Friday, December 11, 2009

Georgia Straight article on Bill C-300

From the Straight:

Simon Child has never been to Africa, but that hasn't stopped the Grade 11 student at Semiahmoo secondary school from trying to improve the human-rights situation on the continent. Child, director of outreach and advocacy with the nonprofit Africa Canada Accountability Coalition, says one way to accomplish this is to force Canadian corporations to act more responsibly in Africa. In a phone interview with theGeorgia Straight, Child said this is particularly true in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo where several Canadian mining companies operate.

Human-rights groups have tried to draw attention to massive human-rights violations of women in two eastern provinces of the DRC, where warring government and rebel forces have been involved in mass rape. Child pointed out that minerals from the DRC are key components of cellphones, iPods, and other electronic gadgets used by youths, and that the Congolese people will benefit if those resources are mined in the most ethical manner possible. “The first step to doing that is getting our government to make sure they're keeping an eye on these mining companies working in a place that has been called the rape capital of the world,” he said.

This is one reason why ACAC and other human-rights groups are strongly supporting Bill C-300, a private member's bill introduced by Liberal MP John McKay. The bill has passed second reading and is now being studied by the Commons foreign affairs and international development committee. If it becomes law, mining and oil-and-gas companies will be required to act in a manner that is consistent with international human-rights standards to qualify for assistance from Export Development Canada, which is a Crown corporation. In addition, the bill would prohibit the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board from investing in mining and oil-and-gas companies that don't respect human rights.

“Mining companies do not like having this reputation of being human-rights abusers,” Child said. “So if we get this bill, we can know who is doing good and who is doing bad. We could clear the air.”

Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International's Canadian office, told theStraight in a recent interview that governments and companies have long maintained that voluntary standards are the best way to deal with corporate human-rights violations in other countries. “We've always said that voluntary isn't enough,” he said.

Neve noted that in 2006, the federal government launched a consultation process involving industry officials, academics, and human-rights organizations to address corporate conduct abroad. He said that it produced a “remarkable consensus report”, which proposed several steps to enhance human rights. He said the groups waited two years for the government's response, which he described as a “profound disappointment”.

“We need to get some clear human-rights standards developed,” Neve added. “We need to have a meaningful complaint process that would oversee this, and we need to have some real sanctions to ensure that when companies are acting out and not complying with these human-rights standards, there are sanctions—whether that is losing certain forms of government financial assistance or other measures.”

Pierre Gratton, president and CEO of the Mining Association of B.C., told the Straightin a phone interview that his industry supports the creation of an ombudsman's office to review corporations' human-rights records. However, he said that an ombudsman should also have authority to investigate nongovernmental organizations. He added that the consensus report proposed an ombudsman's office to provide more discreet oversight than what McKay's bill calls for. “The ombuds' function was to provide a mechanism into looking into matters and attempting to provide solutions,” Gratton said, adding that punitive actions should only be considered as a last resort.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Toronto Star editorial on Bill C-300

The Toronto Star has come out in support of Bill C-300:
Canada's mining, oil and gas firms think of themselves as good offshore citizens. Certainly, they are a rich source of overseas jobs, wages, royalties and social benefits. Barrick Gold Corp., for example, ploughed $8 billion back into host communities in 2008, employing 19,000 people at mines in Canada, the United States and a half-dozen other countries. It built roads, schools, clinics and more.

But Canadian firms in Mexico, El Salvador, Ecuador, Congo, India, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea have come under fire since 2000 for violent clashes with anti-mining activists, for allegedly damaging the environment, for uprooting small-scale farmers and for other shortcomings, as the Star's Brett Popplewell has reported.

This is notoriety the industry doesn't need.

In Ottawa today, the Commons foreign affairs committee will meet to consider a private member's bill introduced by Toronto Liberal MP John McKay that would have Ottawa tighten scrutiny of mining companies' offshore operations.

McKay's bill would put offshore firms on notice by empowering Ottawa to set corporate social responsibility standards and to create a complaints mechanism. A study group commissioned by the previous Liberal government went further and urged the naming of an ombudsman to police the sector. These are ideas Parliament has good reason to examine.

The industry opposes stricter oversight, warning that it may create friction with host governments, generate "legal uncertainty," put our firms at a disadvantage, and deter investment. That argues for commonsense in drafting standards and weighing performance.

But companies that behave as good corporate citizens should have little to fear from McKay's bill, or from an ombudsman. Getting an official Ottawa stamp of approval would certify that a firm is doing its best to manage inevitable social and environmental risks. That would enhance its stature abroad, and put critics on the defensive. It's hard to see how that would be bad for business.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

AI Film Festival - Vancouver

The Amnesty International Film Festival in Vancouver starts with a gala tomorrow night, featuring The Yes Men Fix the World, where a group of men dress up in suits to parody certain corporate executives with no sense of social responsibility. Please find the entire festival schedule here.

Graham Allen: Bill offers Canada chance to deal with concerns raised by mining abroad

Here's an article in the Georgia Straight by fellow Vancouver AI BHR volunteer Graham Allen:
The Canadian government, in a March 2009 report, acknowledged it has a problem: “Within the wider community, increasing concerns have been raised about the human rights impacts of the activities of Canadian extractive companies with respect to their operations abroad.”

Liberal MP John McKay, on the day which his private member’s bill, Bill C-300, passed second reading, was more specific: “There are examples of Canadian corporations behaving badly in places like the Philippines and Guyana and as many as 30 other countries.”

If this is all true, what is Canada doing about it?

In a nutshell, the Canadian government started off well, then dropped the ball, and now has one good chance of doing the right thing.

Starting off well?

The governmental activity of recent years started with the June 2005 report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade entitled Mining in Developing Countries – Corporate Social Responsibility. This was followed by the momentous convening of four National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), “organized by a Steering Committee of Government of Canada officials working closely with an Advisory Group comprising persons drawn from industry, labour, the socially responsible investment community, civil society and academia”. This remarkable process culminated in the Advisory Group Report of March 29, 2007. Its central recommendation concerned the development of a Canadian CSR Framework:

Advisory Group members urge the Government of Canada, in cooperation with key stakeholders, to adopt a set of CSR Standards that Canadian extractive sector companies operating abroad are expected to meet and that is reinforced through appropriate reporting, compliance and other mechanisms.

There followed a series of recommendations, within six major components, in support of this objective. It was a golden moment for those concerned about Canada’s reputation in the developing world.

Dropping the ball?

In its March 2009 paper entitled Building the Canadian Advantage: A Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Strategy for the Canadian International Extractive Sector, Canada laid out its response to the national roundtables. It sought to promote what it called “widely-recognized international CSR performance guidelines with Canadian extractive companies operating abroad”. And it proposed setting up two new institutions: an Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor and a CSR Centre of Excellence “to encourage the Canadian international extractive sector to implement these voluntary performance guidelines by developing and disseminating high-quality CSR information, training and tools”. It was the word “voluntary” that was the problem.

In comparing Canada’s CSR strategy with the six components of the Advisory Group Report, professor Richard Janda of the faculty of law at McGill University found it to be “partially consistent” with three components and “not consistent” with three others—a disappointing outcome.

Again, McKay was more specific in his criticism of Canada’s response; he complained that the CSR counsellor is appointed by government, not independently, and could only investigate incidents with the approval of all parties, an obvious flaw. Moreover, voluntary guidelines had not proven to be adequate in the past. He was reported as saying: “Let’s be clear here. Canada has a choice. It can legislate a response, which would put Canada at the head of the class. Or it’s more business as usual, see no evil and hear no evil.”

Doing the right thing?

Bill C-300, mentioned above, explains its purpose in the following summary:

The purpose of this enactment is to promote environmental best practices and to ensure the protection and promotion of international human rights standards in respect of the mining, oil or gas activities of Canadian corporations in developing countries. It also gives the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of International Trade the responsibility to issue guidelines that articulate corporate accountability standards for mining, oil or gas activities...

Despite the significant limitation of a private member’s bill, that it cannot provide for the expenditure of public funds, Bill C-300, in Janda’s analysis, was “consistent” with two of the Advisory Group Report’s components, “partially consistent” with two others, and “not consistent” with two, thus being closer overall to the national roundtables. Professor Janda hence spoke favourably about Bill C-300, but concluded:

Indeed, if Bill C-300 were adopted, the CSR Counsellor’s role could be expanded and altered to fulfill functions under the legislation. Bill C-300 would then provide a legislative footing for that role.

Bill C-300 is presently at the committee stage before facing its third reading. If the government could be persuaded to support this bill—instead of claiming that its own CSR strategy is sufficient—Canada would be well-served. As said by Liberal MPMichael Savage in the House debate on Bill C-300:

As an international player, I am afraid we are not the gold standard anymore, but we can do better. We should do better. We should live up to the expectations that the people in this country have for us, and we should go beyond them.

If you are interested in supporting Bill C-300, you can take action via Amnesty International Canada’s Web site.h

AI Press Release: Cote d'Ivoire: Authorities must ensure toxic waste compensation reaches victims

From Amnesty International:
Amnesty International today urged the authorities in Côte d’Ivoire to ensure that $45 million compensation paid by the oil trading company Trafigura to victims of one of the worst toxic dumping scandals in recent years reaches the people to whom it is owed.

The compensation was agreed in the context of a court action brought by some 30,000 people against Trafigura in the High Court of England and Wales.

The organization has also written to UK Justice Secretary Jack Straw, urgently asking him to contact his counterpart in the Côte d’Ivoire and press for swift action to prevent a potentially massive fraud being perpetrated.

The call came as thousands of the victims of the illegal dumping of toxic waste in Abidjan, the capital of Côte d’Ivoire, wait anxiously to receive their money.

“There is a real risk that the victims of this waste dumping will never see the compensation they have been waiting so long to receive,” said Widney Brown, Senior Director at Amnesty International.

“The governments of Côte d’Ivoire and the UK must do everything in their power to ensure that this money is paid to the claimants listed in the court order – and prevent its misappropriation by corrupt figures.”

The $45 million compensation has been frozen in the bank account of the law firm representing the victims in the court case against Trafigura, the company accused of dumping the waste.

The freezing order was made after a man claiming his organization – the National Coordination of Toxic Waste Victims of Côte d’Ivoire (CNVDT-CI) – represents the “real victims” said the money should be transferred into that organization’s bank account instead. This claim appears entirely false and has been refuted by the victim’s UK lawyers, as well as in a petition that is before the Ivorian courts by the other representatives of claimants in the UK court case.

The CNVDT-CI appears nowhere in any court documents related to the case or the settlement.

On 23 September, the High Court of England and Wales approved a settlement agreement between the victims of the toxic waste dumping, UK law firm Leigh Day & Co, and Trafigura. The agreement was that $45 million would be distributed by Leigh Day to the nearly 30,000 victims who had agreed to the deal, with each receiving about $1,600. The funds were transferred to an account in Côte d’Ivoire set up by Leigh Day for distribution to the victims.

On 22 October, Claude Gohourou, who claims his organization represents the victims, applied to a court in Abidjan to have the funds in the Leigh Day account frozen, which the court agreed to. Soon after, on 27 October, he applied for the money to be transferred to an account held by his own association.

Tomorrow, the Abidjan court is due to rule on his application.

“If the court in Côte d’Ivoire transfers the money into Mr Gohourou’s account, there is a very good chance that it will never be seen again,” said Widney Brown.

“We need an urgent intervention to prevent the victims of this tragic case from a double disaster. To have fought for three years for some measure of compensation for the terrible events of 2006, and then to see it stolen would be a travesty.”

Note to editors:
In August 2006, toxic waste was brought to Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire on board the ship Probo Koala, which had been chartered by Trafigura. This waste was then dumped in various locations around the city, causing a human rights tragedy. More than 100,000 people sought medical attention for a range of health problems and there were 15 reported deaths.


For further information, please contact:
Beth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations
416-363-9933, ext. 332


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

No More Rape in the Congo

The Africa-Canada Accountability Coalition announces the launch of a new campaign NO MORE RAPE.

The eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the worst place in the world to be a woman or a girl. Over the last decade, a complex and ongoing series of conflicts, described as the world’s “deadliest crisis since World War II,” has unleashed unprecedented violence on the bodies of women and girls in this region. The brutality is extreme: three-month-old babies to eighty-year-old women have been raped. Women and girls are raped with such frequency that the Congolese invented a new word to describe the phenomenon: révioler, to re-rape.

This campaign is an urgent call out to Canadians: ABSOLUTELY NO MORE RAPE in the Congo. It features a new report on how Canada must respond, a video call for action, and a website with all the tools you need to stop the on-going crisis. Our corporations, our government and we ourselves have a specific, long-standing and often exploitative relationship with the DRC. We can do better – it is time we started.

JOIN US at our launch at 7pm on October 14, at the multi-purpose room of the Liu Institute of Global Issues at UBC (6476 NW Marine Drive Vancouver, V6T 1Z2), to learn more about how you can get involved and to see a moving film about a Congolese rape survivor "Lumo". We will also share an initiative to pass Bill C-300, aimed at promoting socially responsible policies among Canadian mining, oil and gas companies in the DR Congo and other developing countries.

Visit our website at or reach us

Business Ethics Mappng Workshop

From the Canadian Business Ethics Research Network:

CBERN Pacific Region Hub: Business Ethics Mapping Project & Workshop, Vancouver, BC

Friday, November 20, 2009

Mapping the Business Ethics research interested parties and their areas of interest in British Columbia and the Yukon in natural resources and other sectors.

Date: November 20, 2009
Location: The Atrium, BCIT Downtown Campus, 555 Seymour St., Vancouver, BC

OBJECTIVE: Mapping the Business Ethics research interested parties and their areas of interest in British Columbia and the Yukon in natural resources and other sectors.

This 4-month project aims to identify, characterize and link with the research groups who are actively engaged or interested in supporting research related to Business Ethics, (Corporate Social Responsibility) in B.C. and the Yukon. This will be useful not only to identify group/(individual) activity and interests in natural resources development ethics (mining, fisheries, forestry, agriculture, energy sectors) but also in other domains. These groups are at the scale of individuals, organizations or established networks/centers, Corporations or their representative Associations, as well as government, aboriginal, academic and NGO organizations.

Characterization of groups includes:

    • contact details;
    • terms of reference;
    • areas of interest,
    • scope and details of research activity;
    • interest in collaboration;
    • synergies.

    One of the project deliverables will be a database representing the aggregated results of the survey. It will form the basis for future communications planning and partnerships for collaborative research. The information will be integrated with CBERN’s database.

    The results of the survey will be discussed at a workshop at the Atrium, BCIT downtown campus, 555 Seymour Street, Vancouver, November 20, 2009. This workshop is conveniently scheduled after a one-day MSBC meeting on mining and sustainability at the same location and the CIM Annual Student Dinner (November 19, 2009).

    Anyone interested in attending the CBERN workshop please send an email with “Workshop” in the subject line to

    Thursday, October 1, 2009

    Make your voice heard on Bill C-300

    From Fiona at Amnesty. Here's more info on Bill C-300:
    Support Bill C-300

    Amnesty International is deeply concerned about human rights violations committed directly or indirectly by Canadian mining, oil and gas companies in developing countries.

    To ensure that Canadian companies respect human rights in developing countries, we need mandatory human rights standards and stronger regulations to hold transnational companies accountable. The status quo won't do.

    This fall, the Canadian Government is considering adopting a bill on corporate accountability (Bill C-300).

    Amnesty International supports this bill. But to ensure that the bill passes into law, we need everyone who cares about human rights to express their support.
    Take Action!

    Between now and October 16th we urge you to phone, email, fax or write to the members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, to express your support for the bill. Please contact as many of the following committee members as you are able:

    Bob Rae (Liberal MP)
    514 Parliament St
    Toronto, ON
    M4X 1P4
    (Tel) 416-954-2222
    (Fax) 416-954-9649

    Glen Douglas Pearson (Liberal MP)
    768 Maitland St,
    N5Y 2W3
    (Tel) 519-663-9777
    (Fax) 519-663-2238

    Bernard Patry (Liberal MP)
    3883 Saint-Jean Blvd, Suite 303,
    Dollards-des-Ormeaux, QC
    H9G 3B9
    (Tel) 514-624-5725
    (Fax) 514-624-5728

    Paul Dewar (NDP MP)
    1306 Wellington St, Suite 304
    Ottawa, ON
    K1Y 3B2
    (Tel) 613-946-8682
    (Fax) 613-946-8680

    Lois Brown (Conservative MP)
    206-16600 Bayview Ave,
    Newmarket, ON
    L3X 1Z9
    (Tel) 905-953-7515
    (Fax) 905-953-7527

    Jim Abbott (Conservative MP)
    125D Slater Rd,
    Cranbrook, BC
    V1C 4M4
    (Tel) 250-417-2250
    (Fax) 250-417-2253

    James Lunney (Conservative MP)
    6894 Island Hwy N, Suite 6,
    Nanaimo, BC
    V9V 1P6
    (Tel) 250-390-7550
    (Fax) 250-390-7551

    Deepak Obhrai (Conservative MP)
    Suite 225, 525-28th St SE,
    T2A 6W9
    (Tel) 403-207-3030
    (Fax) 403-207-3035

    Peter Goldring (Conservative MP)
    9111-118 Ave NW,
    Edmonton, AB
    T5B 0T9
    (Tel) 780-495-3261
    (Fax) 780-495-5142

    Kevin Sorenson (Conservative MP)
    4945-50th Street,
    Canmore, AB,
    T4V 1P9
    (Tel) 780-608-4600
    (Fax) 780-608-4603

    Francine Lalonde (Bloc Quebecois MP)
    11975 Victoria St, Suite 101,
    Montreal, QC,
    H1B 2R2
    (Tel) 514-645-0101
    (Fax) 514-645-0032

    Johanne Deschamps (Bloc Quebecois MP)
    45 St. Antoine St,
    J8C 2C4
    (Tel) 819-326-5098
    (Fax) 819-326-8262

    Tuesday, September 1, 2009

    Vancouver event - Canada as Global Citizen: Is Bill C-300 the Answer

    Amnesty International - Business & Human Rights Presents:

    Canada as Global Citizen:

    Is Bill C-300 the Answer?

    Tuesday September 8th, 2009 / 6pm

    SFU Harbour Centre – 7000 Earl & Jennie Lohn Policy Room

    In our rapidly globalizing world, Canadians are increasingly concerned with corporate, social and environmental responsibility, and demand that the activities of corporations operating abroad do not violate basic human rights.

    Liberal M.P. John McKay will speak about Bill C-300, an Act designed to hold Canadian companies accountable for their activities in resource extractive industries (Mining, Oil or Gas) in Developing Countries. This evening event will allow expert panelists to discuss the issues in-depth and take questions that test the strength, breadth and effectiveness of the Act.

    Learn about what YOU can do today to ensure that Canadian companies receiving support from the Government of Canada (Canadian Pension Plan / Export Development Canada) respect and promote international environmental best practices and human rights standards.

    Presentations and Panel Experts representing:

    •  John McKay - Liberal MP, author of Bill C-300
    •  Fiona Koza - Amnesty International Canada
    •  Jennifer Coulson – Northwest & Ethical Funds, Shareholder Action Program
    •  Graham Allen – Lawyer, EDC Policy Analyst

    Date: Tuesday September 8th, 2009

    Time: 6pm to 8pm

    Location: SFU Harbour Centre – 7000 Earl & Jennie Lohn Policy Room

    Address: 515 West Hastings Street, Vancouver BC

    Cost: By donation

    RSVP with any questions to

    Saturday, August 15, 2009

    NDP resolution on extractive industries.

    This is unofficial, but I have it from a good source (Liz Blackwood, the co-chair of this group) that the NDP has unanimously passed a resolution at their convention for regulating the overseas operations of Canadian extractive industries. If anybody's wondering, this is good.

    Thursday, July 23, 2009

    Pictures from the protest of Goldcorp's support for the military coup in Honduras

    I took these pictures today at a protest of Goldcorp's support of the military coup in Honduras, in front of their head office at 666 Burrard. For more info, check out Rights Action. For broader human rights documentation on Honduras, also see or

    Friday, July 17, 2009

    Protest the Honduran military coup at Goldcorp's Vancouver office

    No to the Coup!

    The Canadian government must demand the return of President Zelaya and refuse to recognize the military regime! Canadian mining companies out of Honduras! Reparations for the communities in the Siria Valley!

    Protest Picket at Goldcorp's head office:
    666 Burrard Street
    Thursday July 23 - 12pm
    Bring your banners!

    Join us in our continued efforts to denounce the coup!

    Since the June 28 removal of the president of Honduras, grassroots solidarity organizations throughout the world have protested the overthrow of Honduran democracy. Meanwhile, the Canadian government and mining companies are complicit in the military coup in Honduras because of their continued silence and at times direct participation in supporting the defacto regime lead by Roberto Micheletti.

    Goldcorp, a Vancouver based mining giant, operated the controversial cyanide leaching, open pit "San Martin" gold mine in the department of Francisco Morazón in Honduras until 2008. Today, many residents of the Siria Valley, where the mine is located, are sick and unable to work because of illnesses linked to Goldcorp's operations. The company still has a skeleton crew of employees in the country, who according to community members were bussed to pro-coup rallies sponsored by the corporate backed "Movement for Peace and Democracy."

    It's a lie that Goldcorp doesn't get involved in politics: in Guatemala, they launched a constitutional challenge against Indigenous People who organized to say NO to the company's Marlin mine, and in Argentina, Goldcorp has supported legal actions against tax increases.

    The coup in Honduras suits the interests of Canadian mining companies. Michelletti's military regime promises more profits for the corporate sector, and lower wages and less rights for workers.


    Thursday, July 9, 2009

    Goldcorp supports military coup in Honduras

    Here's an update from Rights Action about Goldcorp's support of the military coup in Honduras. The whole alert follows:
    July 8, 2009


    FOR INFORMATION FROM HONDURAS, CONTACT: Grahame Russell (Rights Action co-director), [504] 9630-9507 & 9507-3835

    Yesterday, tens of thousands of pro-democracy Hondurans again marched pacifically, demanding the return of President Zelaya and an end to this illegal regime. Amongst other destinations, the march passed by COHEP (Honduran Council of Private Enterprise) to denounce the role of the elite business sector in the coup.

    OF NOTE: the march was led by Honduran First Lady Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, who came out of hiding for the first time since soldiers burst into the presidential home, on the morning of June 28, fired off bullets, and forced President Zelaya out of the house and country, at gun-point, in his pijamas.

    OF NOTE: the U.S. government, yesterday, formally ended the diplomatic recognition and privileges of Honduran ambassador to the United States, Roberto Flores Bermudez. After the military coup of June 28, Bermudez defended the coup regime. The U.S. government has said they will only recognize an Ambassador named by President Zelaya.

    TODAY: more pro-democracy marches are planned.
    * * * * * * *
    Since the June 28 coup, the private sector - grouped in an umbrella group the "Movement of Peace and Democracy" - has been organizing pro-coup marches. Some Hondurans have recently given public information that buses are coming into poorer neighborhoods and that Movement organizers are paying people between 100 and 200 lempiras ($5 - $10) to participate in the pro-coup rallies.

    Since 2003, Rights Action has been involved in work to document and denounce the environmental and health harms and human rights violations being caused by Goldcorp Inc' open pit, cyanide leeching "San Martin" mine, in the Siria Valley, department of Francisco Morazan, an hour and a half north of Tegucigalpa.

    From our partner group, the Committee for the Defense of the Environment in the Siria Valley, Rights Action has learned that Entremares employees (Entremares being Goldcorp’s wholly owned subsidiary) from the “San Martin” mine have been taken, on a number of occasions since the June 28 coup, to participate in pro-coup regime marches in Tegucigalpa organized by the “Movement for Peace and Democracy”. Goldcorp (Entremares) pays for the transportation and at least one meal for the workers to attend.
    More information to come ...
    * * * * * * *
    In addition to the “demand” list, below, Canadians should denounce Goldcorp’s actual support of the illegal military coup to their members of parliament and media.

    Rights Action staff in Honduras are providing emergency relief funds, every day, to community development, campesino, indigenous and human rights organizations for: food and shelter, transportation and communication costs, urgent action outreach and human rights accompaniment work.

    Make tax deductible donations to Rights Action and mail to:
    UNITED STATES: Box 50887, Washington DC, 20091-0887
    CANADA: 552-351 Queen St. E, Toronto ON, M5A-1T8


    • unequivocal denunciation of the military coup
    • no recognition of this military coup and the ‘de facto’ government of Roberto Michelletti and the unconditional return of the constitutional government
    • increasing economic and military sanctions against the coup regime
    • respect for safety and human rights of all Hondurans
    • the application of international and national justice the coup plotters, and
    • reparations for the illegal actions and rights violations committed during this illegal coup

    Monday, July 6, 2009

    Pictures from the tragic events in Hnduras.

    Please see photojournalist James Rodriguez's photo essay an the tragic events that occurred in Honduras yesterday when President Zelaya tried to land.

    Sunday, July 5, 2009

    Amnesty: Oil industry has brought poverty and pollution to Niger Delta

    Amnesty International has recently released a report documenting environmental damage and poverty brought to Nigeria by the oil industry. They also document how the government is not holding these companies to account.

    Saturday, July 4, 2009

    Watch Blood Dimaond movie Sunday night.

    If you are concerned about human rights, and haven't yet seen the 2006 movie Blood Diamond with Leonardo Dicaprio. CBC is showing it tomorrow (Sunday) at 9:00 PM. Set in Sierra Leone, it does a pretty good job of examining the ethical issue of diamonds that are extracted to fund conflicts, especially in Africa, while remaining entertaining and action-packed.

    Sunday, June 28, 2009

    Petition to Obama: Call for reinstatement Honduran president Zelaya

    Please sign this petition calling for the reinstatement of Honduran president Manuel Zaleya. The European Union and other Latin American leaders have all called for a reinstatement, but Obama's statement fell short of such a call.

    Al Jazeera: military coup in Honduras.

    From the Al Jazeera, here's their report of the miltary coup in Honduras:
    Manuel Zelaya, the president of Honduras, has called for "peaceful resistance" after the country's military forced him to leave the country.

    After arriving in Costa Rica on Sunday, Zelaya said that he had been a "victim of kidnapping" when Honduran soldiers raided his home earlier in the day.

    The military made its move after Zelaya vowed to go ahead with a referendum on constitutional changes, which the Central American nation's supreme court and attorney-general had declared illegal.

    "They came to my house in the early hours of the morning and firing guns they broke the doors with bayonets and threatened to shout me," Zelaya told Venezuela's Telesur television station.

    "I don't think that the whole army supported this interruption of the democratic system by capturing a president elected by the people.

    "I think that this has been a plot by an elite whose only wish is to keep the country isolated and in total poverty."

    New president

    Congress named Roberto Micheletti, the current speaker, as the country's new president.

    Earlier, Zelaya's supporters gathered outside the presidential palace, shouting insults at the soldiers inside and setting fires in the street, after news of his arrest emerged.

    "They kidnapped him like cowards," Melissa Gaitan, an employee of the official government television station, said, referring to Zelaya.

    "We have to rally the people to defend our president."

    Al Jazeera's Mariana Sanchez, reporting from Tegucigalpa, said that people had set up barricades around the building.

    "A lot of people are wielding sticks and steel batons and they are very angry. At one point they tried to push their way into the gates of the palace, but the army inside resisted," she said.

    "There are some people among the protesters who are trying to calm people down.

    "They have come with loudspeakers and they are telling people that they are too few to go into the presidential palace."

    Many union, labour and farm movements support the non-binding referendum, which Zelaya says is aimed at improving the lives for the nearly three-quarters of Hondurans who live in poverty.

    Protest warning

    Oscar Hendrix, a youth movement leader in the northwestern city of San Pedro Sula, said that the military had burned the ballot papers that had been distributed in defiance of the supreme court ruling.

    "This is inconceivable. This is one of the fundamental rights of the people," he told Al Jazeera.

    Hendrix said that there would be protests against the military's actions.

    "We are analysing right now whether we are going to do something here or whether we are all going to mobilise to the capital city," he said. "We will stand up for our rights."

    The referendum, which was due to take place on Sunday, would have asked Hondurans whether they approved of holding a poll on constitutional change alongside general elections in November.

    Court statement

    The supreme court, which last week ruled that the vote could not go ahead because the constitution bars changes to some of its clauses, such as the ban on a president serving more than one term, said it ordered the military to remove Zelaya.

    "Today's events originate from a court order by a competent judge," it said in a statement.

    "The armed forces ... acted to defend the state of law and have been forced to apply legal dispositions against those who have expressed themselves publicly and acted against the dispositions of the basic law."

    Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Washington-based Centre for Economic and Policy Research, said that it seemed the military, with the backing of the court, had used the referendum as a "pretext" to overthrow the government.

    "This was a fight over a non-binding referendum, nothing more than a poll of public opinion, so no one can really make the argument that there was some kind of irreparable harm that would take place if the president got his way," Weisbrot said.

    Zelaya was elected for a non-renewable four-year term in 2006 as a member of one of Honduras's established conservative political parties.

    However, since taking power Zelaya has moved to the left, aligning himself with Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's president.

    Colin Harding, an expert in Latin American politics, told Al Jazeera that Zelaya had apparently overestimated his own power in pushing for the referendum.

    "He has no support in within his own party, he is opposed by congress, he is opposed by the judiciary and the military, who are not the power they used to be but have lined up against Zelaya ostensibily in defence of legality," he said.

    Chavez has threatened military action in Honduras if Patricia Rodas, Venezuela's ambassador in Tegucigalpa, is harmed. He said that she had been abducted by soldiers and beaten earlier in the day.

    "This military junta that is now there would be entering a de facto state of war," he said.

    HRW: Diamonds in the Rough.

    Human Rights Watch reports on human rights abuses in the diamond fields of Zimbabwe. Here's the summary from the full report:
    Zimbabwe's armed forces, under the control of President Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), are engaging in forced labor of children and adults and are torturing and beating local villagers on the diamond fields of Marange district. The military seized control of these diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe after killing more than 200 people in Chiadzwa, a previously peaceful but impoverished part of Marange, in late October 2008. With the complicity of ZANU-PF, Marange has become a zone of lawlessness and impunity, a microcosm of the chaos and desperation that currently pervade Zimbabwe.

    The military's violent takeover of the Marange diamond fields in October 2008 occurred one month after ZANU-PF agreed to share power with the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the opposition party that won the March 2008 elections. The contested vote precipitated a political crisis and period of rampant human rights abuses by ZANU-PF against members of the opposition.[1] The seizure of the diamond fields took place amidst a major economic crisis in Zimbabwe, caused largely by the failed policies of ZANU-PF, which resulted in astronomical inflation, rampant unemployment, the unchecked spread of disease, and massive food insecurity.

    In this context, army brigades have been rotated into Marange to ensure that key front-line units have an opportunity to benefit from the diamond trade. Soldiers have bullied and threatened miners and other civilians into forming syndicates so that the soldiers can control diamond mining and trade in Marange. The enrichment of soldiers serves to mollify a constituency whose loyalty to ZANU-PF, in the context of ongoing political strife, is essential. The deployment of the military in Marange also ensures access to mining revenue by senior members of ZANU-PF and the army. Human Rights Watch believes that money from illegal diamond trading is likely to be a significant source of revenue for senior figures in ZANU-PF, which has either failed to or decided not to effectively regulate the diamond fields while exploiting the absence of clear legal ownership of the gemstones.

    Diamonds were discovered in Marange in June 2006, and ZANU-PF effectively encouraged a diamond rush by declaring the fields open to anyone to mine. By November 2006, however, a nationwide police operation was launched to clamp down on illegal mining across the country, including in Marange. Police assumed control of the diamond fields; but, rather than halt illegal mining and trade, they exacerbated and exploited the lawlessness on the fields. Police officers were responsible for serious abuses-including killings, torture, beatings, and harassment-often by so-called "reaction teams" deployed to drive out illegal miners. Miners described colleagues being buried alive. A police officer working with a reaction team told Human Rights Watch of orders from senior officers to "shoot on sight" miners found in the fields. Villagers described arbitrary arrests, beatings, and harassment that by May 2008 had swamped a local prison with 1,600 prisoners, 1,300 more than its capacity.

    With policing disintegrating into anarchy, the army operation called Operation Hakudzokwi (No Return), which started on October 27, 2008, appears to have been designed both to restore a degree of order and to allow key army units access to riches at a time when inflation in Zimbabwe was astronomically high and the country teetered on the verge of bankruptcy. Military operations over a three-week period involved indiscriminate fire against miners at work and people in their villages. Between November 1 and November 12, 107 bodies, many with visible bullet wounds, were brought from Marange to the morgue at Mutare Hospital. Overcrowded, the hospital eventually had to turn away trucks carrying more bodies. One man described to Human Rights Watch the extrajudicial execution of his brother on November 14-shot in the back of the head by soldiers who had accused him of being an illegal miner. Scores of miners and diamond traders were tortured and beaten, and at least 80 villagers from Muchena were beaten by soldiers demanding to know the identities and whereabouts of local illegal miners.

    With control established, the army rapidly turned to forming syndicates, often using forced labor, including of children. A miner described to Human Rights Watch how his syndicate was cheated by the soldiers who formed it-when the men decided to abandon work, soldiers shot them, leading to the death of one man and the maiming of another. Children describe being made to carry diamond ore, working up to 11 hours per day with no reward. One local lawyer has estimated that up to 300 children continue to work for soldiers in the diamond fields.

    While Zimbabwe's new power-sharing government, formed in February 2009, now lobbies the world for development aid, millions of dollars in potential government revenue are being siphoned off through illegal diamond mining, smuggling of gemstones outside the country, and corruption. The new government could generate significant amounts of revenue from the diamonds, perhaps as much as US$200 million per month, if Marange and other mining centers were managed in a transparent and accountable manner. This revenue could fund a significant portion of the new government's economic recovery program, which would benefit ordinary villagers like the residents of Marange.

    Human Rights Watch calls on the power-sharing government of Zimbabwe to remove the military from Marange, restore security responsibilities to the police, and ensure that the police abide by internationally recognized standards of law enforcement and the use of lethal force. The power-sharing government should appoint a local police oversight committee consisting of all relevant stakeholders, launch an impartial and independent investigation into the serious human rights abuses committed there, and hold accountable all those found to be responsible for abuses. Members of the army and police who have committed abuses should also face disciplinary action for their crimes. The new Zimbabwe government should strengthen resource accountability by allowing greater transparency in how mining revenues are derived, permitting public scrutiny of the allocation of that revenue, and protecting the basic civil and political, as well as economic and social, rights of its citizens.

    As a formal participant in the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS)-an international scheme governing the global diamond industry-Zimbabwe has a responsibility to immediately end the smuggling, corruption, and abuses that are taking place in Marange and ensure effective internal control over its diamond industry. Members of the KPCS should demand that Zimbabwe comply with the scheme's minimum standards, which include stopping the smuggling of diamonds from Zimbabwe, bringing Marange diamond fields under effective legal control, and ensuring that all diamonds from Marange are lawfully mined, documented, and exported with relevant valid Kimberley Process (KP) certificates. The KPCS should take urgent measures to audit the Zimbabwean mining sector, ensure that individuals involved in smuggling return their ill-gotten gains, and act to prevent any further abuse in both the extraction and onward sales of Marange diamonds.

    The Kimberley Process emerged out of a concern that rebel groups in West Africa in the 1990s were engaged in the mining and trade of conflict diamonds, which provided the groups with revenue and permitted them to commit abuses against civilians. Human rights concerns are implicit in the KPCS mandate, but that mandate has been too narrowly construed by its members. Human Rights Watch calls on the KPCS to broaden its remit to include serious and systematic abuses, not only by rebel groups in conflict, but also by other agencies, including governmental bodies. The abuses committed by Zimbabwe's police and army did not occur in armed conflict, but they are as serious as those the Kimberley Process was designed to address; for that reason, KPCS members should classify Marange diamonds as "conflict diamonds."

    Human Rights Watch recommends that the KPCS suspend Zimbabwe from participation in the Kimberley Process on account of the horrific human rights abuses in Marange and the lack of effective official Zimbabwean oversight of its diamond industry. It should also place an immediate, temporary halt on the extraction and trade of Marange diamonds. The KPCS should bar Zimbabwe from exporting Marange diamonds and ban the importation of Marange diamonds by its members until the government of Zimbabwe has ended human rights abuses in Marange and has regulated the diamond fields in ways that stop smuggling. Regulation of the diamond fields should include settling the question of legal title and ensuring that only those properly licensed are allowed to mine diamonds.

    Finally, as a member of the KPCS and as a regional political power, South Africa also has an important role to play. Its own huge diamond industry is at serious risk of being tainted if illegal diamonds from Marange are indeed being sold alongside South Africa's domestically produced diamonds. Human Rights Watch calls on South Africa, both individually and as a member of the KPCS, to prevent the entry of tainted precious stones from Zimbabwe and to encourage the transparency and accountability of Zimbabwe's diamond industry.