JCAP researcher Charlotte Connolly speaks at Mount Allison University

JCAP researcher Charlotte Connolly spoke at Mount Allison University on September 12, 2022 to discuss Canadian embassy support for silver mine associated with shooting and deaths of community members.

“Our entire foreign service is dedicated to the promotion of corporate interests abroad,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know that.”

She authored a case study on the Escobal silver mine in southern Guatemala — a mine that has received extensive support from the Canadian embassy as well as Canada’s foreign service.

“The Canadian government considered the Escobal silver mine as a strategic capital asset,” she said. “It was the second-largest reserve of silver in the world, which is significant and results in a lot of returns for Canadian banks and investment firms as well as Canadian pension [funds],” she added.

The documents obtained through Access to Information showed how Canadian officials successfully lobbied against the Guatemalan government’s proposals to take a bigger stake in mining projects while increasing royalty payments.

They also showed Canadian indifference to military and police repression of the Xinka Indigenous people and their neighbours who launched peaceful protests against the mining project because it threatened their land and water.

She read an e-mail from then-Canadian ambassador Hugues Rousseau celebrating the approval of the mine’s operating licence on April 3, 2013;

Everyone’s perseverance finally paid off today. We are expecting quite a backlash from the opposition groups that were probably taken by surprise. However, this time both the [Guatemalan] government and the companies are ready to defend themselves with an aggressive campaign on the benefits of responsible, extractive industry activity.

Between 2012 and 2014, over 100 community members were criminalized, over 10 were shot including a 16-year-old girl and her father.

Connolly said Canadian officials suggested that the death of the 16-year-old, who was actively opposing the mine, occurred because of “street fighting” during a local parade even though an e-mail from Canada’s trade commissioner acknowledged that “some individuals, who might be employees of the mining company” may have been involved, but did not call for an investigation.

This is just one example of many other case studies, which demonstrate how Canadian economic diplomacy in Latin America and around the world has systematically thwarted the self-determination of Indigenous and campesino communities who contest mining projects.