Jennifer Henry

Jennifer Henry

December 1, 2014

Canadian mining companies are responsible for water pollution, community displacement, and human rights abuses in the developing world said KAIROS' executive director.

"Are we prepared to accept responsibility?" asked Jennifer Henry, when she spoke during a panel discussion at Saint Paul University Nov. 7.

Henry also called on Canadians to accept responsibility for our complicity in exploitation through our lifestyles and pension funds.

KAIROS, the ecumenical justice initiative, has been involved in "mining justice for 10 years," Henry noted.

It participated in roundtable discussions that led to recommendations for corporate social responsibility that included the creation of an ombudsman to ensure Canadian companies operating overseas used the same standards they are required to follow in Canada.

When the government failed to respond adequately to those recommendations, KAIROS supported various private members' bills, she said.

It continues to support partners in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Philippines and grieved when friends were killed for standing up for their communities against the mining companies, she said.

In Canada, it feels like we're going backwards, she said. The impact of mining and oil extraction is not only being felt overseas, but by indigenous communities here in Canada.

"Our jewelry and our gasoline contribute to displacement and human rights abuses," she said.

"Do we need more gold? Do we need to replace our electronics every year?"

Archbishop Paul-André Durocher, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), said he found it painful to hear stories of Canadian mining abuses in the global South.

When attending the recent synod on the family in Rome, bishops from Bolivia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Philippines raised the issue of Canadian mining with him.

What's happening on the ground is of great concern with the rights of people, and for the ecology, he said.

Canadian companies are profiting from a lack of the legislation we have in Canada to protect the environment, human rights and labour, he said.

Mining is important for the development of human communities, but it has to be done in a way rooted in Gospel values, respect for creation and for human dignity, he said.