My Canada includes rights of Indigenous Peoples.
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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Canadian mines, Canadian UN diplomats disappear in Niger

Groups fighting for the rights of ethnic Tuaregs understood that Mr. Fowler was trying to help them, Dr. Ahmed said, and he hinted that it might be Niger's government who had abducted him.

“Who has an interest in Mr. Fowler not doing his work?” he asked.


Tuareg rebel groups have accused uranium mining companies, including French firm Areva and Canadian company Global Uranium Corp., of being complicit in the Niger government's abuses in the country's north.

Conflicting claims deepen diplomat mystery

Rebel group's hasty about-face has UN officials wondering whether two missing Canadians were mixed up in factional infighting in Niger

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

OTTAWA/NIAMEY — The disappearance of two Canadians on a high-level UN mission to Niger grew even murkier yesterday, when a rebel group claimed responsibility for abducting them but later denied any involvement.

The bizarre claims and counterclaims by the group of Tuareg rebels, who eventually sought to cast the blame on Niger's government, left United Nations officials trying to evaluate whether their envoys are embroiled in infighting between rebel factions, but seemed to provide no solid information on where they are.

The car carrying retired Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler, the UN special envoy to Niger, his colleague Louis Guay, and

a locally hired driver was found Sunday night 45 kilometres outside the capital, Niamey, with three cellphones, a camera and a jacket still inside.

Niger's Communications Minister, Mohamed Ben Omar, said efforts to locate the three men had so far yielded nothing. And a UN spokesman in New York, Farhan Haq, said there has been no direct contacts from the diplomats or anyone claiming to hold them.

Canadian officials, meanwhile, said little about the case.

“Right now our focus is to work with the UN and Niger authorities to determine Ambassador Fowler's whereabouts as well as Mr. Guay's whereabouts and to ascertain their welfare,” said a Foreign Affairs spokeswoman, Lisa Monette.

The three disappeared in the country's relatively secure southwest, hundreds of kilometres from the northern regions where Tuareg rebels in the Niger Movement for Justice, or MNJ, have mounted an armed insurrection since 2007.

The rebels accuse Niger's government of “ethnocide,” saying they have been displaced from pastoral lands and excluded from a fair share of revenues from the uranium mines operated by French and Canadian firms.

Mr. Haq said that exploring ways to resolve the conflict with the rebels was part of Mr. Fowler's mandate. And Mr. Ben Omar revealed Mr. Fowler had twice sought permission – which had been denied – to travel to Niger's north to visit a planned uranium mine site.

Yesterday morning, a rebel splinter group formed in May, the Front des Forces de Redressement, or FFR, released a statement on its website saying it had abducted Mr. Fowler and three others in a “commando” operation.

That statement, attributed to its high-ranking “war commissioner,” Rhissa Ag Boula, said Canada is arming Niger's government, an assertion Ms. Monette denied.

But the FFR's president, Mohamed Awtchiki Kriska, quickly denied any involvement.

“We have no information. The person who put that information on our website was misled. This type of action is contrary to the vision and the approach of the FFR,” Mr. Kriska said. Mr. Ag Boula later told Radio France Internationale the group was not involved.

A second communiqué appeared on the group's website yesterday afternoon, saying the FFR was not involved, and if another group that shares the same goals had abducted the diplomats, the FFR is not responsible.

“We hope that Mr. Fowler will be rapidly returned to Canadian consular authorities, or representatives of the United Nations, because the Niger army could endanger his security to impede the mission he leads, and at the same time accuse rebel movements.”

Tuareg rebel groups have accused uranium mining companies, including French firm Areva and Canadian company Global Uranium Corp., of being complicit in the Niger government's abuses in the country's north.

But Dangana Ahmed, a spokesman for the main rebel group, the MNJ, said in a telephone interview that the group welcomed Mr. Fowler's efforts to find solutions to Niger's problems.

“His efforts went in the direction of more justice, more respect for human rights, more development for local populations, so more good governance,” Dr. Ahmed said. “We think people like him are needed.”

He said Mr. Fowler was expected to meet MNJ officials outside Niger at a later date.

Groups fighting for the rights of ethnic Tuaregs understood that Mr. Fowler was trying to help them, Dr. Ahmed said, and he hinted that it might be Niger's government who had abducted him.

“Who has an interest in Mr. Fowler not doing his work?” he asked.

Despite the international attention focused on the disappearance of the two diplomats, it remains unclear precisely why Mr. Fowler and Mr. Guay travelled outside the capital.

Mr. Ben Omar said Monday they had visited the Canadian-operated Samira Hill gold mine before their car was found. But Mr. Haq said the UN has yet to confirm a precise account of Mr. Fowler's travels that day.

Mr. Fowler, appointed special envoy in July by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, had visited Niger once earlier this year. He arrived for a second visit Thursday and was to meet government officials and others as part of “exploratory discussions” to help address “challenges to the country's stability,” Mr. Haq said.

Boureima Hama is a freelance reporter.

Fight for Public Involvement in Environmental Assessment Heads To Supreme Court

First Time Environmental Group Granted Leave to Appeal to Supreme Court of Canada

(Ottawa/Vancouver) A long battle over the public’s right to be consulted on large mines and other industrial projects is now heading to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Supreme Court decided today to allow MiningWatch Canada to appeal a decision of the Federal Court of Appeal. The decision is being heralded as a significant milestone for environmentalists, as this is the first time an environmental group has been given leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.

“The Supreme Court has recognized the importance of environmental protection, and specifically the importance of public participation in the environmental assessment process, in deciding to hear this case,” said Jamie Kneen, Communications Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada. “Huge projects like this, with significant environmental impacts, are not supposed to proceed without public involvement.”

The case revolves around the contentious Red Chris mine, a proposed open-pit copper and gold mine that poses a serious threat to the headwaters of the Stikine, Nass, and Skeena rivers in northern British Columbia – known to First Nations as the “Sacred Headwaters” region. The project’s proponent, Imperial Metals, proposes to destroy fish-bearing streams by damming them and using these natural waters to dump toxic mine waste.

Under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and its regulations, metal mines processing more than 3,000 tonnes of ore per day must undergo comprehensive assessments, including public participation. The proposed Red Chris mine would process 30,000 tonnes of ore every day. However, the federal departments of Fisheries and Oceans and Natural Resources Canada conducted a simple screening-level assessment – excluding public participation – before approving the project in May 2006.

Ecojustice (formerly Sierra Legal Defence Fund) launched a lawsuit on behalf of MiningWatch in June 2006. The groups asked the Federal Court to overturn the federal government’s screening assessment. In September 2007, the Federal Court sided with the environmentalists, ruling that the federal government had unlawfully evaded a comprehensive review of the Red Chris mine project. But in 2008, Imperial Metals and the federal government successfully appealed that decision to the Federal Court of Appeal.

“The Supreme Court’s willingness to hear our appeal indicates that public consultation on major mines and other industrial projects is a significant issue nationwide,” said Lara Tessaro, staff lawyer with Ecojustice. “I look forward to fighting for the public’s right to participate in environmental assessments.”

For more information, please contact:

  • Lara Tessaro, Staff Lawyer, Ecojustice, phone (604) 685-5618 x245, cell (604) 313-3132
  • Jamie Kneen, Communications Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada, phone (613) 569-3439, cell (613) 761-2273


Mining takes place in many parts of Canada, mostly on Aboriginal lands, and causing a range of impacts - environmental, economic, social, and health-related.


Unreleased Report Forecasts Water Troubles

News Release: The Council of Canadians and MiningWatch Canada have made public a report drafted by Environment Canada in December 2007 revealing that the agency had documented crucial information regarding the looming freshwater crisis in Canada. [October 20, 2008 08:54 AM]

Federal government denies need to consult public on major mining projects: Ruling will test strength of revised environmental assessment law

Joint news release with Ecojustice, with background: Do citizens have a right to be consulted about proposed large industrial developments? This question is at the heart of a major appeal to be heard by the Federal Court, May 15th – the ruling will profoundly influence efforts to protect Canada’s environment. [May 13, 2008 11:37 PM]

Lawsuit exposes Canada’s toxic tailings secret: Groups say feds flouting law, hiding mining pollution from public

(Joint news release with Ecojustice and Great Lakes United, with background) Ecojustice filed a lawsuit on behalf of MiningWatch Canada and Great Lakes United against Canada’s Minister of Environment to ensure that the hundreds of millions of kilograms of toxic mining waste being kept secret from the Canadian public are reported. It alleges that the Minister broke the law when he directed mining companies to ignore their legal responsibility to report millions of kilograms of pollution from their operations under the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI). [November 7, 2007 09:32 AM]

Government to Sacrifice More Canadian Lakes to the Mining Industry

MiningWatch has learned from Environment Canada that together with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans they now maintain a list of some twenty lakes that are slated for destruction by mine waste over the next few years. This amounts to a massive public subsidy to the global mining industry in the form of healthy Canadian lakes. [June 25, 2007 03:33 PM]

There Are No Clean Diamonds: What You Need to Know About Canadian Diamonds

There are no clean diamonds. Exploring for them, digging them out of the ground and selling them requires sacrifices from the natural environment, from the wildlife and fish that live on it, and from the Aboriginal people who depend on it. We want to ensure that the public understands that Canada’s Aboriginal communities are engaged in a daily power struggle to ensure that the mines benefit their people, and to ensure that these mines do not irreversibly damage the intricate web of life on which we all depend. [December 6, 2006 11:35 PM]

Green Budget Coalition Recommends Strategic Spending Cuts

News Release: The Green Budget Coalition urges the Government of Canada to seize the unique opportunities available to cut spending while improving Canada's long-term environmental, economic, and health status. [March 29, 2006 02:10 PM]

More Precious Than Gold: Mineral Development and the Protection of Biological Diversity in Canada

This discussion paper lays out some of the primary issues and concerns related to mining in protected areas from a biodiversity-protection perspective. It provides an overview for those concerned about mining and environment conflicts, and raises questions about future directions. Prepared by the Environmental Mining Council of British Columbia for the World Wildlife Federation. (PDF, 1.9 MB) [May 23, 1998 12:20 PM]

Annual Day for Industry to Mine Canadians’ Pockets: Mining Association of Canada Takes to the Hill Amidst Growing Criticism

Joint news release with Friends of the Earth Canada. “It is no longer enough for the industry to simply show up with its hands out and plead for more taxpayers’ dollars,” says Graham Saul, Friends of the Earth Canada’s International Program Director. “Canadian mining companies have to be willing to subject themselves to standards of behaviour of which Canadians can be proud.” [November 22, 2005 07:34 AM]

North American Indigenous Peoples Mining Summit, July 27-30, 2005

The North American Indigenous Peoples' Mining Summit brought Indigenous Peoples together from throughout North America to share their stories about how the mining industry has affected their communities and to discuss strategies and solutions. The concluding resolution they passed is included. [September 7, 2005 12:36 PM]

Understanding Mining Taxation in Canada

The astonishing cost of the minerals we take for granted must be respected and accounted for in government policy and industry practice. [August 24, 2004 02:55 PM]

No Rock Unturned: Revitalizing the Economies of Mining Dependent Communities

This document, which includes a literature review and bibliography, provides an overview of current research and information on problems faced by mining-dependent communities and the ways and means by which Canadian communities that are dependent on mining have been able to revitalize their economies in the face of industry down-sizing and closure. [May 31, 2004 11:18 AM]

"Looking Beneath the Surface" — Report Released on Real Costs of Mining

On October 29, MiningWatch Canada and the Pembina Institute for Appropriate Development launched our long-awaited report on public subsidies to the mining industry in Canada. The full report, a summary, and a summary and an abridged version in French (covering Québec) are available for download as PDF files. [November 30, 2002 10:34 AM]

Auditor-General Exposes Abandoned Mines/Contaminated Sites Crisis

On October 22, 2002, Sheila Fraser, the Auditor-General of Canada, released her report on Abandoned Mines in the North. The report lends enormous credibility to everything we have been saying about these toxic time-bombs. [November 30, 2002 10:33 AM]

Canada's mining industry strikes gold - in the taxpayers' wallet: Federal taxpayers spend $13,000 for each mining job

"Looking Beneath the Surface: An Assessment of the Value of Public Support for the Metal Mining Industry in Canada" shows that the cost to federal taxpayers for the care and feeding of the metal mining industry has increased to $383 million a year, while the industry is delivering in return fewer jobs and reduced economic activity. [October 29, 2002 11:07 AM]

The Boreal Below: Mining Issues and Activities in Canada’s Boreal Forest Region

This report provides an overview and general analysis of mining activities and impacts in the Boreal Forest Region of Canada. The report provides a solid and reliable overview and refers the reader to additional resources and information sources. [September 25, 2002 02:39 PM]

Mining Operations Under Residential Areas

In response to TVX Gold's assertion to the Greek group Hellenic Mining Watch that no subsidence problems have arisen from mining under residential areas in Canada, we retained WOM Geological Associates Inc. to conduct a review of Canadian policies and practices with respect to mining under residential areas. [April 25, 2002 12:06 PM]

Canada's Auditor-General Takes On Northern Abandoned Mines

The Auditor-General of Canada's office is looking into abandoned mines in Canada's north, as a follow-up on their contaminated sites recommendations in 1996. [March 15, 2002 11:50 AM]

Report to Mines Ministers from MiningWatch Canada, Quebec, September 10, 2001

This report focuses on three major issues: accounting for the full costs and benefits of mining; regulatory compliance concerns; and mine closure and abandoned mines [September 10, 2001 12:12 PM]

Mining in Remote Areas: Issues and Impacts -- A Community Primer

To respond effectively to the challenges of mineral development, communities need the context and information necessary to understand and weigh the issues. This booklet profiles major impacts associated with mines developed in remote areas. (PDF, 1.2 MB) [May 11, 2001 03:25 PM]

On the Ground Research: A Workshop to Identify the Research Needs of Communities Affected by Large-Scale Mining

Workshop report prepared by MiningWatch Canada and the Canadian Consortium for International Social Development (CCISD). Also in Spanish. [September 1, 2000 11:29 AM]

MiningWatch hosts workshop for communities affected by large scale mining

On April 14-16, MiningWatch Canada hosted thirty participants from eleven different countries at a participatory workshop to look at the research needs of communities affected by mining. We had local community representatives and on-the-ground NGOs from Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Colombia, Suriname, Guyana, Mexico, Peru, Ghana, the United States and Canada. [May 23, 2000 03:36 PM]

Acid Mine Drainage Sites in Canada

Test drive these maps of Acid Mine Drainage sites in Canada. [July 23, 2005 09:05 AM]

Balancing the Books: The Hidden Costs of Mining

In response to the annual Mining Industry Lobby Day, MiningWatch Canada explores the real social, environmental, and human costs of mining. [November 30, 1999 02:56 PM]

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Aboriginal Communities and Mining

Summary of the workshop held in Ottawa, Ontario by the Innu Nation and MiningWatch Canada, September 10-12, 1999. [September 13, 1999 09:35 AM]

Related links

  • Polaris Institute To enable citizen movements to re-skill and re-tool themselves to fight for democratic social change in an age of corporate driven globalization.
  • Impact and Benefit Agreement (IBA) Research Network Aims to connect IBA-focused researchers, IBA signatories, and Northern governmental organizations.
  • The First Perspective Published monthly by Taiga Communications Inc. at Brokenhead First Nation, Manitoba.
  • Google Earth "Fly" wherever you like over the planet in 3-D. Requires a broadband internet connection and a downloadable application.
  • Google Maps 2-dimensional satellite and map images that you can view without any special software, zooming in to any part of the globe.
  • Western Mining Action Network (WMAN) WMAN works to foster a strong network that protects communities, land, water, air, and wildlife by encouraging reform of mining practices and holding government and corporations accountable.
  • Mining Association of Canada
  • Ecojustice Formerly Sierra Legal Defence Fund (SLDF). Environmental law advocacy organization.
  • Indigenous Environmental Network - Indigenous Mining Campaign The Indigenous Environmental Network is an alliance of Indigenous Nations and communities towards sustainable livelihoods, environmental protection of our lands, water and air, and maintaining the sacred Fire of our traditions.
  • Mines and Communities Information and analysis to support communities affected by mining around the world. Much material in Spanish. An excellent resource.
  • Environmental Mining Council of BC The Environmental Mining Council of British Columbia (EMCBC) was formed to address the serious gap in information and action on the environmental impacts of mining in BC.

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My Canada includes rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Two Row Wampum Treaty

Two Row Wampum Treaty
"It is said that, each nation shall stay in their own vessels, and travel the river side by side. Further, it is said, that neither nation will try to steer the vessel of the other." This is a treaty among Indigenous Nations, and with Canada. This is the true nature of our relationships with Indigenous Nations of 'Kanata'.