Sunday, April 15, 2007

UN Body Holds Canada Responsible for Corporations’ Actions Abroad

CANADA: UN Body Holds Canada Responsible for Corporations’ Actions Abroad by Mark Cherrington, Cultural Survival April 10th, 2007

In a groundbreaking decision, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has told Canada that it must rein in Canadian corporations operating on Indian land in the United States.The finding, issued in early March, was in response to a petition filed by the Western Shoshone Defense Project about the actions of Canadian resource-extraction companies operating on the tribe’s land in the western United States. Among other things, the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which has been ratified by both Canada and the United States, requires states to "guarantee the right of everyone ... in the enjoyment of ... economic, social, and cultural rights ... and the right to public health." The Shoshone petition claimed that these are the areas in which the Canadian companies are affecting them.

The petition especially targets Barrick Gold Corporation, the largest gold mining company in the world. Gold mining uses large amounts of toxic mercury and creates cyanide-laced leaching ponds, both of which threaten Shoshones’ right to health. The blasting used to open mining sites destroys sacred areas, which violates the tribe’s cultural rights to culture, and mining roads disrupt wildlife, undermining their traditional ways of finding food. Gold mining also requires vast amounts of water, which dries up springs and other water sources that the Shoshone need for health. The Betze mine alone uses 70,000 gallons per minute, and it is hardly alone. Western Shoshone lands are the third-largest gold producing region in the world, and there are six other Canadian gold companies besides Barrick operating there, with more applications for leases already under consideration.The Shoshone have targeted Canada in part because the United States has failed to take any action to protect Shoshone lands.

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