In the National Interest? Criminalization of Land and Environment defenders in the Americas

By International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, September 2015

The ICLMG and MiningWatch Canada released a report today that squarely links Canadian mining interests throughout the Americas with intensifying repression and violence against mining-affected communities.

Highlights from ‘In the National Interest?’

Here in Canada and throughout the Americas, many governments have embraced resource extraction as the key sector to fuel economic growth, neglecting other sectors – or even at their expense. This is creating unprecedented demand for land and other resources, such as water and energy. In Latin America, economic dependency on intensive primary resource extraction has become known as ‘extractivism’.

Increasingly, when Indigenous and Afro-descendent peoples, farmers, environmentalists, journalists, and other concerned citizens speak out against this model for economic growth, particular projects and/or their impacts, they become the targets of threats, accusations, and smears that attempt to label and punish them as enemies of the state, opponents of development, delinquents, criminals, and terrorists. In the worst cases, this leads to physical violence and murder.

Guatemala, Peru, and Mexico provide examples of intensified criminalization, where there has been little pause in neoliberal deregulation of the mining sector since the 1990s. (...)

In summary, the report observes that it is becoming ever more dangerous and difficult for affected communities and organizations who are fighting for Indigenous rights, self-determination and environmental justice in the Americas to speak out and do their work. As this situation worsens, the Canadian government has increasingly dedicated its diplomatic services, aid budget, and trade and investment policy to promote and favour the interests of Canadian mining companies and to influence decisions over extractive projects and related policies. The trend of repression and deregulation in Canada to favour mining, oil, and gas projects is consistent with the model that the Canadian government promotes abroad.

Concluding with a series of ideas and recommendations for discussion, the report seeks to spur debate and foster creative action to protect dissent in defence of land and the environment, and to question Canada’s role in promoting the underlying economic development model that is putting communities at such a deadly disadvantage.

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