Canadian academics and free speech advocates are up in arms over two mining multinationals’ use of libel law to bury their critics in lawsuits. I quote the most indignant part of the report:
Canadian academics and free speech advocates are up in arms over two mining multinationals’ use of libel law to bury their critics in lawsuits. Alain Deneault, Delphine Abadie, and William Sacher published a book called Noir Canada. Pillage, corruption et criminalité en Afrique that detailed well-sourced human rights abuses by the multinational resource companies Barrick Gold and Banro Corporation. The companies have responded with $11 million in lawsuits, aimed at bankrupting their critics with court fees. Barrick Gold has threatened other publishers on the basis of brief summaries of yet-to-be-published critical books.
As the book is not available (or maybe it is at Amazon.com), I have not read it. As it is in French, I could not read it, even if I had it. I am a poor judge in this matter. Still, as a blogger, I have the right to comment.
Maybe this is an old story that I have not hitherto stumbled across. Here from a 2009 report is an analysis of the issues:
It was just over a year ago, on April 15th 2008, that Alain Deneault, Deplhine Abadie and William Sacher officially launched Noir Canada: Pillage, corruption et criminalité en Afrique, published by Les Éditions Écosociété, despite legal threats of lawsuits by Canadian multinational Barrick Gold (see demand letter sent by Barrick Gold at the following address: http://www.ecosociete.org/t117-Mise_en_d_Barrick.PDF ). Two defamation lawsuits followed, with Canadian mining companies Barrick Gold and Banro claiming damages amounting to $11 million dollars. The authors and publisher of Noir Canada have since had to deal with amendments to these claims, multiple and cumbersome judicial proceedings (requests for documents, endless interviews conducted by opposing counsel, etc.), the preparation of voluminous defence records for two different jurisdictions, numerous commutes to Toronto, the rejection of a request to transfer Banro’s Ontario lawsuit to Quebec, the appeal of that decision, along with the considerable costs that such proceedings require and the psychological and moral strain that comes with being put under such pressure. In the meantime, the authors of Noir Canada remind us that “the Canadian pillage of Africa continues” ( http://www.alternatives.ca/IMG/pdf/Vol.15No7-ok.pdf ), while “the Canadian government has just consecrated Canada as being a judicial haven for extraction corporations worldwide”. During these trying times, university scholars, organisations, unions, religious groups, politicians, African associations, and citizens have all expressed their support towards Les Éditions Écosociété and the three authors of Noir Canada. They have helped continue this fight for freedom of expression, the freedom to research and the free participation in public debate. Their precious support has especially contributed to ensuring that the necessary debate surrounding the role that Canadian companies and institutions play in the suffering of so many Africans. This is an especially important debate for our democracy, considering the fact that so many Canadian pension funds, mutual funds, RRSP’s and others provide funding for an industry that is the target of so many worrying allegations across the globe.
Bloggers have just discovered the story. Here is a quote from a few days ago:
A report commissioned by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada–that has since been suppressed–indicates some fairly significant problems in the industry with respect to commercial operations outside of Canada. Rather than actually deal with the issues, two Canadian mining companies have decided to file libel lawsuits against a team of academics who had previously undercovered very similar findings.
Barrick has spoken. Here is a pretty lousy report on their response:
For several years now I have been following the growing movement against the activity of Canadian mining companies. Mostly I have focused on their presence in Latin America, but not exclusively. I invite you to listen to a speech given by Peter Monk, founder of Barrick Gold at the last stockholders meeting. The speech is accompanied by photos that illustrate another side of his statements — in this sense it is not neutral. It will be for you to decide. However, I can also say that I have visited mines in several areas, especially of Latin America, and read a lot of documentation as well as listening to representatives of local communities in a wide range of areas. What the pictures show, as far as I can tell, is authentic. (I should add that Barrick Gold is suing the authors and the publishing house of Noir Canada, a study of the operation of Canadian mining particularly in Africa. They want 5 million dollars in damages. The case will go before the Supreme Court of Canada, with the authors arguing that this is a case of an unjustified attempt to muzzle opposition, a case of a SLAPP suite designed only to intimidate people from speaking out.)
Here is the reference for the VIDEO: PETER MONK.
One way to get critics to shut up is to try them to death. That is, in classic David vs. Goliath fashion a company with deep pockets can institute legal proceedings against a smaller player which doesn’t have the means to defend itself. The result too often is that the challenger goes broke, and other people or groups are scared off from raising embarrassing question. Barrick Gold has been after the Quebec publisher Ecosociété since 2008 when the small house put out Noir Canada : pillage, corruption et criminalité en Africa, The mining giant filed libel proceedings in Ontario, whose laws are different from those of Quebec. The maneuver has meant that Ecosociété’s resources are strained since it has to pay for a legal team in the other province. Furthermore, were the case tried in Quebec, it could come over that province’s legislation aimed at countering libel freeze. The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear Ecosociété’s request to have the case heard in Quebec. There’s no guarantee that the court will allow the transfer, but the fact that it will decide will clarify the rules of the game, and just might make it harder for the big guys to intimidate the small ones.
Most of the blog comment is in French. I cannot easily follow the details. But I can say that Barrick is loosing this one in the social media. Maybe the book is indeed terrible and untrue. Maybe the book is pure libel and prejudiced rubbish. Maybe the author need to be taken down for lies and propaganda. But in this instance the mining industry looks like the bully, not the innocent guy attacked unfairly.
I am no judge of these matters. but my advice to Barrick is this: drop the whole thing. Issue a press release saying that the book is rubbish and distorted and untrue. And note that you have dropped law suites on the basis that, as Canadians, you support free speech, even though it is bullshit speech and attacks you for things you did not do. And If you did do the nasty things of which you are accused, be American: say sorry and note that you won’t do it again and have taken steps to punish the guilty and to make sure it does not happen again. In the U.S.A. both Democrats and Republican do this all the time and get away with it. Let us not be so provincial in a matter of a mere book in French that no-one worth worrying about can read.
I mean, at the end of the day Africa is Africa: a nasty place of dictators, rapists, tribal interests, death, and murder. If you go mining there, you must expect the worst. And if it happens, shrug it off as the price of doing business in a nasty place. Contribute to Mugabe’s retirement instead.