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Friday, July 13, 2012

El oro o la vida

Yesterday a group of us sat and watched the excellent film El Oro o la Vida. It is about mining in Guatemala and other Latin American countries and the role that Canada plays in the exploitation of mineral resources in this region.

I was the only Canadian in the room with our Guatemalan teachers and some American students. I don't think I could have asked for a more interesting situation.

The film was difficult to watch, it displayed some of the horrible effects of water pollution from the mines on the people in various villages. It would then cut to a mining executive from Gold Corp confidently explaining how there is not water pollution caused by his mines. It explained also how many Guatemalan and Salvadoran activists have been killed or have simply disappeared during the struggle against the mining corporations.

After the movie was over we talked about what we had seen. As the only Canadian in the room, I was allowed to go first. I tried to explain what I know about the situation using my Spanish - a challenging task! The American students generally were very surprised to learn that Canada is a major player in mining and that we contribute significantly to the violence, unrest and sickness caused by the mines.

People still seem to think that we are the good guys, that we help people around the world. It was an eye- opener for them to learn that we exploit people quite effectively.

I also tried to explain that this situation is not well known even in our own country. Gold Corp seems to be better known in Ottawa for example as a major contributor to the University of Ottawa!

I think it would be a good experience for more Canadians to be here and sit with people and try to explain why we do these things with impunity.

After our discussion our Guatemalan hosts thanked us for contributing.

A great learning experience all around.

 


 

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