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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The ruling means the claims of 13 Guatemalans alleging rape and murder will now be heard in Canadian courts

Ontario top court rules Guatemalan charges of rape, murder against Canadian mining company to be heard in Canadian court


 | QMI AGENCY
In a case that could have wide-ranging implications, the top court in Ontario ruled Monday that a Canadian mining company can potentially be held legally responsible for atrocities committed at one of its foreign subsidiaries.The ruling means the claims of 13 Guatemalans alleging rape and murder will now be heard in Canadian courts.
"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 Toronto law firm Klippensteins, which is representing the Guatemalan villagers.
The case centres around a project formerly owned by Hudbay Minerals of Flin Flon, MB, and a mine site, El Estor, in a fairly remote and mountainous area of the South American country, on disputed lands the Mayan Q'eqchi locals claim is traditional ancestral territory.
Three separate lawsuits allege horrific abuses against locals.
One statement of claim says in Jan. 2007, police, military and the mine's security personnel cleared out the village of Lote Ocho, burned down the houses and gang-raped 11 woman.
In another, the widow of Adolfo Ich Chaman, described as a "respected community leader" who was also critical of Canadian mining activities in the community, says in Sept. 2009 security forces hacked off her husband's arm with a machete and shot him in the head in front of witnesses.
On the same day, and by the same security staff, German Chub claims he was shot in what is described as "an unprovoked attack," leaving him a paraplegic.
Charges of human rights violations have long dogged mining companies, but Monday's ruling could signal a change in the way Canada deals with them.
In 2011, a Quebec judge agreed to try a case brought by citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo alleging that then-Canadian-owned Anvil Mining had provided support to Congolese government troops in a massacre of 70 villagers, but a court of appeal overturned the decision last year.
Klippenstein's firm had previously tried to bring a lawsuit against BC's Copper Mesa Mining Corp. for alleged violence at its Ecuador mine, but that case was dismissed.
This is the first time a Canadian company will have to answer for the actions of a subsidiary operation located outside Canada, lawyer Murray Klippenstein said.
Hudbay tried to get this case dismissed, initially arguing that Canada was the wrong venue for crimes alleged to have been committed abroad.
Although this case involves a mining company, "the principles could be extrapolated to apply to other companies, as well, so it's possible this will be a wake-up call to a wide variety of international corporations," Klippenstein said.
"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's human rights policy, stated on its website, says the company is committed to "ethical business practices" and "implementing security measures that respect human rights."
A call to Hudbay for comment on the ruling was not immediately returned.
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