September 11, 2017
Over the course of three weeks in November 2017, thirteen Mayan Q’eqchi’ plaintiffs are coming to Toronto, Canada, from a remote, impoverished region of rural Guatemala to be cross-examined by Hudbay Minerals’ lawyers. 11 of the plaintiffs are Q’eqchi’ speakers who speak no Spanish, let alone English. Most have never travelled to the capital city of Guatemala; none have left the country.
Rights Action is coordinating all aspects of the travel, room and board, clothing, passports and visas for them. Can you again make a tax-charitable donation and help us raise $20,000 to cover these short-term costs?
Please share this information with your networks of family members and friends. These truly are precedent-setting cases in Canadian legal and mining policy history.
(Angelica Choc and 9 of the 11 women from Lote 8)
(Angelica Choc and German Chub)
New York Times / Toronto Star
Initiated in 2010, the plaintiffs – represented by Klippensteins Barristers and Solicitors – have had remarkable success in these corporate accountability lawsuits in Canadian courts for human rights abuses in Guatemala. For an overview of what is at stake in the lawsuits, see articles published in the New York Times (April 3, 2016) and Toronto Star (June 19 & June 20, 2016).
Here, a timeline history of both the Hudbay lawsuits in Canada and the criminal trial in Guatemala against Hudbay’s former head of security: http://rightsaction.org/newsletterapril17-miningrepressionandimpunity/. On request, I can provide links to many more news reports and films.
The Hudbay cases have already set legal precedents in Canada, and are fundamentally changing the human rights landscape in Canada (and beyond), making it possible for the first time to hold Canadian corporations accountable in Canada for harms and violations committed abroad. The cases are being fought by 13 inspiring Mayan Q’eqchi’ individuals:
- Angelica Choc, the widow of Adolfo Ich, a respected community leader and school teacher who was hacked with machetes and shot in the head and killed by Hudbay security personnel;
- German Chub, a young father who was shot and left paralyzed from the waist down by Hudbay security personnel;
- Margarita Caal Caal, Rosa Elbira Ich Coc and 9 other women from the village of Lote Ocho, who were raped by Hudbay (then Skye Resources) security personnel, police and military during the complete destruction of their village and forced eviction from their ancestral lands.
The lawsuits – spear-headed by the plaintiffs and the Toronto, Canada based Klippensteins Barristers and Solicitors – are being indispensably supported and facilitated by Rights Action and myself.
Why These Lawsuits Matter
Over the past seven years, Hudbay has spent considerable funds and fought the plaintiffs on every conceivable legal issue. So far, the plaintiffs have won every battle, and set important legal precedents along the way.
After three years of legal battle over Hudbay’s pre-trial motions to dismiss the lawsuits, an Ontario court ruled in July 2013 that (for the first time in Canadian legal history) these lawsuits (against a Canadian mining company regarding harms and human rights violations abroad) can go to trial in Canada. This is a significant legal leap forward in the quest for accountability of Canadian companies and is a long overdue victory for human rights. We hope these lawsuits are a wakeup call for the Canadian mining industry and policy makers that will change the way that Canadian companies operate abroad.
Since being filed in 2010, and since the July 2013 ruling, the Hudbay lawsuits have paved the way for similar lawsuits brought in Canada by communities around the world against Canadian companies who commit human rights abuses abroad, including:
- the Nevsun case regarding forced labour and slavery at a mine in Eritrea;
- the Tahoe Resources case regarding shootings by mine security personnel in Guatemala;
- the Loblaws/Joe Fresh case regarding the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh.
“Shockwaves through the glass and steel corridors of corporate Canada”
The New York Times says the Hudbay cases have “sent shivers through the vast Canadian mining, oil and gas industry.”[] The Toronto Star notes that the lawsuits “have potentially explosive consequences. If Hudbay is found liable, the case could establish corporate behaviour guidelines for Canadian mining subsidiaries overseas, which have a long history of human rights and environmental complaints.”[] CBC’s news program “The National” says the cases are sending “shockwaves through the glass and steel corridors of corporate Canada.”[]
A lawyer with the corporate law firm Gowling WLG warns the mining industry that if the Hudbay litigation is successful “then we’ve got major new law and it’s explosive.”[] Other elite Canadian resource company law firms note that “Hudbay serves as a significant warning for Canadian corporations operating in foreign countries that they could potentially face civil liability in Canada for wrongs committed in foreign countries,”[] and that “Choc v Hudbay may usher in potential expanded exposure to risks and liabilities for Canadian corporations doing business abroad, not only in the natural resources sector but also in various other sectors, including banking, manufacturing, retailing and telecommunications.”[
Canadian Lawyer Magazine named Murray Klippenstein one of Canada’s 25 most influential lawyers, two years running (2014 and 2015), as result of the Hudbay cases and the impact they are having in the legal community and the mining industry.
Despite these legal successes in already – slowly but surely – transforming Canada’s laws, there is much left to be done before justice and appropriate remedies might be achieved. Since the plaintiffs and lawyers overcame three years (2010-2013) of pre-trial jurisdictional and procedural challenges made by Hudbay, the lawsuits have been working their way through the ‘disclosure’ and discovery’ phases.
Both sides are required by law to disclose all documents relating to any aspect of the lawsuit. As part of this process, Klippensteins lawyers were obliged to go to court again in 2015 – another mini-trial within the trial – to obtain a court order forcing Hudbay to disclose extensive internal and normally confidential company documents and communications. In late 2016, Hudbay finally began delivering tens of thousands of internal documents. Klippensteins lawyers have neared completion of the process of reviewing these documents, taking up thousands of hours.
Examinations for Discovery – November 2017 & Early 2018
In November 2017, the thirteen plaintiffs will travel to Toronto to be questioned by Hudbay’s lawyers over a period of three weeks. Similarly, Klippensteins will subject Hudbay executives to in-depth questioning. It is likely that the 11 women from Lote 8 will be cross-examined in November and Angelica Choc and German Chub will return to Toronto in early 2018, to then be questioned.
After the disclosure and discovery phases, hopefully completed in early 2018, the lawyers and plaintiffs then prepare for the actual trial which will take place in front of a jury, and will be lengthy. The trial itself is likely two to five years away.
Funds raised will pay for many of the costs of the 13 plaintiffs and two accompaniers from their home communities in rural, eastern Guatemala, to Toronto and back again. Hudbay will incur some of the expenses. Our costs include: in-Guatemala travel; in-Canada travel; food and lodging in Guatemala (near airport); acquiring passports & visas; purchasing extra clothing and footwear (for people who live in one of the hottest regions of Guatemala); family stipends to leave food and care-givers for children staying at home; two Rights Action trips to Guatemala in October, to help prepare the plaintiffs for the trip and accompany them.
The plaintiffs have made remarkable strides, since 2010, towards transforming Canadian corporate accountability law and achieving their goal of justice. Now we need on-going help to overcome the next steps. Please consider making a contribution towards the funding goal. Financial contributions can be made directly to Rights Action, with tax-charitable status in Canada and the U.S.
Please contact me with questions or comments. Thank you.
Grahame Russell, director Rights Action
Tax-deductible donations (Canada & U.S.)
Make check payable to “Rights Action” and mail to:
- S.: Box 50887, Washington DC, 20091-0887
- Canada: (Box 552) 351 Queen St. E, Toronto ON, M5A-1T8
Credit-Card Donations: www.rightsaction.org/donate/
Resources: Articles, Interviews, Videos (June 30, 2017)
Below, links to articles, radio interviews and news-video reports addressing community, environmental, human rights defense work & struggles Rights Action is supporting & involved with in Guatemala & Honduras.