Report puts human rights in Honduras and Canada at risk, say civil society organizations

Letter to François-Philippe Champagne
Minister of International Trade

We, the undersigned Canadian civil society organizations, have worked in solidarity with human and environmental rights defenders around the world for many years, including in Honduras and other Latin American countries. We are writing to express our profound concern regarding a recent report produced by the Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor which, we believe, places Canadian and Honduran human and environmental rights defenders at risk.

Last month, the Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor issued its report of a 2016 visit to Honduras. According to the report, the visit was structured to enable the Counsellor “to meet with a range of stakeholders and permit an open exchange of views, concerns and aspirations.” While the report’s analysis of the situation in Honduras warrants a more thorough critical response, we would like to raise our deep concern with regard to one specific section of the report, entitled “The Canada NGO Connection”. In this section, the Counsellor makes a series of sweeping, unsubstantiated, biased and irresponsible accusations against Canadian CSOs. The Counsellor describes them as having “framed much of the discourse in Honduras”, contributing to the “strained and tense situation” concerning extractive activities in Honduras. Providing no substantiation, the report characterizes Canadian CSOs as being “ideologically positioned against mining,” leading to “confrontational and adversarial approaches when dealing with companies and the Honduran government.”

The CSR Counsellor minimizes the agency of entire communities, local civil society leaders and organizations in Honduras. These actors have long expressed their legitimate concerns about the impact of the extractive sector in that country, regularly mobilizing in defence of their rights and the environment. Through his misrepresentation of the role of Canadian CSOs in Honduras, the Counsellor exposes his fundamental lack of understanding regarding the nature of solidarity relationships between Canadian organizations and local actors.

The report goes a step further by naming specific Canadian organizations that the Counsellor considers problematic, specifically MiningWatch Canada and Rights Action. He suggests that these and other international CSOs could be aggravating or blocking resolution to conflict, manipulating local actors and setting the discourse around mining in Honduras. These serious, unsubstantiated accusations threaten to undermine important solidarity work that facilitates information sharing with mining-affected communities and supports efforts to have their legitimate concerns addressed. The importance of this work in the context of environmental conflicts has been underscored by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment who identifies the need to protect speech relating to environmental issues: “[a]ll persons have the right to hold and express opinions and to disseminate ideas and information regarding the environment.”

-Read the entire letter en français

List of signatories:

Above Ground
Atlantic Region Solidarity Network
Amnesty International Canada
The British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union
Canadian Council for International Co-operation
Canadian Jesuits International
CoDevelopment Canada
Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine/Committee for Human Rights in Latin America
Common Frontiers
Development and Peace
Entraide missionnaire
Friends of the Earth Canada
Horizons of Friendship
Inter Pares
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network
MiningWatch Canada
Mining Justice Action Committee
Nobel Women’s Initiative
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation
Public Service Alliance of Canada
Rights Action
Solidarité Laurentides Amérique centrale
United Church of Canada