Canadian business implicated in Honduran rights abuses

Exactly one year ago, Indigenous environmental leader and winner of the prestigious international Goldman environmental award, Berta Caceres, was gunned down in her own home.

Exactly one year ago, Indigenous environmental leader and winner of the prestigious international Goldman environmental award, Berta Caceres, was gunned down in her own home.

In the years since the signing of the Canada-Honduras free trade deal, Honduras has been the deadliest country in the world for environmental activism. Most recently, José Santos Sevilla, leader of the Indigenous Tolupan people, was assassinated by armed gunmen in his home in Montaña de la Flor. Every single one of the over 100 people who have been killed with impunity in Honduras deserves to be named and remembered in this letter. But my hope is that you will keep reading.

In response to my previous correspondence with you, your assistant assured me that Canada takes the situation in Honduras seriously. Former Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion has been replaced by a new minister. Will there be renewed efforts by the federal government to ensure human rights are respected by all who do business in Honduras?

Canada was an international outlier in its tacit support of the (illegal) regime change in Honduras. In 2009, democratically elected Honduran President Zelaya attempted to put a moratorium on new mining permits, and to require the consent of affected Indigenous communities. Shortly after, he was ousted by a military coup. The book The Blood of Extraction quotes Canadian embassy memos after the coup, referencing the intent to “promote a comprehensive mining code to give clarity and certainty to our investments.”

The “clarity and certainty” of Canadian investment in Honduras is linked to a deadly time in Honduras, particularly for Indigenous peoples. Whether in textiles (Gildan Active Wear), tourism (Randy “Porn King” Jorgenson), or the extractive industry (Aura Minerals), Canadian involvement in Honduras is tainted with human rights abuses variously documented by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Inter-American Commission in Human Rights, Global Witness and more.

Mr. Bagnell, I hope this time you will respond to my letter personally. Assure me that in your representation of Yukoners, you will defend, for all Indigenous peoples, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as the Liberal Party said it would. Assure me that you will advocate for an independent inquiry into the murder of Berta Caceres. Ensure that the next time Canadian officials tour Honduras, they will meet, and listen to, truly community-based organizations like COPINH and OFRANEH.

Tory Russell,

Whitehorse

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