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Social justice activists march in Manila on Oct. 19. Photo by Shaun Fryday

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We can always help others to live in peace

By Carolyn Pogue


According to the message, the major reason for postponing the trip was to respond to the violent dispersal of the rally: “Organizers and leaders need to attend to the injured and respond to legal needs of those arrested and detained . . .”

So, our houseguest and her colleagues in the KAIROS delegation from the Philippines would not arrive in Calgary after all. They had planned to tour Canada, speaking to mining company executives, government and others about the deathly impacts of mining in their country. But the peaceful rally in Manila on Oct.19 had been met with a vicious police response.

It was yet another story of resistance to corporations who wreak havoc in other lands, and this one has a Canadian connection. I've heard many such stories around the world, but my husband Bill Phipps, a former United Church of Canada moderator, has heard more.

"United Church partnerships around the world call us into solidarity with people whose human rights and land are always under threat from outside forces," Bill says. "I have seen the effects of modern-day Canadian colonialism in El Salvador, Guatemala and this most recent conflict in the Philippines. We must never forget."

Bill has visited the Philippines three times on behalf of the United Church, and once with Rev. Shaun Fryday and the Beaconsfield Initiative. Friday’s passion for justice and peace for friends in the Philippines’ United Church of Christ is palpable.

"Last week, Jimmy Saypan, leader of Compostela Farmers Association, was assassinated,” Fryday told me. "This recent news makes the story very immediate. People who ate breakfast with us a couple of months ago, are being murdered. Schools we visited have been burned, and people have been driven from their homes to make way for 'development'."

There have been dozens of deaths, hundreds of injuries and arrests linked to "28 Canadian companies' mining projects in the 13 countries in [Latin America],” according to a new study published by the Justice and Corporate and Accountability Project.

"The world is taking notice of Canadian companies for all the wrong reasons," Shin Imai, a law professor at York University's Osgoode Law School, recently told the Toronto Star. "We need a more robust way to hold companies accountable.”

That’s exactly what Fryday and others are asking of the Canadian Government: hold companies accountable for infringements of human rights and ecological devastation. Bill 300, put forward as a private members' bill in 2009, would have enshrined this in law; it narrowly failed.

Politicians tell us that letters, calls and emails matter to them. Says Fryday: ”We need a new and concerted effort to raise the issue of corporate responsibility. We need to work with other organizations, too. Churches have the capacity to speak to each other and to place this issue before the public. We need to quicken our pace."

On Remembrance Day, I'll think of fallen soldiers, peace workers, medics, journalists and the civilians who become casualties of war. And I will think of the delegation from the Philippines who want Canadians to help them to live in peace.



Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a Calgary author and longtime Observer contributor. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
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