What Would Trudeau Do?: The Effect of Canadian Mining Companies in Latin America

As the new Trudeaumania is at an all time peak, the new Prime Minister has been vocal about a number of issues including his advocacy for environmental and indigenous rights. He is a vocal feminist and ally for LGBTQ+ rights, has cut taxes for middle-income families, and has welcomed thousands of refugees to Canada. His vocal advocacy for social justice issues has garnered him a dedicated internet following and media hype.

Despite this, however, Trudeau has remained silent on one issue that contradicts his public policies: Canadian mining companies’ involvement in deterring environmental and indigenous rights in Latin America. This past July, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, urged the Trudeau administration to regulate its companies overseas. Various Canadian mining companies take advantage of the low oversight and corruption that characterize a number of Latin American governments to practice unregulated and unethical business.

“Currently, there are approximately 198 active conflicts in Latin America directly linked to mining operations. These are usually led by farming, rural, and indigenous communities. Their social protests against mining operations have led to violent reactions from local governments. In the San Jose del Progreso mine in Mexico, 23 people were detained after publicly speaking against the water contamination. In the Molejon project in Panama, protestors were confronted tear gas cannisters and beaten by the local police force resulting in the jailing of 19 farmers. There have even been reported murders of activists and local politicians who oppose the projects. These conflicts reflect the impunity of mining companies in front of the law. Local governments give priority to a private sector that is giving them funds instead of prioritizing their dissatisfied population. Corruption, bribery and neo-patrimonalism facilitate the establishment of these projects on the region.”

“A question then arises: Is the Canadian government responsible for the behavior of its companies abroad? As opposed to Trudeau’s commitment to environmental care, as well as indigenous and human rights, his continued silence and inaction regarding this issue are a disappointment to the policies and values he has been preaching throughout his political career. Furthermore, multiple watchdog organizations have found that the government vigorously supports mining companies abroad without any regards to the damage they are causing to the environment and Latin American communities. This does not come as a surprise since according to Natural Resources Canada, the value of Canadian mining assets abroad is CAD 170.8 billion, roughly equivalent to 3.5 per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product.”

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