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Integrity Commissioner refuses to investigate role of Canadian embassy in death of Mexican activist

On February 5, Meera Karunananthan joined with allies and José Luis Abarca to ask Public Sector Integrity Commissioner Joe Friday to investigate the role the Canadian embassy in Mexico had in the death of Blackfire Exploration Ltd. opponent Mariano Abarca.

On November 27, 2009, Mariano Abarca was killed after blaming Calgary-based mining company Blackfire Exploration Ltd. for contaminated local rivers, the loss of local crops, and the death of livestock in his community.

Just days after his death, Maude Barlow stated, “A man deeply involved in the protest against the Canadian mining company Blackfire has been murdered outside his home. This tragic outcome can be traced directly to the Harper government’s refusal to end the impunity currently enjoyed by Canadian mining companies.”

The CBC notes, “The Canadian embassy in Mexico was heavily involved in the tense situation, acting as an advocate for Blackfire before Mexican state and federal authorities. …Abarca [had] approached the embassy to warn that he had been the subject of threats aimed at forcing him to back off his anti-mine campaign.”

In February, Toronto-based Council of Canadians organizer Rachel Small called on the federal Public Sector Integrity Commissioner Joe Friday to investigate the role of the embassy in the events leading to Abarca’s death.

On February 5, Meera Karunananthan of the Blue Planet Project and allies stood with Abarca’s son José Luis as he hand-delivered a letter asking for an investigation to the commissioner’s office in Ottawa.

But the commissioner refused to investigate Abarca’s murder.

The CBC now reports, “The Abarca family and a coalition of Mexican and Canadian environmental groups have long argued that the part the Canadian embassy played in the affair needs to be investigated. …In February of this year, Mining Watch Canada, together with Mexican groups and members of the Abarca family, petitioned [the commissioner] to launch an investigation of the embassy’s role in the deadly events around the mine protests. …The petition named embassy officials and accused the diplomats of both acts and omissions that increased the danger to Abarca.”

The articles adds, “The petitioners say they don’t accept the dismissal of their allegations and are appealing to the courts for a judicial review of Friday’s decision.”

A MiningWatch Canada media release further explains, “The family of Mariano Abarca, a highly respected community leader who was murdered in late 2009 after leading peaceful protests over the impacts of a Canadian-owned mine, has applied for judicial review of a decision from the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner. …The Abarca family is joined by the Mariano Abarca Environmental Foundation, the Faculty of Law at the Autonomous University of Chiapas, Otros Mundos Chiapas, the Mexican Network of Mining Affected People and MiningWatch Canada in their application for judicial review.”

For Council of Canadians blogs seeking justice for Abarca dating back to December 2009, please click here.