publisher and authors of a controversial book denouncing abuses and
crimes allegedly committed in Africa by Canadian-owned mining, oil and
pharmaceutical companies have launched a legal bid to quash a $6-million
defamation lawsuit filed against them by Barrick Gold Corp.
by about 100 supporters, some wearing red gags, Les Editions Écosociété
publisher Anne-Marie Voisard stood on the Montreal courthouse steps to
announce the filing of a motion in Superior Court declaring the lawsuit
abusive and therefore inadmissible.
According to Voisard, the suit
is designed to “censor” critics and deprive them of fundamental rights,
including freedom of expression.
The motion is made possible
under Quebec’s anti-SLAPP – strategic lawsuit against public
participation – legislation. It refers to lawsuits designed to censor,
intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with heavy legal
Under revisions to Quebec’s Code of Civil
Procedure, a corporation suing and suspected of an abusive legal action
also could be forced to prove its claim, cover the defendant’s legal
costs, or face punitive damages.
The book in question – Noir
Canada, subtitled “Pillage, corruption et criminalité en Afrique
(Plundering, Bribery and Crime in Africa),” written by academics Alain
Deneault, Delphine Abadie and William Sacher – reviews abuses alleged to
have been committed by Canadian firms in Africa.
The book links
Barrick to an incident in which 52 miners were allegedly buried alive in
the Tanzanian mine of Bulyanhulu in 1996. The mine was owned then by
Vancouver-based Sutton and sold to Barrick in 1999, but the book
suggests Barrick acted with Sutton to prepare the deposit for
Deneault has said the book does not hold
Barrick directly responsible for the incident, but presents various
opinions on the case, including Barrick’s version.
The motion is
expected to be heard in the next few months, while the lawsuit hearings
is scheduled to start in September and last 40 days.
“The authors of Noir Canada simply do not have the resources necessary to assume the cost of such a trial,” Voisard said.
the court finds the suit is abusive, the court could quash it. If it’s
allowed to go ahead, the defendants want the court to order Barrick to
cover their legal costs, Voisard said.