On 14 February 2013, Amnesty International Canada was granted leave to intervene in an important and precedent-setting corporate accountability case.
The case is being brought against Canadian company HudBay Minerals and its subsidiaries, involving allegations of gross human rights violations that took place in Guatemala in 2007 and 2009. Maya-Q’eqchi’ villagers from eastern Guatemala claim that security personnel employed by HudBay’s local subsidiary shot and killed school-teacher and anti-mining activist Adolfo Ich Chamán, shot and paralyzed youth German Chub Choc, and gang-raped 11 Maya-Q’eqchi’ women.
The defendant companies brought motions to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims, on the basis that a parent company can never owe a duty of care to those who may be murdered, harmed or raped by security personnel employed by the company’s subsidiary in a foreign country. Originally, the defendants had also claimed that these lawsuits could not be heard in Canada, but they recently and unexpectedly dropped this argument.
“The defendants would have the Court and Canadians believe that a company is not responsible for ensuring that its business is conducted in a way that respects the rights of the people with whom they interact,” says Tara Scurr, Business and Human Rights campaigner for Amnesty International Canada. “However, Canadian companies are under an obligation to respect human rights wherever they operate, particularly where the business is operating in a conflict-affected or high risk area, and where the Indigenous peoples’ lives and livelihoods are at risk.”
The companies’ motions to dismiss will be heard in Toronto Superior Court on 4-5 March 2013. Lawyer Paul Champ will represent Amnesty International Canada, assisted by Professor Penelope Simons, and accompanied by articling student Anna Shea. In the hearing, Mr. Champ will argue that the defendants’ motions should be dismissed and the plaintiffs’ actions should proceed to a full hearing on their merits. As stated in Amnesty International’s factum, “Canadian society has a strong interest in ensuring that Canadian corporations respect human rights, wherever they may operate and whatever ownership and other business structure they may put in place to advance their operations. This is important for preserving Canada’s own reputation, and it reflects the interest all Canadians share in ensuring that victims of gross human rights abuses have an effective and meaningful avenue to seek justice and accountability.”
For more information, please contact: Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations, 416-363-9933 ext 332 email: firstname.lastname@example.org