Blog Entry

Webinar: Canada Closed its Doors to Justice for Mariano Abarca - What's next?

Viviana Herrera

Latin America Program Coordinator

WEBINAR: June 6, 2023 from 6 - 7:30 PM ET | ZOOM

It’s been almost 14 years since prominent Mexican environment defender Mariano Abarca was killed while speaking out against a Canadian mine and his family is still fighting for justice. 

More than 1000 pages of internal memos and emails show that the Canadian Embassy in Mexico chose to support Blackfire Exploration in advancing its “Payback” mining operation despite widespread local opposition – and despite knowing about credible threats to Mariano’s life. While the Canadian government continues to provide major diplomatic support to Canadian mining companies all around the world, Canada refuses to investigate whether the acts and omissions of the Canadian embassy in Mexico put Mariano’s life in greater danger before his assassination on November 27, 2009. 

Mariano’s family and supporters are in Ottawa in June to announce important next steps in their fight for justice. Join us online to hear from:  

  • José Luis Abarca, lawyer and son of Mariano Abarca, about his firsthand experience attempting to use Canada’s whistleblower law to hold the Embassy accountable
  • Esperanza Salazar, an organizer with the Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining (REMA) about the widespread impacts of Canadian mining investments in Mexico and the ongoing risks posed to environment defenders who speak out
  • Leah Gardner, a lawyer with the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project (JCAP) about next steps in the Abarca family’s legal battle for justice  

The event will be moderated by Viviana Herrera of MiningWatch Canada, who will also share some brief insights into the role Canadian economic diplomacy plays in promoting Canadian mining investment (often at the expense of human rights defenders), the lack of accountability mechanisms in Canada, and the urgent need for change. 

The presentations will be followed by a Q&A. It will be in English and Spanish with simultaneous interpretation via Zoom. Register here.

Join us to learn more and to support their efforts to take their struggle to the international level. 

Event organized by MiningWatch Canada and the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute (CFPI).


Mariano Abarca was a leader in the social movement opposing Blackfire Exploration, a Canadian barite mine that operated in his hometown of Chicomuselo, Chiapas, between 2007 and 2009. He spoke out about the damage the company’s trucks were causing to neighbourhood homes and streets, the unfulfilled promises of work, and above all, the contamination of rivers whose headwaters are in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas. Mariano also spoke out about a group of company workers who were armed and who were intimidating him and others. 

Even before the mine went into operation, the Canadian Embassy in Mexico knew that Blackfire was having difficulty reaching agreements with the community. From then on, the Embassy exerted diplomatic pressure on Chiapas state officials to move the mine into production. The 1000+ pages of documents obtained through access to information requests show that the Embassy was aware of continued opposition, sending a delegation to Chiapas to meet with State officials in October 2009 to petition them to quell protests. Less than six weeks later, on November 27, 2009, Mariano Abarca was killed. 

Believing that the actions of the Canadian Embassy put Mariano’s life at greater risk, his family and supporters filed a complaint with the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner (PSIC) in 2018 in an effort to open an investigation. The PSIC refused to investigate and subsequent appeals – including a 2022 Supreme Court of Canada decision – have effectively closed the door on an investigation. Like many other environment defenders around the world, Mariano fought to protect the health of his community from the harms of mining. His family continues to insist that the actions of the Canadian embassy be investigated, in an effort to achieve an important precedent for other communities who are in danger as they speak out against Canadian mining investments. 


SUPPORTING ORGANIZATIONS: MiningWatch Canada, Canadian Foreign Policy Institute (CFPI), Inter Pares, Steelworkers Humanity Fund, Committee for Human Rights in Latin America (CDHAL), Rights Action, Mining Justice Action Committee (MJAC) in Victoria BC, CISO - Centre international de solidarité ouvrière, Mining Justice Alliance (Unceded Coast Salish Territories / Vancouver), Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA), Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN), and Amnesty International Canada.