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CNCA welcomes family and supporters of Mexican human rights and environmental defender Mariano Abarca

Photo: Mexican lawyer José Luís Abarca and REMA organizer Esperanza Salazar are welcomed by representatives of CNCA member-organizations during a meeting at headquarters of the Canadian Labour Congress on 6 June 2023.

The CNCA welcomed the family and supporters of murdered Mexican human rights and environmental defender Mariano Abarca to a CNCA members meeting at the Canadian Labour Congress offices in Ottawa on 6 June 2023.

Mariano Abarca was killed by a motorcycle hitman in November 2009, in front of his family restaurant in Chiapas, after speaking out for community rights in relation to activities of a barite mine owned by Canadian mining company Blackfire Exploration Ltd.

A month before the murder, after receiving complaints from Blackfire about community opposition around the mine, a high level delegation from the Canadian Embassy had gone to the Governor’s office in Chiapas to advocate for Blackfire’s interests. Mariano Abarca’s family and supporters believe that the Canadian Embassy’s support and lobbying put Mariano’s life at greater risk.

The family was in Ottawa to file a complaint against Canada to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The complaint alleges that Canada failed to uphold its international human rights obligations when it pressured Mexican authorities to advance a Canadian mining project and failed to take steps to protect defenders, despite having knowledge about related threats to Mariano’s life.

The complaint cites over 1000 pages of internal reports and emails from the Canadian Embassy in Mexico, which show the Embassy played a crucial role getting the mine into operation and failed to do human rights due diligence before becoming involved. 

Mariano Abarca’s son, lawyer José Luis Abarca, and Esperanza Salazar, an organizer with the Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining (REMA), received support in filing the complaint from the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project (JCAP), and over a dozen other Canadian civil society organizations and coalitions including the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability.

Nearly 14 years after the murder, no credible investigation has been conducted. The CNCA supports the right of access to remedy for those harmed by Canadian companies’ global operations and supply chains.

Meanwhile, allegations of environmental and human rights abuse by Canadian mining companies in Mexico and elsewhere persist.

“Canadian embassies continue to play a major role advancing Canadian mining investment across the world. Yet they wash their hands of any responsibility to protect the people who are put in harm’s way because of that Canadian investment,” said Viviana Herrera, Latin America Coordinator for CNCA member-organization MiningWatch Canada, at a press conference on June 5th.

The CNCA campaigns for reforms of Canada’s policy and legal approaches to ensure that the actions of Canadian officials comply with Canada’s international human and environmental rights obligations, and for mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence legislation to help prevent future abuse associated with Canadian company activities around the world. 


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