Maria who was brutally raped by nine men when they evicted her from her home.

Maria who was brutally raped by nine men when they evicted her from her home.

Last evening, I had the privilege of speaking at the public event at OISE in Toronto along with the beautiful and brave women and men from Guatemala in Canada to seek justice against abuse they suffered as a result of the Canadian mining company, Hudbay.

Each spoke with such elegance and passion that you could at some moments hear people weeping in the audience. The stories are horrific. Gang rape of women before evictions from their homes, assassination of a beloved husband and father, imprisonment of an activist brother, a young man cut down in his prime, now in a wheelchair forever. No attempt was made to cover the horrific nature of these crimes nor the raw emotion that relentlessly accompanies Angelica, Rosa, Margarita, Maria and German in their quest for justice.

Grahame Russell of Rights Action mc’d the evening and spoke eloquently about the need for Canadians to support the group as it seeks justice from Canadian courts. Murray Klippenstien, who is the legal counsel representing the Guatemalans, also spoke, pointing out the irony that the better he does in furthering the case, the more money the corporate lawyers representing Hudbay rake in.

In my remarks, I thanked both men for their compassion, vision and tenacity and said their commitment, along with the courage of the plaintiffs, was what turned the evening from one of sorrow to one of hope.

I then spoke about ‘Canada’s dirty little secret’, the fact that our mining industry is the biggest and the worst by far in the world. Blame must be shared by many, but I said that the Harper government’s policies are not only not reining the industry in, but actively promoting its interests in foreign policy. I talked about the trade agenda of the Harper government and how the investment deals it is signing with Europe and China and others is benefitting the mining industry to get around domestic environmental and human rights in the global South as well as here in Canada.

Tears during the presentations.

Tears during the presentations.

I ended by acknowledging how painful the evening had been for everyone and that I too had tears throughout. But I reminded them that our good friend Margaret Atwood says the world seen clearly is seen through tears. I assured our Guatemalan guests that Canadians stand with them and not Hudbay and that we will walk this journey all the way with them.

This court challenge is groundbreaking and the Council of Canadians is committed to supporting the case for the duration.

For more background on this situation, please see http://canadians.org/blog/?p=18123. Watch for further coverage of this on CBC National News on Sunday night.

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