Steven Schnoor versus the Ambassador

Avaaz has a campaign out about some evictions that took place on behalf of a Canadian mining company in Guatemala. They are alleging that women were raped, a man was killed, and another man paralyzed during the evictions. About a year ago, a good friend of mine told me about evictions in Guatemala, but in a different context. It was evictions on behalf of the same mining project that Steven Schnoor, a Canadian graduate student, was present at and made a short documentary video of.

Interestingly, a court in Ontario has determined that Steven Schnoor was slandered by, of all people, the man who was then Canadian Ambassador to Guatemala. Steven Schnoor took the ambassador to court saying the ambassador claimed that an image in the video was not taken during the evictions, and that a woman was paid by Mr. Schnoor to act in the video. Some aspects of this story are discussed in interviews on the CBC program As It Happens that are accessible from Steven Schnoor’s website under the tab titled News and Multimedia here.

The fact that the judge determined that a Canadian citizen was slandered by his ambassador, and the fact that the man who was slandered was speaking on behalf of people who have very little recourse against abuse in their own country, to me speaks enormous volumes. Equally important is the fact that when Mr. Schnoor tried to ask his government for an explanation, he got what I can only describe as a non-reply. Mr. Schnoor has posted a copy of an email that he received from Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. You can read it yourself as it has been posted on Steven Schnoor’s website (the link to it is given in the last paragraph here). Having read it, I have to say that this reply rings as hollow to me as the ones that I received myself and which I have previously posted on this blog for you to read.

About the mine and the allegations of rape and murder that Avaaz has mentioned. The mine is called the Fenix project. The rapes are alleged to have occurred in 2007 when the Fenix project was owned by Skye Resources. Skye Resources merged with HudBay Minerals in 2008. The murder is alleged to have occurred in 2009, and in 2011 HudBay announced that it would sell the Fenix project. There are now plans for legal action against HudBay Minerals. In case you would like some more details about the allegations and the lawsuit, here are some links to news articles:

  • Guatemalan widow’s lawsuit against HudBay could be precedent setting, February 18, 2011, by Matthew Hill from Mining Weekly: http://www.miningweekly.com/article/guatemalan-widows-lawsuit-against-hudbay-could-be-precedent-setting-2011-02-18
  • HudBay faces fresh $55m lawsuit from Guatemalan group, March 29, 2011, by Matthew Hill from Mining Weekly:
    http://www.miningweekly.com/article/hudbay-faces-fresh-55m-lawsuit-from-guatemalan-group-2011-03-29
  • Guatemalan lawsuits to continue against HudBay, says lawyer, August 10, 2011, by Matthew Hill from Mining Weekly:
    http://www.miningweekly.com/article/lawsuits-against-hudbay-over-guatemalan-project-to-continue-says-lawyer-2011-08-10
  • An article about the merger of Hudbay Minerals and Skye Resources. Hudbay Minerals, Skye Resources to merge, June 23, 2008, The Canadian Press:
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2008/06/23/hudbaysky.html
  • Again, Steven Schnoor’s website where he explains the details of his court case against the Canadian Ambassador to Guatemala, and where you can view the documentary video that has been the subject of this discussion, is here:
    http://www.schnoorversuscanada.ca/index.html

    While we need to recognize that mining itself is a very honourable line of work, this state of affairs is absolutely nowhere near acceptable. It is completely unacceptable for our democratically elected government to use its diplomatic and financial influence to support Canadian business at any expense, including the name and reputation of other Canadians, in parts of the world where there is virtually no recourse against environmental and human rights abuses. For us to then operate under this silly premise that everyone is principally motivated to only do what’s best when no one’s watching raises things to the level of absolute lunacy.

    Updated Feb 29/2012 4:32 am UTC

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