|Photo: John Bonnar|
For the fifth year in a row, Sakura Saunders shows up for the Barrick
annual shareholders’ meeting in Toronto. But once again, she is turned
back by police and Barrick’s head of security despite the fact that
she’s a shareholder.
Undaunted, she heads over to Simcoe Park across the
street from the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and addresses a crowd
of over 150 supporters while waiting for shareholders to pour out of the
building at the end of the meeting.
Saunders is co-editor of Protestbarrick.net, a
website dedicated to organizing around mining issues, that contains
articles, testimonies and backgrounders about Barrick’s operations
On their website, Protestbarrick.net says, “Barrick
Gold takes advantage of inadequate and poorly enforced regulatory
controls to rob Indigenous Peoples and communities of their land and
livelihoods, destroying sensitive ecosystems, supporting brutal military
and security operations, and suing anyone who dares to report on it.”
Since gold extraction exacts a heavy toll on
Indigenous lands around the world, Protestbarrick.net believes that
reduction, recycling and reuse of gold should eliminate the need for new
and expanded gold mining operations.
But Barrick, the world’s largest gold producer, on
its website claims that it is “committed to conserving and managing
lands and the many varieties of species of plant and animal life that
inhabit these lands, working in consultation with local communities and
regulators. Our sites worldwide are engaged in efforts to protect,
manage and reclaim lands and plant and animal habitats.”
Protestbarrick.net adds that most gold is used for
jewelry or to build personal wealth and therefore serves no useful
purpose. Although Barrick agrees that most of the gold is used for
jewelry and investment, it is quick to point out that gold also plays a
role in medical innovations, the computer, transportation, aerospace and
“Most troubling in this contract is the inclusion
of annual progress reports as a condition for receiving funds,” wrote
Nerenberg, who created the petition for the cancellation of the Munk
“It’s being framed as some sort of donation but
it’s actually a way to let the Munk Foundation brand the university and
take over our school.”
So as public funding for post secondary education
continues to be reduced, Nerenberg refuses to let the corporate sector
step in (with strings attached) to fill the gap.
“Partnering with one of these violent mining companies is not the way to build awareness of global issues,” he says.
As the rally in Toronto gets underway, several
countries around the world are also holding protest rallies against
Barrick Gold during the shareholders’ meeting.
Catherine Coumans, research coordinator and
responsible for the Asia-Pacific program at MiningWatch Canada, reads a
statement from the people in Chile and Argentina who have mobilized to
oppose the Pascua Lama/Valedero project saying, “it endangers the
natural and cultural balance of these valleys, as well as its water
supply, affecting around 70,000 people in Chile and 24,000 in
Four years ago, Sakura Saunders met Nat Lowrey in
person for the first time at the Barrick shareholders’ meeting and the
two have been co-editors at Protestbarrick.net ever since.
“This is really inspiring,” says Lowrey as she
looks out at the crowd assembled in Simcoe Park. In 2007, it was only
Lowrey, Saunders and a young aboriginal Australian woman who came out to
confront Barrick. Lowrey’s encouraged by the support at Wednesday’s
rally and how Canadians have woken up to what Barrick is doing around
Lowrey had a proxy for the shareholders’ meeting but, like Saunders, was turned away by police and Barrick security.
“Our union is active and participating in this
struggle which is demanding justice and accountability in the face of
widespread abuses by Canadian corporate companies not only in the global
south but also in Ontario and across Canada,” says Ilian Burbano, chair
of CUPE Ontario’s International Solidarity Committee.
As a trade unionist, Burbano feels it’s important
to speak out against Barrick considering that all Canadians are
complicit in the benefits and wealth that’s generated by the Canadian
corporate mining industry, noting that a lot of pension monies are
invested in the mining industry by CUPE and other unions.
“Anyone contributing to the CPP is contributing to
Canadian corporate mining capital,” says Burbano. “But that doesn’t mean
we’re going to be complicit in a passive way.”
The fact that protesters are forced to rally across
the street rather than allowed inside to address the board of Barrick
and other shareholders symbolizes the fact, says Burbano, that there is
no justice in the industry. But that won’t deter them from taking a
stand and continuing to organize at the grassroots level around mining
In that way, protesters can build a stronger
movement to educate Canadians about the negative impact of Canadian
mining activity around the world.
In the middle of Burbano’s speech, the shareholders
begin to exit the Convention Centre. Protesters grab their banners and
placards and begin to move quickly across the street to the edge of the
sidewalk where they are greeted by a line of bicycle police.
“All right everybody, get over there,” says
Saunders. “Last ten inches (of the sidewalk) are ours.” They take that
space and start making a lot of noise.
“Shame on your Barrick Gold, human rights cannot be sold,” they chant.
Half an hour later, the protesters march east along Front Street and north to Barrick Gold headquarters at 131 Bay Street.
“We’re here, right in front of Barrick Gold,” says Saunders. “The belly of the beast. Right?”
Several flight delays keep Jethro Tulin from
speaking at the Barrick shareholders’ meeting on Wednesday. But after
finally making it to Toronto, he addresses the crowd outside 131 Bay
Street. Tulin made the trip from his home in Porgera, Papua New Guinea.
“In Papua New Guinea, Barrick dumps toxic mine
tailings directly into the river,” says Protestbarrick.net on their
website. “Meanwhile, the original landowners complain of a lack of
compensation and infrastructure development, and a lack of access to
Barrick officials. There is also a large scale human rights crisis
involving the death and injury of small scale miners near the mine
Tulin has been attending the shareholders’ meeting
for the last three years and organizing around Barrick’s Porgera mine
since it opened. In 2003, he founded the Akali Tange Association (ATA), a
human rights organization documenting abuses, including allegations of
gang rapes, at the Porgera mine.
“They’re not going to get away with what they’ve done,” says Tulin.