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Barlow in solidarity with El Salvador at protest against World Bank in Washington, DC

Maude Barlow outside World Bank

Photo: Barlow speaking at World Bank protest in Washington, DC

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow spoke at a protest outside the World Bank in Washington, DC today.

As explained by the Institute for Policy Studies, “OceanaGold/Pacific Rim Mining Corporation is suing the government of El Salvador for over $300 million because El Salvador is refusing to let it mine gold. …Because of trade and investment laws that the U.S. has championed in recent decades, corporations can sue governments when corporations feel their future profits are being threatened by government actions. Today they are doing this in the World Bank Group’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). …At issue is whether the government and people of El Salvador should be punished for not allowing a foreign corporation to operate a mining project that threatens to poison the country’s drinking supply.”

OceanaGold is a Canadian-Australian mining company. While it is headquartered in Melbourne, it is owned by a holding company registered in British Columbia, is traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange and has an office on King Street in Toronto.

In her speech, Barlow said that Canadians do not support what our mining companies are doing around the world and that we are with the people in this struggle. She is quoted in a Community Action and Social Justice Coalition tweet saying, “We have a terrible right wing gov’t in Canada… even our aid policies are tied to mining interests.”

Maude BarlowLast Wednesday, Barlow joined with allies to deliver a letter to the Toronto office of OceanaGold. The letter demanded that the company withdraw their lawsuit against the people of El Salvador.

At that time, Barlow said, “We are asking the company, particularly on the eve of the country’s independence day, to give the Salvadoran people their rightful control over their own environment and resources. We have to hold our fellow Canadians accountable for jeopardizing El Salvador’s democracy and its environment. The source of life, water is non-negotiable. El Salvador is just doing what any responsible country would do.”

Additionally, Council of Canadians Board member Paul Manly arrived in San Salvador yesterday morning. He writes, “I’m representing The Council of Canadians and taking part in an international delegation that is examining this situation in El Salvador. Over the next week I will be traveling throughout the country, visiting communities and hearing from individuals who have been affected by mining projects in El Salvador and the bully tactics of Investor State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) used by mining companies. …Investor State mechanisms have no place in so called ‘Free Trade’ agreements. I will be returning to Canada with evidence of how this destructive process has worked in El Salvador.”

Barlow is also in Washington for the Public Services International (PSI) summit on the new threats posed to workers, public services, democracy and our communities by trade and investment agreements. These agreements include the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), the United States-European Union Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the Trade In Services Agreement (TISA).

The Council of Canadians first expressed solidarity with El Salvador against the proposed Pacific Rim mine in May 2008. A timeline of our campaign work can be read here.

Further reading
Report calls on OceanaGold to drop lawsuit on mine
International fact finding mission on mining and water in El Salvador

Photo: Barlow and Salvadoran activist Xenia Yanira de Santos handing letter to OceanaGold staff in Toronto.