colombien et Énergie Nouveau- Brunswick: un cas de racisme
Au Nouveau- Brunswick,
l'électricité est produite à partir du charbon extrait des mines de la
Colombie. Certains appellent le charbon de la Colombie " le charbon
du sang des Colombiens " à cause des déplacements sanglants des
collectivités et des assassinats des leaders syndicaux attribuables aux
mines de charbon de la Colombie.
L'auteure, Tracy Glynn
explique qu'il y a des campagnes actives au Nouveau- Brunswick pour
s'assurer que les compagnies d'électricité qui achètent le charbon de
la Colombie influencent les compagnies pour qu'elles en viennent à des
ententes équitables avec les collectivités affectées par les activités
de la mine. En 2007, une enquête indépendante a été mise en oeuvre
pour examiner les effets d'une des mines de charbon. Et une entente a
été convenue qui satisfait la plupart des demandes des collectivités.
Toutefois, il reste du travail à faire pour s'assurer que l'entente soit
Ici au Nouveau- Brunswick,
Glynn fait appel à la population pour qu'elle fasse pression sur Énergie
NB pour qu'elle adopte une politique d'achat éthique et qu'elle influence
les autorités colombiennes pour qu'elles traduisent en justice les
responsables des meurtres et du harassement subit par les syndicalistes,
les défendeurs des droits de l'homme et les civils.
Colombian Coal and New Brunswick Power:
A Case of Environmental Racism
Conservation Council of New Brunswick
racism has long been recognized as a problem. However, it has not gone
away. Instead, it has worsened in many ways as a result of government
cutbacks in environmental enforcement and of softening of
environmental protection regulation, also known as streamlining or
deregulation. The "war on terror" has also been used to shut
down groups that confronted environmental racism. Many activists from
the Philippines to Ecuador and elsewhere have been branded
eco-terrorists for criticizing mega industrial projects like mining -
a label that could very well be a death sentence. The label was a
death sentence for Ken Saro-Wiwa and nine of his colleagues who were
executed a decade ago by the Nigerian government for what many believe
was their role in bringing to attention Shell's ecological effects on
the Niger Delta.
"environmental racism" was coined by American
Reverend Dr. Benjamin F. Chaviz, Jr. over twenty years ago
during a church commission on racism. Environmental racism
- racial discrimination is used to determine the level of
environmental regulations or enforcement;
- polluting industries are situated in marginalized communities;
- marginalized groups are excluded from decision-making bodies
that determine the fate of their environment.
Environmental racism persists because
it is an important part of increasing the profits of those oppressing
Colombians pay the
price for New Brunswick comfort and complicity
A case of environmental racism in New
Brunswick concerns the coal extracted from mines in Colombia that is
then exported to our province for power generation. Coal from Colombia
has been dubbed "Colombian blood coal" because of violent
displacement of communities and assassinations of union leaders at the
country's coal mines.
NB Power's Belledune plant burns coal
produced in the Cerrejón mine in La Guajira, Colombia. Coal extracted
from Cerrejón is exclusively exported to meet the energy demands of
New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Massachusetts.
Since the development of Cerrejón in
1982, indigenous Wayuu and Afro-Colombian communities in La Guajira
have been forcibly displaced from their lands. Traditional
agriculture-based livelihoods have been destroyed with the loss of
land and industrial contamination. More communities face similar fates
with planned expansion of the world's largest open-pit coal mine.
During the violent displacement, several people sustained serious
injuries after being attacked by police.
NB Power Plant in
(Photo: Tracy Glynn)
On a 2006 delegation to the affected
communities, Jairo Quiroz, a union leader said, "Their
fundamental rights have been violated. These communities lack the most
minimal conditions necessary for a decent life. They seem to belong to
the living dead."
Debbie Kelly, an RCMP forensics officer
who participated in the same delegation reported, "Some only eat
every three days and for the smiling little children, it is hard to
take. Even though their little bodies are racked in open sores from
contaminated water, they don't cry."
There have been active campaigns in New
Brunswick as well as Nova Scotia and the U.S. to ensure that
electricity-generating companies buying coal from Cerrejón put
pressure on the company to negotiate fair agreements with communities
affected by the mine's operations. Numerous speaking tours and public
meetings in North America and Europe have been arranged to educate the
Jesus Brochero, a union leader with
SINTRACARBON representing the works at Cerrejón, was the most recent
visitor to the Maritimes. He spoke to crowds in Fredericton and
Tatamagouche, NS, and met with union leaders in Moncton in early
December. He also met with NB Power executives to discuss the
situation of workers at the mine and to ask for NB Power's support in
their demands for safe and healthy working conditions.
Colombia is the most dangerous place in
the world for people active in trade unions; over 2,510 trade union
leaders have been murdered in the last ten years. On March 22, 2008,
Adolfo González Montes, a worker at Cerrejón and union leader, was
tortured and killed at his home. He is survived by his wife and four
small children. The Colombian government's failure to act on such
crimes allows the perpetrators to kill trade unionists with impunity.
Despite knowledge of Colombia's deplorable human rights track record,
Canada is in the process of approving a free trade agreement with
The Fredericton Peace Coalition,
Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network, New Democratic Party, church
groups such Development & Peace, and social justice groups in NB,
have asked NB Power to develop a detailed human rights policy in their
business dealings and to ensure compliance with this policy through an
independent third party. NB Power has been asked to ensure that their
purchases, operations, or investments do not directly or indirectly
cause human rights abuses. They have been asked to include
International Labour Organization standards concerning the rights of
indigenous peoples and the safety of trade unionists in their policy.
The provincial crown corporation has acted on requests to write
letters to Cerrejón asking for fair dealings with the affected
communities and their workers.
Left to right: Danny Leger, president, CUPE
NB, Jesus Brochero, Colombian miners' union, SINTRACARBON, Michel Boudreau,
president, N.B. Federation of Labour.
(Photo: Tracy Glynn)
Cerrejón's multinational owners
include BHP Billiton (Australia), Xstrata (Switzerland) and Anglo
American (UK). Annual shareholders' meetings of the home bases of
these multinationals have been regularly attended by community
representatives, Colombian trade unionists, and local supporters.
Complaints against BHP Billiton and Xstrata have been brought to the
Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for
breaching the OECD's voluntary guidelines on involuntary resettlement
In 2007, Cerrejón established an
Independent Panel of Inquiry into the mine's impacts. The Panel,
chaired by John Harker, Vice Chancellor of Cape Breton University,
made a number of recommendations about changes in mine management.
Cerrejón Coal accepted the recommendations, and an agreement in
December 2008 between Cerrejón and the Tabaco Relocation Committee is
one tangible result. The agreement contains most of what the community
was demanding in the way of adequate compensation and agricultural
land. This agreement was achieved through the dedication of the people
of Tabaco and the organisational capacity of the Tabaco Relocation
Committee. The agreement was also assisted by the SINTRACARBON union,
which included the community demands in their negotiations, and an
international solidarity campaign grounded in environmental justice
Violent displacment of the Tabaco community
or the Cerrejon coal mine in 2001.
(Photo: North Shore Colombia Solidarity Committee)
It is essential that supporters of the
people of Tabaco continue to monitor the implementation of the
agreement. Other communities - Tamaquitos, Roche, Chancleta and
Patilla - still face relocation and need solidarity in their own
negotiations with Cerrejón.
The SINTRACARBON workers are currently
in the midst of negotiations with the company over pay and worker
health and safety conditions. The workers are concerned about
prolonged exposure to carcinogenic substances and they want the
company to categorize the substances they encounter at work as
hazardous. The company is resisting because this would mean that it
would have to increase social security payments.
What we can do here in Canada? We need
to pressure NB Power to develop a detailed ethical purchasing policy
in their business dealings. We must also apply pressure on Colombian
authorities to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for
the murder and harassment of trade unionists, human rights defenders,
and civilians. We need to ensure that the Canadian government does not
ratify the Canadian-Colombian Free Trade Agreement that will only
exacerbate problems of environmental racism and human rights
violations associated with business as usual.