With the confirmation of the new Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Manila on November 19, 2015, the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) puts forward the Cordillera indigenous peoples’ issues and concerns on Canadian mining projects in the region. In a statement, the Prime Minister expressed a need for a “renewed, Nation-to-Nation relationship with indigenous peoples based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership.” He must, therefore, protect and promote Cordillera indigenous peoples’ rights by not tolerating Canadian mining companies in indigenous territories.
It is said that three-quarters of the world’s mining companies are headquartered in Canada. In the Cordillera, Canadian mining companies top the list of foreign mining investors, including Columbus, Magellan, Olympus Pacific Minerals, Solfotara and its subsidiaries such as Adanacex and Canex, Pacific Metals, and Metallum Canada. Their mining applications cover the municipalities of Bokod, Bakun and Kibungan in Benguet province; Baay-Licuan, Tubo, Bucloc, Boliney and Daguioman in Abra province, and Calanasan in Apayao province.
In 2009, a report commissioned by Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, an industry association which supports better regulation for Canadian mining abroad, it is said that “Canadian companies were responsible for four times as many violations of human rights and environmental standards as other mining heavyweights like Australia.” In light of Canadian mining companies’ rights violations in various countries of their operations, Bill C-300 was filed in the Canadian Parliament in 2009 to regulate Canadian mining practices abroad. This, however, fell six votes short of becoming a law.
The Cordillera experience with Canadian mining companies confirms that Canadian mining companies violate indigenous people’s rights and human rights. In the case of Canada’s Olympus Pacific Mineral’s mining exploration in Baay-Licuan, Abra, the rights of the Binongan indigenous peoples to their Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) was grossly violated by the company from 1998 to 2007 . And without the affected communities’ FPIC, Olympus started its exploration and drilling operations in the indigenous peoples’ ancestral domain at Mount Capcapo in 2008. The affected communities stepped up their opposition against the intrusion of Olympus but were met with a deployment of elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in their communities which resulted in various human rights violations. These State security forces converted civilian residences and public areas for military purposes. The military became an investment defense force for the Olympus against the growing opposition from the residents. But this did not hinder the Binongan people’s resolve to fight for their ancestral lands until they succeeded when Olympus’ exploration was temporarily suspended in 2008.
Cordillera indigenous peoples remain vigilant, and will not allow destructive mining operations especially by foreign mining companies in the region. We will not allow the massive environmental destruction, non-recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights, and heightened human rights violations as experienced by our fellow indigenous peoples (Subanen) from the hands of the Toronto Ventures Inc. (TVI), an infamous Canadian mining company, in its notorious large-scale mining operations in Mindanao.
CPA firmly believes that foreign mining companies should be held accountable for their human rights and indigenous peoples’ rights violations and environmental destruction, not only to the host communities but also to their country of origin. Hence, CPA supports the Canadian civil society’s clamor for a law that will put in place human rights, labour and environmental standards that Canadian extractive companies receiving government support must live up to when they operate in developing countries; create a complaints mechanism that allow members of affected communities abroad, or Canadian, to file complaints against companies that are not living up to those standards; and to create a possible sanctions for companies that are found to be out of compliance with the standards, in the form of loss of government financial and political support.
We urge Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to live up to his commitment in protecting the environment and respecting indigenous peoples’ rights not only in Canada but elsewhere where there are Canadian mining companies such as the Cordillera region. ***
Deputy Secretary General