Yesterday, dozens of people gathered in front of the Honduran Embassy in Ottawa to demand justice for Berta Cáceres, a world-renowned Indigenous Lenca leader who was brutally murdered while she slept on March 2. Mexican activist Gustavo Castro also faced an attempt on his life at the same time.
The June 15 demonstration took place as part of a Global Day of Action convened by the Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), which Berta co-founded. Since Berta's murder, members of COPINH and Berta's family have faced harassment, threats, assassination attempts and murder, including the killing of Nelson García. In solidarity with COPINH, people protested around the world, including in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, as well as in many cities in the US, Europe and throughout Latin America.
Together, we echoed COPINH and Berta's family's demand that Honduran authorities agree to an independent, international investigation under the auspices of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). We also called for the safety of Berta's family and members of COPINH to be guaranteed, and for the cancellation of mining and hydroelectric concessions that have been granted on Lenca territory without their free, prior and informed consent, including the Agua Zarca dam project owned by the Energy Development Company (DESA).
Since a military-backed coup took place in Honduras in June 2009, the Central American country has become the most dangerous in which to defend one's land, water, health and ways of life. Hundreds of land and environmental activists, journalists, lawyers and others defending their rights have been killed since this time.
Shamefully, despite this context of violence, impunity and corruption, the Canadian government pushed for a new mining law in Honduras immediately after the coup, which was approved in 2013 and favours corporate interests over protections for communities and the environment. Canada also passed a free trade agreement with Honduras, which gives Canadian companies recourse to costly international arbitration to sue the government of Honduras should it change course at some point down the road and make decisions that they perceive affect their interests. Notably, the Liberal government continues to pursue further agreements of this sort.
Since Berta's murder, the Canadian government has failed to publicly press for an independent investigation into this crime through the IACHR, despite how the investigation has been plagued with irregularities. Although several people were recently detained in connection with this case, there is little confidence that this will actually lead to convictions or ensure that all of those responsible are held to account.
To keep up the pressure, we have launched an online e-petition on the parliamentary website urging the Canadian government to take more decisive action to pressure Honduran authorities in this case and to also open an investigation into Canada's role in the country since 2009.
Please sign and share the petition here.