As many as six protesters have been killed and 30 injured by police at an airport near Juliaca, Peru. Around 4000 protesters, largely indigenous people, were attempting to occupy the airport in order to call attention to the corruption and harm caused by mining and development in the area. In particular, they focused on a silver mine in the area owned by Vancouver-based Bear Creek Mining corp., which has since had its permit revoked shortly after a crowd of rioters attacked a police stations and a state-owned bank in town to protest the deaths.

Puno state, where this is all happening, is one of the poorest parts of the country. It has been “paralysed” lately by road blockades over these same issues – mining, corruption, and a proposed hydroelectric project which threaten their land rights and water supply.

Bear Creek Mining, on the other hand, is a world leading silver producer. Though nearly all of its holdings are in Peru, it’s based out of Vancouver. The fact that a Canadian mining firm is involved in deaths of indigenous people in Latin America isn’t terribly surprising – it happens all too often. Canada is the worst in the world for these kinds of companies, and all too often the legacy is stolen land and death.

Despite our global presence, all we Canadians see of these companies is their small and inoffensive head offices (a quarter of the world’s mining corps) and returns on the TSX (60% are listed here). You’d almost have to squint to notice them. Behind these innocuous stocks hiding in our pension plans and mutual funds (if we’re lucky enough to even have them) is a legacy of modern-day colonialism which reaches around the globe. The tales of companies like Bear Creek Mining and Goldcorp read like the early days of the Hudson’s Bay Co. or Dutch East-India Company, rampaging around the globe in search of profits for their homeland. And in case you’re wondering, yes, there’s a firm named Hudbay Minerals, based in Toronto, which has been recently sued for the death of an indigenous man in Guatamala.

Many of us in Canada are lucky enough to live in a world where we never need to see this kind of thing happen. We’re insulated from the effects, both in Canada and beyond, and never have to face them unless we choose to. Despite this innocence, our way of live is totally dependent on these resources and the profits made extracting them. Whether we want to admit it or not, we’re a part of this, and we can put an end to it. The fact that we’re so privileged gives us many abilities that indigenous people in Latin America don’t have – such as free speech and protesting without being shot at. Since we’re also thousands of km closer to the head offices of these companies, this might come in handy.

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