(Ottawa) Over 50 Ecuadorian organizations and dozens of individuals signed an open letter condemning the Canadian ambassador to Ecuador’s actions to promote Canadian mining in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The letter was written as a response to statements Ambassador Sylvie Bédard made in a webinar entitled: “Mining and Oil as Sources of Revenue and Employment to Confront the Economic Crisis” and then in an follow-up interview to Ecuadorian newspaper, El Comercio, regarding the essential role Canadian mining could play in Ecuador’s post-pandemic “economic recovery”, while COVID-19 ravages the country. At present, over 45,000 have tested positive for the virus and more than 6,500 people are suspected to have died from COVID-19 as Ecuador’s death rate soars to 15%.
The organizations and individuals expressed their concern at the Ambassador’s actions in this context. “We are concerned by the fact that the representatives of the Canadian government have found an opportunity in this global pandemic, a pandemic which has produced irreparable damage and tragedy in Ecuador, to promote your country’s economic interests,” the letter reads.
In her nearly 20-minute interview with El Comercio, Bédard praised Canadian mining companies for their “...very Canadian way of doing business...especially with respect to their relationships with communities, what we call, responsible business conduct.” Bédard noted that Canadian mining companies had been handing out COVID-19 donations in the immediate term, and that “Canadian mining companies know that they can also help the country with the economic reactivation and they can make a qualitative difference in the lives of communities.” In Indigenous Shuar territory, where three Canadian and other mining companies currently work, communities have been symbolically burning this kind of aid, noting that they do not want the companies in their territories.
The letter rejects the Ambassador’s claim of responsible business conduct with communities, noting that “in all of those instances where Canadian mining companies are present, there have been serious allegations of human and environmental rights abuses, particularly where these companies are invading communities and people’s territories without their consent, generating conflict and disrupting their social fabric.” It continues, “We are tired of hearing Canadian Government officials and Canadian companies falsely claim that Canadian mining is “responsible”, when we are very aware of the human and environmental abuses being committed by Canadian mining companies permanently around the world.”
The letter reminds the Ambassador that mining goes against the will of the organizations who signed on, many of which are Indigenous organizations, as well as local community agro-ecological and agricultural associations, stating “We respectfully request that your office, and your superiors, cease your unwanted interventions in the Ecuadorian economy...Your insertion in this context is not only unwanted, it greatly exacerbates the risks and threats that our communities and human rights and environmental defenders are facing. We would like to remind you that Indigenous and peasant territories house impressive biodiversity and hydrological richness, essential inputs for Ecuadorian food sovereignty. Please do not contribute to their destruction.”
Kirsten Francescone, Latin America Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada commented, “It is shameful that the Canadian embassy is using this pandemic as a means to continue promoting unwanted mining investment, especially in a context where the government is actively making threats to land and environmental defenders who are defending their agricultural livelihoods against the real threats that mining poses. The message is resounding and clear: Ecuadorians do not want mega-mining, they want mega-diversity.”
Over the past few months, MiningWatch has been reporting on how the Ecuadorian government and Canadian mining companies have been violating rural farming and Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and putting communities at grave risk. This letter sends a strong message to the Canadian government continuing to promote mining at all costs: back off.
You can find the full translated version of the letter here.
For interviews with some of the organizations who signed, or, for more information:
- Kirsten Francescone, MiningWatch Canada, +1 (437) 345-9881