Peace and Eco Briefs, July–August 2010

Peace and Environment News — Insider, July–August 2010
by Mike Buckthought

End of the Line for the Marlin Mine

Canadian gold mining company Goldcorp has been criticized for the health impacts of its Marlin mine in Guatemala. The Vancouver-based corporation has a new critic: the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), a human rights body of the Organization of American States (OAS).

The IACHR is calling on the government of Guatemala to suspend operations at the mine, and protect the health of indigenous communities in the region. A recent study by Physicians for Human Rights and University of Michigan scientists has found that people living near the mine have high levels of mercury, copper, arsenic, zinc and lead in their urine and blood. Goldcorp CEO Charles Jeannes dismissed the criticism at the company’s annual meeting, insisting it was “physically impossible” for the mine to contaminate surrounding communities. (MiningWatch Canada, May 24, 2010

Climate Bill Moves to Senate

On May 5, opposition parties joined together to pass the Climate Change Accountability Act (Bill C-311). The climate bill passed third reading in the House of Commons with a vote of 149 in favour to 136 against. Thanks to the united support of the New Democrats, Bloc Québécois and the Liberals, the bill continued on to the Senate. The private member’s bill was introduced by NDP MP Bruce Hyer (Thunder Bay-Superior North). If the bill is passed by the Senate and becomes law, it will ensure that Canada commits to science-based targets for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. The climate bill includes a target of 80 per cent reductions from 1990 levels by the year 2050, following the advice of the world’s climate scientists. (Parliament of Canada, May 5, 2010

Some Stern Advice on Climate

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticized Canada’s climate policies when he visited Ottawa on May 12. “I urge Canada to comply with the targets set out by the Kyoto Protocol,” said Ban. “You can strengthen your mitigation targets for the future. And you can join other industrialized countries in contributing new funding, in keeping with your long-standing tradition of global solidarity.”

Canada signed the Kyoto Protocol, but the current government is not upholding the country’s commitments. Meanwhile, British economist Nicholas Stern provided his own stern words of advice. The Harper government insists that climate change should not be a high priority for the Group of 20. In remarks published by the Globe and Mail, Stern says it is important to discuss financial aid to help developing countries adapt to climate change. “You can’t really discuss the finance on the scale that we are talking about unless the G20 is involved, and involved this year.” (Montreal Gazette, May 12, 2010; Globe and Mail, May 13, 2010)

Pedestrian Zones

A Montréal borough is closing off one of its streets to cars. It is the first of many streets to be closed to car traffic. In place of cars, a one-block stretch of St. Dominique Street will be the home of a farmers’ market featuring local and organic produce every Thursday. Plateau Mayor Luc Ferrandez says the borough will transform 10–15 streets into pedestrian zones in 2010, reversing decades of auto-centric urban planning. Meanwhile in Ottawa, visitors to the ByWard Market have been pleased to find that part of William Street has become a pedestrian zone. A section of the street between Clarence and York is closed off to traffic — only two decades after members of Auto Free Ottawa proposed that the Market should be a pedestrian zone. Toronto is also creating some new pedestrian zones, with the transformation of three streets at the University of Toronto and Ryerson campuses starting in September. (Montreal Gazette, May 4, 2010; Toronto Star, May 18, 2010)

Mike Buckthought writes about environmental and social justice issues.

Published in the Peace and Environment News — Insider, Volume 25, Number 4, July–August 2010, page 3.