian trade union movement and civil society have successfully advocated for the Canadian government to establish a human rights ombudsman for communities and workers whose rights have been violated by Canadian corporations.
They have demanded that this ombudsman have:
1) True independence from government and corporate influence;
2) An adequate budget; and
3) Solid powers to investigate independently, including the power to order the production of documents and testimonies from Canadian individuals and companies; and a mandate to make issue reports.
While the mechanism to create an ombudsman was announced by Canada back in January, no ombudsman has yet been appointed. The ombudsman would have the power and resources to independently investigate, including the power to order the production of information, documents and testimonies from the companies.
“The (Canadian) companies operating in Mexico are now trying to ensure that the ombudsman does not have such strong powers to independently investigate and report publicly,” said Urrutia, “and one of the arguments they have presented is that no foreign government will allow a Canadian ombudsman to investigate the activities of Canadian companies in his country,” quoting a statement from the president of the Labour and Social Welfare Committee of the Senate of the Republic (of Mexico).
Urrutia is also requesting Ottawa to:
1. Reject the false argument of the mining companies that the government of Mexico will not allow the Canadian ombudsman to investigate the activities of Canadian companies in Mexico;
2. Offer the cooperation of the new government with the efforts of Canada to force its companies to respect human, labor rights; and
3. Establish clearly that the new democratic government of Mexico will not leave unpunished assassinations and other human rights violations committed by mining companies, whether foreign nor Mexican.