Thursday, April 16, 2009

Canadian Terror: A Review of a New Radio Documentary on the Canadian Mining Industry

by Bryan Doherty
Basics Issue #13 (Apr/May 2009)

You want to know the names of those “waging global terror”? The new audio documentary, Path of Destruction: Canadian Mining Companies Around the World, from Asad Ismi and Kristen Schwartz, shows us we can start a list with the names of mining companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Canadian mining’s path of destruction isn’t limited to Canada. As these companies spread throughout the world, they apply the tried-and-true practices they developed in this country to be the top players in a global money game that thieves, pollutes, terrorizes and kills.

With perfect clarity, Ismi and Schwartz demonstrate how Canadian mining capital brings misery and devastation with it wherever it goes. In Sudbury, Ontario, the Canadian mining industry has worked hand-in-hand with the government and courts to steal the land from its indigenous people. In the documentary we hear from Chief Petahtegoose of the Whitefish Lake First Nation, not only about the theft of their land, but how those mines have poisoned the water in the area, polluted the air and contaminated the soil. The Chief’s own words link this devastation to the earlier devastation inflicted on his people by diseases such as smallpox spread by early European settlers. The genocide of indigenous people, started by the settling of this country, continues with the theft and destruction of their land.

Sudbury’s not the only place with minerals though. And when Canadian mining went looking for more earth to tear up and lives to ruin, they brought with them the support of their government and years of brutal know-how. Following the destructive path of Canadian mining in the Ismi and Schwartz documentary is to bear witness to a rampage where nothing stands in the way of profit.

When Canadian mining expanded internationally and met with resistance, it proved itself capable of sinking to almost unbelievable depths. These businessmen went about the business of instigating and fuelling brutal conflict and warfare in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Guatemala, among others. Massacre, forced displacement, torture, assassination, and intimidation became the ‘business model’ of Canadian mining companies’ (such as Inco and Barrick Gold) expansion to the global south.

When European and American-backed paramilitaries or armies weren’t available to do their dirty work, mining relied on the support of courts and politicians to clear the way for them. The Canadian government has worked diligently on their mining friends’ behalf. Through the Canadian courts at home and its embassies abroad, the mining industry’s interests have been well protected, to the detriment of those who work the mines or live anywhere near them. Environmental and labour protections are scrapped or ignored, leaving the companies free to pillage the land and destroy the health of their workers. Corporate taxes are erased to the degree that a Manitoba-based mining company recently paid taxes to the Canadian government for the first time in 75 years.

Path of Destruction illustrates that savage crimes against humanity and environmental devastation are not the exception, but the rule, when the Canadian mining industry is concerned. Ismi and Schwartz’s spectacular documentary not only demonstrate the abhorrent crimes of the mining industry but also the ways in which their imperialist and genocidal crimes can be successfully challenged. In Canada, Native communities are at the forefront of resistance to murder and theft perpetrated by Canadian mining capital. Likewise, successful popular movements have led resistance to mining’s incursions all over the south, resulting in progressive defeats of capital’s aims in favour of the well-being and wealth of workers and indigenous peoples. The closing words of Edward Gudoy are a healthy prescription for the cancer spread by Canadian mining: “At the end of the day, it’s about workers taking control of the resources – including the natural resources – including the economy of the country – this is the bottom line. In the north and south.”