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Native View: Be very worried about police resistance to pipeline opposition

Two weeks ago, more than a dozen Fond du Lac tribal police members were present at an informational meeting for band members on Enbridge's Line 3 agreement with the tribe. Debra Topping, an elder with some literature asking for a referendum vote on the proposal, was pushed aside, searched, and asked for a tribal ID.

The Fond du Lac Band agreement is lucrative — more than $250 million, based on milestones and agreements. In turn, the Fond du Lac band has committed to ensure the project's future in its territory.

The question is: at what cost?

Meanwhile, more recently, in Mexico, an indigenous leader opposing the operations of a Canadian mining company, First Majestic Silver, was assassinated. Margarito Diaz Gonzalez, a leader of the Huichol people, was killed Sept. 8, although his death was reported Sept. 11. This killing was one of many in Mexico of environmental and indigenous leaders apparently for their opposition to mining and dam projects.

The Mexican Human Rights Council condemned Diaz Gonzalez's murder and asked authorities to investigate. Diaz Gonzales had been a leading opponent not only to the Majestic Silver Mine but also to the La Marona Dam and related projects in support of mining interests.

At risk is flooding Wirikuta, one of the most sacred places in the Huichol world. Annually, thousands of Huichol conduct pilgrimages to this place, now threatened to be flooded for a dam project. First Majestic and other mining corporations have leases to over 70 percent of Huichol territory.

Canadian mining corporations, in particular, have procured bad human-rights records internationally, often using local militaries and goon squads to carry out the terrorizing of communities and murders. This last year, new lawsuits were filed in Toronto, seeking to hold Canadian corporations accountable for human-rights violations.

As the Guardian reports:

"On the 20th floor of an office tower in the heart of Toronto's financial district, Irma Yolanda Choc Cac's bright pink embroidered blouse and handwoven skirt contrasted with the suits of the lawyers around her as she detailed the hardest day of her life. ...

"The case centers on allegations dating back to 2007, when the women say hundreds of police, military members, and private security personnel linked to a Canadian mining company descended on the secluded village of Lote Ocho in eastern Guatemala.

"A few days earlier, security personnel had set dozens of homes ablaze in a bid to force the villagers off their ancestral lands, according to court documents.

"But on 17 January, the men were out in the fields, tending to crops of corn and cardamom, and the women were alone. The 11 women say they were raped repeatedly by the armed men. Choc Cac — three months pregnant at the time — was with her 10-year-old daughter when she was seized by the men, some of whom were in uniform. Twelve of the men raped her, she said. She later suffered a miscarriage.

"The women link the violence to the nearby Fenix mine — one of the largest nickel mines in central America — and the Guatemalan subsidiary that was overseeing its operations. At the time, the subsidiary was controlled by Vancouver-based Skye Resources. In 2008, Skye was acquired by Toronto's Hudbay Minerals, who sold the mine to a Russian company in 2011."

That's how it has gone. The United Nations also has singled out Canadian mining companies and called on authorities to better regulate the sector.

Meanwhile, back in Minnesota, on June 28, when the state Public Utilities Commission approved permits for Enbridge's Line 3 Replacement Project, commissioners added a condition requiring Enbridge to cover all law-enforcement costs related to responding to protests during construction.  Enbridge happily agreed.

This means that once the Line 3 permit is finalized and issued (perhaps within a month), Minnesota law enforcement will have a bottomless tab open with a Canadian multinational corporation to cover any costs related to quelling resistance to the pipeline.

If Fond du Lac's first example of its new relationship with Enbridge is any example, we may stand to be a bit worried about civil society. If Canada's corporate responsibility in indigenous communities elsewhere is an example, we should be very worried.

Winona LaDuke lives on the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota. She has written six books on environmental and Native American issues and is executive director of Honor the Earth (honorearth.org), a national Native American environmental foundation.

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