Delegates at UN take aim at Canadian government and mining companies

Concerns over how Canadian mining companies are conducting themselves in foreign lands landed squarely on the floor of the United Nations in New York on Tuesday.

“We would like the Canadian government to listen to us and stop destroying our Indigenous territories,” said Zenaida Yasacama from Peru through an interpreter. “Our territories, our life is where we harvest where we have everything for our food, we ask respect for our rights and respect for nature.

“Companies are violating the right of self-determination because they are drilling without consulting and integrating social impacts and division among our communities. We want Canada to respect Indigenous rights.”

A number of representatives from South America voiced their concerns about companies operating in South America at the 37th edition of the Indigenous forum at the United Nations in New York. The meetings are scheduled to last two weeks. Hundreds of delegates from around the world are present talking about Indigenous rights. Mining is one of the issues.

Jose Homero of Colombia said, “oil and mining projects impact our ancestral knowledge and spiritual hearts of our Indigenous people, we now have a problem with Canadian companies impacting our people.”

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According to Amazon Watch, 37 Canadian mining companies operating in nine countries have human rights complaints and destroyed the environment.

“This is not the first time that Canada has been denounced before the United Nations Universal System for the improper behavior of its companies abroad,” said a report from Amazon Watch in January 2023. “During its third UPR [Universal Periodic Review], Canada received six recommendations that, despite committing to implementation, evidence presented by civil society in this cycle demonstrates the persistence of non-compliance with its extraterritorial obligations and lack of adequate measures to fulfill the responsibility to regulate the conduct of its companies.”

Olivia Bisa, president of the Autonomous Territorial Government of the Chapel Nation in the Peruvian Amazon, told the Indigenous forum that “Canada should respect the right to self-determination and Indigenous autonomies and have much better standards for human rights.”

In 2020 a Canadian mining company settled a lawsuit brought by three Eritrean workers for abuses they suffered at a site in Africa.

“We are fighting for all Indigenous peoples to have healthy life,” said Yasacama. “We are asking for a respect of our rights. We are criminalized, we are persecuted, we are killed for what we are doing. We are asking for the international community, also our brothers and sisters in Canada, that they can talk and speak out.

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