Indigenous People Denounce Bad Practices by Canadian Companies in Latin America

A delegation of representatives of organizations in favor of indigenous rights has traveled to Geneva to denounce the bad practices and the violation of human rights of Canadian corporations in Latin America. Here we tell you .

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Antonio Broto | EFE

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Leer en español: Indígenas denuncian malas prácticas de las empresas canadienses en Latinoamérica

A delegation of representatives of Latin American civil society organizations, many of them defenders of indigenous rights, traveled to Geneva this week to denounce the multiple abuses by Canadian corporations in their territories.

The delegation with representatives of 50 organizations, coordinated by the international NGO Amazon Watch, wants to call attention to the violations of rights suffered by indigenous peoples and other communities in nine countries in the region by at least 34 Canadian firms, mainly mining and oil companies.

Although Canada is not the only country whose firms participate in this type of looting, the delegation wants to take advantage of the fact that this country will soon be subjected to the universal periodic review of its compliance with fundamental freedoms, next November before the United Nations Human Rights Council. 

"We want Canada to assume responsibility as an accomplice to extractivist companies that violate the rights of indigenous peoples, for example in the Amazon," said one of the members of the delegation, Kari Guajajara, legal adviser to the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon.

The organizations denounce, for example, that many companies act without the express consent or consultation of the indigenous peoples of the territories, or damage the fragile local ecosystem by contaminating it.

In addition, "they work with private and armed security companies to threaten the towns" and "cause internal divisions within the communities," says Guajajara.

The example of Putumayo

The Colombian Brayan Mojanajinsoy, general secretary of the Association of Indigenous Councils of Villagarzón Putumayo, explains how these divisive tactics work in his town, where the Canadian oil company Gran Tierra Energy operates, which has caused serious contamination of Putumayo, an important tributary of the Amazon.

"We were singled out and stigmatized by non-indigenous communities in the area, and our leaders were threatened or persecuted," after the Canadian firm offered non-indigenous jobs and local investments such as sports courts.

"Somehow they seek to buy and silence our leaders, taking advantage of the ignorance," laments Mojanajinsoy, who stresses that in many cases these activities by multinationals attract the activity of guerrillas and armed groups, which offer these firms protection.

The delegation also wants to show the double standards of a country, Canada, whose external image is that of a progressive State in the face of the climate crisis and a protector of the environment and indigenous peoples, something that according to those responsible for this mission, it fulfills more behind closed doors than to the outside.

"Within its territory Canada complies with human rights, surely even better than other countries in America, but outside its borders it is violating its obligations to respect and protect fundamental freedoms," said Ana María Suárez, from the organization for the right to FIAN power.

"We want to show the contradictions of Canada when it applies its economic diplomacy in the global south," added Mauricio Terena, legal coordinator of the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil.

Also read: The EU Pledged More than 45 Billion Euros for the Region: What Will they be Invested In?

Gold, the most abusive exploitation

The delegation considers that Canadian firms have violated their international obligations in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and the Dominican Republic, specifically in 37 projects, 21 of them dedicated to gold extraction, 11 to silver and eight to oil.

Some firms pointed out by the delegation, which has prepared three reports on the matter, are Frontera Energy (responsible for 105 oil spills in Peru), Solaris Resources (which used "divisive tactics" in the Warintza town of Ecuador) or Belo Sun, which harmed traditional practices with its project in Volta Grande do Xingu (Brazil).

The delegation wants its visit to Geneva to help not only denounce the behavior of Canadian firms, but also to show the need for a global treaty that obliges all multinationals to comply with certain obligations in terms of human rights regardless of where they operate.

Such a treaty, Suárez recalled, has been negotiated since 2013 in the Human Rights Council (the same body that will submit Canada to its periodic review), and according to her, the demands of civil actors "have been weakening" as the debates progress, by the pressure of the developed States and their companies.

"The testimonies of the communities show that it is necessary to have an international standard that applies to all States, because otherwise, there is competition and levels of protection are lowered to attract investment, in a kind of 'dumping' of rights humans ", assured the representative of FIAN.

Although on this occasion the main object of the complaint, multinationals from other origins such as the US, Europe or China are also denounced for abuses in their operations in Latin America.

A similar delegation, in fact, will also travel to Geneva at the end of the year to similarly denounce the abuses committed by Chinese firms in Latin America, taking advantage of the fact that in December China will also be subjected to periodic examination by the Human Rights Council of the UN.

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