Thursday, October 24, 2013

Modern Colonialism: Who Knew?

           We have all read the books and heard the stories. We know about the many tragedies that have occurred throughout history—the Holocaust, the Crusades, North American and African slavery—but there seems to be a general assumption within the public that these atrocious human rights violations are things of the past. After all, numerous world conventions have met and many documents have been made, such as the The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in order to combat events such as colonization of indigenous peoples and the resulting tragedies that tend to come with this. So, these things don’t happen in the modern world, right?


Recently it was revealed that a Canadian mining company by the name of Hudbay Minerals, Inc. has received a suit from the Mayan Q'eqchi' people of Lote Ocho, Guatemala, and will be standing trial for numerous gang rapes, murders, and attacks that were committed against Indigenous Guatemalans by Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel, of which Hudbay Minerals, Inc. is the parent company. Cory Wanless, an attorney with the Toronto-based Klippensteins law firm said, “It is a massive victory for our clients and for human rights.” “Before this decision, no claim brought by individuals that had been harmed by Canadian mining abroad had ever gotten into Canadian courts at all. They didn’t even have the ability to forward their claims.”
To make matters worse, Canadian mining companies have been known for their repression of Guatemalans in this region since the 1970s and 1980s. While it may be a “massive victory” for the rights of little-known indigenous peoples to be recognized and upheld, it is still inexcusable that companies can get away with neglectful behaviors for so long. These rapes and murders are an effort to get the indigenous peoples off their land so that foreign companies can come in and extract the natural resources there—in other words, modern colonialism at its worst.

            Fortunately for the natives of Lote Ocho, justice will come eventually. “This case is the first of this kind but I think that claims like this are going to be much more common,” Wandless said. “It is no longer possible for Canadian courts to deny that this is a Canadian problem that deserves a Canadian solution.”

          Hopefully this trial can serve to show how we must all constantly be on guard to protect those who are helpless from human rights violations. Otherwise these tragedies will continue to occur and history will be on repeat once again.

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