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CUPE Global Justice Committee member Jonathan Fourdraine recently attended a two-day international conference aimed at exposing the appalling environmental and human rights abuses of Canadian mining companies.

Hosted in Vancouver by the Council of Canadians, the conference—titled Shout Out Against Mining Injustice—offered workshops, panel discussions, and strategy sessions to raised awareness, built resistance and strengthened networks of solidarity. It featured sessions with leading activists and representatives from mining-impacted communities in Chile, Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, Ecuador, El Salvador, and Canada.

Fourdraine, a member of CUPE 1933 in Nova Scotia, attended the conference on behalf of CUPE upon recommendation by the Global Justice Committee.

Upon his return Fourdraine submitted the following report to the Global Justice Committee:

The Shout Out Against Mining Injustice conference began with a three hour public forum hosted by Sarita Galvez, a women who came to Canada as a refugee from Honduras. 

She spoke passionately of the corruption in her country and how Canadian companies play a key role in the exploitation of its land and people.

Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, spoke with me about her experiences in Guatemala and how Canadian mining companies are displacing native communities and poisoning the land, the people and the water supply. She also talked about deregulation here in Canada and the anti-environment, pro-corporate Harper agenda.

There were moving presentations by First Nations speakers from Canada and two men from Mexico about their local experiences with corporate exploitation. A common theme is the promise of local riches and improved quality of life when the reality is unrecoverable losses for the majority of those affected. This set the stage to acknowledge a truly global problem where Canadian companies play the central, exploiting, role. In attendance were people of all ages, with a wide range of interesting socially progressive groups and individuals.

There were presenters from many parts of Canada, and from Chile, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico and El Salvador. There were also academics and union organizers from Canada and the United States. The details of their struggles would need a small book to relate.

The highlight was listening to, and speaking with, NDP MP Peter Julian, as well as the story of perseverance and action of Vidalina Morales de Gamezfrom the National Roundtable against Metallic Mining in El Salvador. There were also amazing moments of networking when the CUPE NS-proposed water project in Colombia connected with the experience of a woman from Peru where, despite adequate annual rainfall, poor infrastructure and distribution inequities led to municipal water being available only at certain times of the day or night.

Two plenary sessions, Mobilizing Against Corporate Rights and International Mechanisms and Instruments, highlighted the limits and potential of strategies to intervene and prevent further atrocities at the hand of Canadian companies at home and abroad.

The conference was dedicated to the memory of all murdered mining injustice activists, particularly Bernardo Vásquez Sánchez, a Mexican civil society activist who was murdered in March 2012 for his outspoken opposition to the Canadian-owned Fortuna Silver Mine in San José del Progreso, located south-east of Mexico City.