Slain Mexican activist’s supporters take case to Supreme Court of Canada

OTTAWA — Family and supporters of a Mexican activist who was killed after opposing a Canadian company's mining project are asking the Supreme Court of Canada to review a federal ombudsman's decision not to investigate the matter.

The case stretches back to 2007 when Calgary-based Blackfire Exploration Ltd. opened a barite mine in Chiapas, Mexico, prompting local opposition, demonstrations and a blockade of a route to the project.

After being beaten and threatened with death for leading protests over the mine's environmental and social effects, activist Mariano Abarca was fatally shot outside his home in November 2009.

Members of Abarca's family and organizations concerned with mining abuses presented information to the public sector integrity commissioner in 2018, asking him to probe whether there was wrongdoing by members of the Canadian Embassy in Mexico.

Federal Court Justice Keith Boswell ruled three years ago that it was reasonable for the commissioner to decide not to investigate on the basis the embassy had broken no code of conduct.

Earlier this year, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the integrity commissioner's decision not to begin a probe.

The Supreme Court will decide in coming weeks whether to hear the case.

“The process for reporting wrongdoing by civil servants is supposed to be informal and accessible," said Nicholas Pope, a lawyer for the applicants. “But now it is rigid and formalistic and will only further discourage people from coming forward."

One of Abarca's four children, Jose Luis Abarca, said family members are being denied their right to know the truth. 

“We know that nothing will bring my father back, but we want to see Canada take meaningful steps to stop this from happening in the future.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 19, 2022.

The Canadian Press