Eight months and counting: Steelworkers ask Information Commissioner to
investigate government's failure to release information on Excellon
TORONTO, July 11, 2013 /CNW/ - The United Steelworkers (USW) union is
asking federal Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault to investigate
the Conservative government's failure, for more than eight months, to
release information on a Canadian mining company's controversial
operations in Mexico.
"This case reflects a disturbing pattern by Stephen Harper's
Conservatives to obstruct public access to government information,"
said Ken Neumann, USW National Director for Canada.
"It also demonstrates how the Harper government condones the bad
behaviour of Canadian mining companies operating abroad, where
communities are protesting environmental, social and human rights
abuses," Neumann said.
The USW filed requests under the Access to Information Act last November with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International
Trade (DFAIT), asking for the release of government documents relating
to Canadian mining company Excellon Resources Inc.
Excellon operates a silver mine in Durango, Mexico, where communal
landowners and workers have accused the company of numerous
transgressions of their environmental, economic and labour rights.
More than eight months after the USW filed the information requests, and
despite repeated follow-up requests made by the union, the government
has failed to release a single document.
Recently, a similar complaint concerning the operations of Canadian company Blackfire Exploration in
Mexico languished for 19 months before DFAIT replied.
In February 2013, the federal Information Commissioner stated in a CBC report that Canada was "at a record low in terms of timeliness" in responding
to information requests. "Canadians should be angry" about the Harper
government's handling of "a fundamental democratic right," Legault
This spring, Legault's office launched an unprecedented investigation
into complaints that the Harper government is restricting public access
to taxpayer-funded science.
Under the Harper government, Canada's access to information record ranks
a lowly 55th in the world, according to the Centre for Law and Democracy, which
notes the Conservatives have not given the Information Commissioner any
authority to order resolutions of access complaints.
The USW believes the Canadian government may have acted irresponsibly in
supporting Excellon Resources in its ongoing disputes with Mexican
landowners and supporters of Los Mineros, the only democratic union
that is seeking to represent workers at the Excellon mine.
"Although we expect much of the information we requested will be
redacted based on some phony pretence, we believe that our complaint
with the Commissioner is fundamentally necessary to protect our
democratic right to obtain information and to hold our government
accountable" said Neumann.
"This is also part of our effort to expose the Harper government's
secrecy and how it supports corporations as opposed to working people
in Canada and abroad."
Los Mineros is contesting in the Mexican courts the loss of an election
to represent workers that included pressure and threats from mine
management; the sudden appearance of some 100 men - many carrying
sticks - who at one point blocked the mine entrance to prevent workers
from entering; and the presence of a large number of heavily armed
municipal, state and federal police.
Communal landowners on whose land the mine is located have also been
fighting Excellon in the Mexican courts to get back their land and to
enforce agreements the company made with them. In October 2012, another
group of thugs attacked and destroyed a peaceful encampment where
workers and landowners were protesting the actions of Excellon.
A chronology of the USW Access to Information efforts.
SOURCE: United Steelworkers (USW)
For further information:
Ken Neumann, USW National Director for Canada, 416-544-5951
Joe Drexler, USW Strategic Campaigns, 416-544-6009, 416-434-7907, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, email@example.com