This evening we received the news of an amazing victory in the long and ongoing struggle of the Mayan Q’eqchi’ communities that have suffered at the hands of Canadian company Hudbay. The Superior Court of Ontario ruling, which allows for the claims of 13 Mayan Guatemalans to continue to trial in Canadian courts, sets a new precedent for holding Canadian companies accountable here for crimes committed overseas. While this struggle for justice is far from over, today represents a significant victory in the larger work of chipping away at mining impunity at the Canadian and global scale.
To quote Rights Action:
“We are grateful to and in awe of the Mayan Qeqchi people who – despite on-going poverty, despite already having suffered great repression, despite on-going threats – took the decision to seek justice and remedy in Canadian courts. We are deeply grateful to Klippensteins for taking on these now precedent setting legal cases, on a ‘pro bono’ basis, and demonstrating both the legal brilliance and heart-felt commitment to stay with this much needed legal struggle in Canadian courts. Thank-you to all who have donated funds in support of the health and humanitarian needs, and the justice and reparations struggles of the mining harmed people and communities in El Estor. This struggle for justice and remedy is far from over; more support is needed.”
July 22, 2013, Toronto, Canada: In a precedent-setting ruling with national and international implications, Superior Court of Ontario Justice Carole Brown has ruled that Canadian company Hudbay Minerals can potentially be held legally responsible in Canada for rapes and murder at a mining project formerly owned by Hudbay’s subsidiary in Guatemala. As a result of Justice Brown’s ruling, the claims of 13 Mayan Guatemalans will proceed to trial in Canadian courts.
“As a result of this ruling, Canadian mining corporations can no longer hide behind their legal corporate structure to abdicate responsibility for human rights abuses that take place at foreign mines under their control at various locations throughout the world,” said Murray Klippenstein, lawyer for the 13 indigenous Mayans. “There will now be a trial regarding the abuses that were committed in Guatemala, and this trial will be in a courtroom in Canada, a few blocks from Hudbay’s headquarters, exactly where it belongs. We would never tolerate these abuses in Canada, and Canadian companies should not be able to take advantage of broken-down or extremely weak legal systems in other countries to get away with them there.”
Hudbay argued in court that corporate head offices could never be held responsible for harms at their subsidiaries, no matter how involved they were in on-the-ground operations. Justice Brown disagreed and concluded that “the actions as against Hudbay and HMI should not be dismissed.”
“Today is a great day for me and all others who brought this lawsuit,” said Angelica Choc, a plaintiff and widow of Adolfo Ich. “It means everything to us that we can now stand up to Hudbay in Canadian courts to seek justice for what happened to us.”
“This judgment should be a wake-up call for Canadian mining companies,” said Cory Wanless, co-counsel for the Mayans along with Mr. Klippenstein. “It is the first time that a Canadian court has ruled that a claim can be made against a Canadian parent corporation for negligently failing to prevent human rights abuses at its foreign mining project. We fully expect that more claims like this one will be brought against Canadian mining companies until these kinds of abuses stop.”
This is the second significant legal victory for the Mayan plaintiffs this year. In February, Hudbay abruptly dropped its argument that the lawsuit against it should be heard in Guatemala, not Canada, after fighting tooth and nail over this issue for over a year, forcing survivors of rape to travel to Toronto to endure extensive cross-examination and the legal team to spend countless hours compiling stacks of evidence, expert reports, and witness testimony.
For more information about the claims, see www.chocversusHudbay.com.
- Watch a short video filmed during the hearing in March 2013 when an Ontario judge heard pre-trial motions to dismiss the HudBay lawsuits (for which the ruling was issued today).
- Coverage on the demonstration outside of Hudbay’s Annual General Meeting, in support of indigenous communities in Guatemala and Manitoba in May 2013.
- An op-ed I wrote in October 2010, shortly after visiting the Mayan Q’eqchi’ community that has brought Hudbay to court, in which I share some of the stories that the women of Lote 8 (who were attacked and raped by Hudbay security) shared with me.
- See this post from May 2010 for a bit of background information on nickel mining and Hudbay’s involvement in the area