Eyes that See, Hearts that Feel

“The trouble is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There is no innocence. Either way, you’re accountable.” — Arundhati Roy

CIRDI’s leaders have only responded evasively to the growing concerns around its mandate, structure, and partner network. So through this film, we’re bringing to those running the mining institute the testimonies of Guatemalans whose lives have been turned upside-down by Canadian mining companies. The testimonies were made in 2014 and 2015,  and on 8 April 2016, we shared the film with CIRDI’s leadership (for example) so that eyes might see and hearts might feel, and we encouraged them to resign from their positions.

The testimonies of Oscar, Francisco Salomon, Enrique, Maria Sabina, Miguel Angel, Victor, Rafael, Diadora, Aniseto, and Teresa make up this film. They’re from communities and peaceful resistance movements in and around San Miguel Ixtahuacán (affected by Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine), San Rafael las Flores (affected by Tahoe’s Escobal Mine), and San José del Golfo (affected by Radius Gold/KCM’s Tambor Mine). In time, we’ll also share the testimonies of Margarita, Melvin, Felix, Luis Fernando, Osvaldo, and others about their experiences with Canadian mining companies, and their bold requests of Canadians.

They’ve expressed in this film — as they have countless times before — that they wish to be left to pursue their own visions of development, without foreign interests lobbying their governments for preferential treatment of the mega-mines. And they’ve described the dirty tricks used by the companies and their agents to dispossess them of their land and their future.

CIRDI is part of the constellation of diplomats, industry associations, think-tanks, lobbyists, academics, and banks deployed to arrange favorable perceptions and political conditions for transnational extractive players in Guatemala and elsewhere. Unaccountable to the people directly affected by the mining projects — and unaccountable to Canadians — they’re making strategic interventions that shift government policies to align with the profit-oriented interests of Canadian extractive corporations.

We’re hoping the testimonies and messages in this film will touch the conscience of CIRDI’s leadership, and that they’ll resign from their positions as a symbolic and practical step toward disarming the mining institute.

By 20 April 2016, only CIRDI’s public relations specialist has responded, asserting that the Institute has no activities in Guatemala and has not received funding from either Goldcorp or Tahoe. While CIRDI’s leadership is missing the point of the film’s courageous testimonies, please take courage to share it exensively with your peers at UBC and SFU, and with your network abroad!

The link to share: https://youtu.be/oI4mngEvCUE

Some context on CIRDI and Goldcorp

CIRDI has compromisingly close ties to Canadian companies operating in Guatemala that have been accused of environmental and human rights abuses.

Repeat offender Goldcorp, mentioned several times in the film and one of CIRDI’s key strategic partners, has offered the company’s mines in Guatemala as test sites for CIRDI’s initiatives, and its executives hope to “export” the company’s extractive-sector experience and privilege in Canada to developing countries. Though CIRDI’s leadership asserts they haven’t (yet) received sponsorship money or in-kind aid from Goldcorp, documents we’ve received through a FOI request confirm that Goldcorp had agreed in principle to contribute $5,000,000 to the Institute.

According to the International Coalition Against Unjust Mining in Guatemala (CAMIGUA), Goldcorp’s open-pit Marlin Mine “has been the cause of increasing local, national and international clamor for environmental accountability and respect for human rights,” as is attested to in this film.

John Bell, another of the Institute’s supporters (p.62 of these letters of support), is director of both Goldcorp and Tahoe Resources. He closely links CIRDI with Tahoe, a Vancouver-based mining titan now under investigation for the premeditated shooting of protesting farmers, and responsible for criminalizing human rights defenders in Guatemala, as we’ve heard in this film.

CIRDI has also forged strategic partnerships with New Gold Inc. ($250K), Teck Resources, and Vale (through its “Vale Institute of Technology”) (pages 92, 116, 140 of the letters of support).  The problematic nature of partnership with these companies is outlined in this CIIEID Strategic Partners report (CIIEID is the acronym formerly used by CIRDI). Equally troublesome, CIRDI has been aggressively seeking multi-million dollar cash infusions from mining giants Rio Tinto and Barrick (CIIEID Steering Committee meeting minutes, p.346 of these records).

And from CIRDI’s Business Plan, they’re “confident that, given our current close relationships with industry as well as our track record of financial support from these same industry partners, support from industry will be available to complement other revenue streams to the CIIEID” (p.260 of these records).

If it’s true that CIRDI hasn’t received cash contributions from Goldcorp, Barrick, or Rio Tinto, it’s not for lack of trying. Whether or not Institute leadership can successfully attract funding, the fact remains: CIRDI is mandated by the federal government to rely on industry’s deep pockets. And with little heed for the criminal or human rights records of its partners, its leadership has zealously sought millions in funding from the most predatory of mining transnationals.