Canadian pension funds quietly profit from destruction and oppression in Chile

Media Release
May 12, 2011

(Ottawa)  Protests and violent police reaction erupted across Chile on Monday following the approval of two unpopular and potentially devastating dams by a presidentially appointed commission.  Police fired water cannons and tear gas at the largely peaceful protests and arrested as many as 100 protesters, including Sara Larraín, the internationally renowned director of environmental group Chile Sustentable.

While the project – which threatens to drown thousands of acres of farmland, destroy endangered ecosystems, and open up the remote Patagonia region to further development by heavy industry –  is opposed by 61% of Chileans, it could spell big profits for some Canadian pension plans. 

Transelec is the only company in Chile with the expertise and resources to build the 2,200 kilometre transmission corridor - through wildlife reserves and national parks – required to take the electricity from the dams in southern Chile to the mines and cities in northern Chile. Transelec is an electricity transmission company controlled by Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, and the British Columbia Investment Management Corp. The Council of Canadians is demanding that the Canadian pension funds reject the HidroAysen project.

The Council of Canadians has for several years opposed these dams and the transmission lines and has worked with groups in Chile to oppose the destructive influence of Canadian mining companies that seek the power that would be generated from this project, as well as calling for public ownership of the now private water utilities that are controlled by Canadians pension plans.

“Canadians support democracy, freedom of expression, and responsible environmental stewardship at home and around the world,“ says Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “But most Canadians have no idea that their pension plans are fuelling the kind of environmental destruction planned in Chile. In a global world, what can seem far away may be very close to home. Canadians must stand with the people of Chile in opposing this terrible project and condemning the undemocratic and violent actions of the state.”

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To read the report, Conflicts Over Water in Chile: Between Human Rights and Market Rules, co-edited by Sara Larraín and published in English by the Council of Canadians, click here