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Business and Human Rights

    April 13, 2017

    On May 9th, a provincial election will be held in British Columbia. Amnesty International  is urging all candidates to make clear public commitments to closing crucial gaps in oversight, accountability, and service delivery that jeopardize the safety, health and well-being of many British Columbians and undermine human rights protection in the province.

    We need your help! We're asking all our supporters in British Columbia to help us ensure that human rights are part of this election.

    Here's how: 

    1. Learn more 

    Amnesty International has issued an open letter to all candidates in this election outlining our concerns, including:

    March 27, 2017

    By Tara Scurr, Business and Human Rights Campaigner. Follow Tara on Twitter @AIBHRGuatemala.

    The Mount Polley copper mine tailings pond spill in August 2014 may have faded from the headlines, but people in BC living near the spill site who rely on the region for food, medicines and livelihoods are still suffering from all they have lost. And, they are concerned that Quesnel Lake and its tributaries may be irreversibly contaminated by toxic tailings from the spill and ongoing mine water discharges. 

    July 21, 2015

    By Tara L. Scurr, Campaigner - Business and Human Rights 

    Today, AI Canada's Business and Human Rights research team arrived in the jaw-droppingly beautiful village of Likely, in the centre of the province of British Columbia. On August 4, 2014, Likely was the scene of one of the largest tailings pond breaches in Canadian history when the Mount Polley copper mine tailings dam burst, sending 25 million cubic metres of water and mine waste rushing into local creeks and lakes. Tiny creek beds were scoured, trees snapping like match sticks, as the waters rushed down from the dam into Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake, depositing tailings across the landscape as it went.

    We're here for the next few days to listen to people's stories about what happened that day, how the company and the government of British Columbia responded to the disaster, and how, in the 11 months since, residents are getting on with their lives.

    February 10, 2017

    Young activists from Guatemala recently shared with Amnesty International their experiences and motivations for putting their lives on the line to fight for the rights of their communities and the environment.

    On April 27, 2013, Luis Fernando Garcia Monroy was shot and seriously injured alongside his father, Adolfo, outside the entrance to Tahoe Resource’s Escobal silver mine. The BC Court of Appeal has just ruled that the case against Tahoe Resources for the shootings can go ahead in Canada. After the attack and in response to the death of a 16 year old activist in their community, Luis Fernando and his friends started a peaceful resistance group to give youth a voice.

    Here is their story, in their own words.

    February 03, 2017

    Adolfo Garcia (pictured, second from the left), is a quiet, serious middle-aged farmer from Guatemala. Once the Guatemalan government began issuing mining licenses in Santa Rosa, he dedicated his life to protecting the land and water for future generations of farmers and residents of his small town in south-east Guatemala.

    Adolfo has since experienced terrible injustice and violence. During a peaceful protest in 2013, Adolfo, his son, and five other men were shot and gravely injured outside a silver mine owned by Canadian company, Tahoe Resources. Adolfo’s then-teenaged son, Luis Fernando, was shot in the face, requiring extensive and painful reconstructive surgeries to enable him to breathe again. Adolfo and his wife nearly lost their family home to pay for the operations. 

    December 07, 2016
    Peruvian water and land defender Máxima Acuña is one of 10 individuals and communities we're taking action for during Write for Rights on Saturday, December 10th, International Human Rights Day. Join Write for Rights to stand with Máxima! 

    Máxima Acuña is a water and land defender in Peru. She has survived years of harassment, intimidation and vicious beatings by police and mining company security personnel over her right to defend the environment and her home from a massive gold and copper mine.

    Her property shares a watershed with 4 lagoons that, if the company gets its way, would be drained and turned into tailings ponds. She has been forced into court to defend her family’s property rights to the land where they live and grow crops –and she has won. In September, she was beaten severely. It is staggering to comprehend the level of violence she has endured to defend her rights. 

    September 02, 2016

    By Erika Guevara-Rosas

    Chills ran down Tomás Gómez Membreño’s spine when he first heard about the brutal murder of his renowned friend and ally, the Honduran Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres, six months ago this week.

    A fellow environmental activist and second in command at the Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), Tomás feared he would be next.

    Berta’s work was widely and globally acclaimed and had earned her international awards - if someone could violate the sanctuary of her home and shoot her dead, it was too frightening to contemplate what could happen to any of the country’s lesser-known human rights defenders.

    Tomás also knew the hopes to have a proper investigation and to ensure the crimes against human rights defenders would not be repeated again were slim, in a country where authorities rarely condone attacks on activists.

    Tragically, he has a point.

    Six months after two armed men walked into Berta’s home one evening and murdered her in cold blood, Honduras has become a no-go zone for anybody daring to protect natural resources such as land and water from powerful economic interests.

    July 12, 2016

    By Tara Scurr, Business and Human Rights Campaigner with Amnesty International Canada

    "We were woken up from a deep sleep in the middle of the night. It sounded like a low-flying airplane or an earthquake – I couldn’t fathom what it was. We took the grandkids and ran for higher ground. We didn’t know what was happening. " — Resident of Likely, BC

    As morning dawned on August 4, 2014, it became clear that something terrible had happened near the tiny community of Likely, BC.  Residents awoke to the devastating news that the Mount Polley copper mine tailings pond had burst its banks, sending 25 million cubic litres of mine waste water and toxic slurry rushing down Hazeltine Creek. The onslaught of water and debris destroyed the creek and deposited masses of silt and sludge at the bottom of Quesnel Lake, metres deep in some areas. Residents, workers and surrounding communities were shaken to the core. 

    September 19, 2014

     

    by Alex Neve, Secretary General, and Tara Scurr, Business and Human Rights Campaigner
    Amnesty International Canada

     - Guatemala City, Guatemala, 18 September, 2014

    What better way to spend the evening before launching our important new report, Mining in Guatemala: Rights at Risk?  Over dinner, we were able to catch up with the courageous community leader and human rights defender Yolanda Oquelí.  Yolanda has for several years been at the forefront of the campaign to ensure that mining does not go ahead in her community without consultation and consent. She has been a leader of the La Puya protest camp, which blockaded the road leading in to the mining site for over two years.

    September 30, 2015

    By Tara Scurr, Campaigner, Business and Human Rights  

     

    One year ago, Alex Neve and I were sitting in the Hotel Continental in Guatemala City, waiting for reporters to turn up for our press conference. We were about to launch a new Amnesty International report on mining and human rights. We’d been warned by our experienced Guatemalan media handler not to expect many reporters to show up. Imagine our delight when our press conference began and we saw that the room was packed with radio, print and TV reporters, NGOs, and human rights defenders from  communities affected by mining. It was standing room only.

    July 10, 2015
    A sobering look at Canada's human rights record

    By Alex Neve, Secretary-General of Amnesty International Canada 

    “This is not the Canada I once knew.” 

    Those were the words of a British member of the UN Human Rights Committee who was taking part this week in the committee’s first review of Canada’s human rights record in 10 years.

    Sir Nigel Rodley, a law professor and chair of the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex, was referring to the deteriorating space for human rights advocacy, protest and dissent in Canada. He noted it was almost unbelievable that the UN committee felt compelled to raise these sorts of concerns with Canada. Sir Nigel highlighted research by the Voices coalition, which pointed to astonishing levels of fear and intimidation felt by Canadian activists and civil society groups, and referred to the disquiet expressed by the UN’s leading expert on the freedoms of assembly and association. He dismissed the Canadian government’s initial response to questions about the crackdown as “thin.”

    August 04, 2015

    By Fiona Koza and Tara Scurr

    Today marks the first anniversary of what has been called the largest mining disaster in British Columbia’s history. In the middle of the night, on August 4, 2014, residents say they were awakened by what sounded like hundreds of jumbo jets flying overhead, a sound that continued for hours as millions of litres of tailings water rushed from Mt Polley’s mine tailings impoundment into Polley Lake, down Hazeltine Creek, and into Quesnel Lake.

    Shaken and knowing something had gone terribly wrong at the mine, those who were awake rushed to call emergency services, while others jumped in quads, boats and trucks to warn people who were camping or living along the lake. In the early hours of panic and fear, residents told Amnesty researchers they didn’t know whether the community’s children were at risk, if they should seek higher ground, or if they should stay put.

    July 27, 2015
    By Fiona Koza, Amnesty Campaigner for Business and Human Rights   Taking a trip along the Ditch Road in Likely, BC yesterday, we were unprepared for the sight of Hazeltine Creek, which was devastated as a consequence of the Mt Polley mine tailings breach almost one year ago. Twenty-five million cubic metres of mine waste mixed with water is hard to visualize, but when it spilled from Mt Polley’s mine tailings storage facility through Polley Lake and into Hazeltine Creek, it was enough to scour out a deep canyon and uproot and carry away a swath of dense forest on the way to Quesnel Lake.  
    May 08, 2015

    By Tara Scurr, Amnesty International Canada Business and Human Rights Campaigner

    “We have faith that Amnesty International’s campaigning will inform investors in Tahoe Resources about our suffering in Guatemala.” Resident of San Rafael Las Flores

    When Alex Neve and I visited San Rafael Las Flores, Santa Rosa province, the site of Tahoe’s Escobal mine, in September 2014, it was to present the findings of our report, Mining in Guatemala: Rights at Risk and seek feedback from local grassroots activists. We hoped that community members, activists, legal experts, investors and governments would find it useful in untangling some of the problems with Guatemala’s mining regulatory framework and outline how the government and companies are failing human rights. It was clear from our research that current mining regulations and corporate practices are stoking conflict in Guatemala, leading to serious human rights violations, and that change is desperately needed. 

    November 26, 2014

    When we meet Shahzadi Bi in September, she is busy chaining herself to a fence. It’s not just any fence, but the one that surrounds the Chief Minister’s residence in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, where Bhopal is the capital. She is among a group of protesters demanding that the minister keep his promise of providing each survivor of the 1984 gas leak – the more than 570,000 who were exposed – 500,000 Indian rupees (US$8,170) as compensation.

    Shahzadi, aged 60, lives in Blue Moon Colony, one of the 22 slums that surround the old pesticide factory formerly owned by Union Carbide India Limited. This area is blighted by water contamination, caused by chemicals from the abandoned factory site.

    The disaster overturned her and her family’s lives. “Everyone has dreams,” she says. “I too had those. My dream was not about becoming a teacher or doctor… I wished that we would provide a good education to our children… but the gas leak shattered all these dreams.”

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