Canadian Government pressured to recognize human rights abuses in Mexico

By David Boughton

The government of Canada came under pressure last week to increase its response to the escalating human rights crisis in Mexico.

Nine Mexican human rights experts were in Ottawa outlining the problems and looking for support. The representatives hope Canada will pay greater attention to the crisis rather than considering only economic interests.

The frustration was evident that abuses have gone unchecked for so long. Santiago Aguirre, Deputy Director of the Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Human Rights Centre[1], held little back in his assessment of the situation, arguing that “staggering numbers of atrocities are committed with impunity. There is no investigation, let alone justice.”

He cited the 43 students who disappeared in 2014 as an example of the impact organized crime has on the Mexican people.

The Mexican advocates believe Canada must help. Daniela Pastrana[2] from Periodistas de a Pie, believes “Countries like Canada could do a lot more to pressure Mexico to put an end to the violence, but they don’t because of their economic interests.”

She argued Canada should consider itself partly responsible for the 180,000 homicides and 33,000 disappearances in Mexico over the last ten years.

They believe the government of Canada is especially responsible because of the impact Canadian mining projects have on the surrounding areas. Gustavo Lozano[3], from Network of Mining Affected People, says human rights abuses “have resulted from the arrival of Canadian mining projects, in states such as Guerrero where entire territories have been militarized, families forced to flee their homes, and their water and land contaminated.”

He added that Indigenous people are most affected, something he feels is unacceptable considering they oppose mining operations on their land.

The human rights experts were proposing solutions as they met with the Chair of the Canadian Senate’s Human Rights Committee, The Canadian Parliament Subcommittee on International Human Rights, and Global Affairs Canada.

They want Canadian mining companies to take responsibility for the human rights abuses in areas surrounding their projects.

They also want the Canadian government to prioritize international human rights over economics.

Labour lawyer Arturo Alcalde Justiniani argues that millions of Mexican workers are affected, but this is “deliberately obscured in the current NAFTA negotiations.”

In addition to these ongoing negotiations, the meetings occurred only days after Prime Minster Trudeau’s official visit to Mexico.

[Photo Credit: Canadian Council for International Cooperation]

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