Mariano Abarca embassy
Mariano Abarca speaking in front of the Canadian Embassy in Mexico as Embassy staff look on.

Canadian Embassy in Mexico Subject of Complaint to Public Sector Integrity Commissioner

Jamie Kneen Communications and Outreach Coordinator responsible for: strategic research, social media, and public engagement; our Africa program, environmental assessment, and uranium mining.

More than eight years since the unsolved murder of Mariano Abarca in Chiapas, Mexico, his son and a group of Mexican human rights defenders have presented a submission to the Public Sector Integrity Commission (PSIC) regarding the Canadian Embassy in Mexico and its support for Canadian mining company Blackfire Exploration’s operations in Chiapas.

The Commissioner has 90 calendar days from the date of filing the complaint to decide whether or not to investigate.

We need your support to urge the Commissioner to investigate given the importance of this case to the family in their ongoing fight for justice, as well as the public interest in Canada in ensuring that the foreign service is living up to its policies, that say it will respect human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. If, in fact, officials at the Canadian Embassy in Mexico were acting under orders from Ottawa to promote and protect this Canadian mining company’s interests at all costs, then we need to know that too. 

Write to the Commissioner, Joe Friday, starting with our suggested letter – and tweet your support to him @PSIC_Integrity using the hashtag #Justice4Mariano!

The complaint, prepared by the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project, calls for a full and impartial investigation by the PSIC into the acts and omissions of the Canadian Embassy while advocating on Blackfire’s behalf. This support was provided despite the embassy being well aware of protests over environmental and human rights harms at the company’s operations, leading to the murder of Mariano Abarca in 2009.

Highly regarded in his community, Abarca was a founding member of the Mexican Network of Mining Affected People (REMA). Prior to his assassination, he received threats and attempts to intimidate him, including being imprisoned without charge for eight days based on allegations made by the company and for which the authorities found no evidence. 

Information obtained through an Access to Information request demonstrates that Canadian Embassy support was essential to putting the Blackfire barite mine into operation and later influencing officials to quell protests over environmental and social impacts in Chiapas, in which Abarca played a leading role. Although the mine was eventually closed on environmental grounds, documents show the Embassy continued to provide support, including advising Blackfire how to sue the Mexican state under the terms of NAFTA.

A 2016 report that surveyed criminalization and violence in the context of Canadian mining conflicts in Latin America from 2000-2015, found Mexico to be one of the most dangerous places for land and environment defenders. The same report cited extraordinary violence at Canadian-owned mine sites in states, such as Guerrero, where affected communities have been victims of extortion, forced displacement and acts of terror at the hand of organized crime and state armed forces, and where communities have denounced the lack of any protection.

The February delegation is supported by MiningWatch Canada, the United Steelworkers Humanities Fund, Common Frontiers, the Public Service Alliance of Canada Social Justice Fund, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Council of Canadians, the Committee for Human Rights in Latin America (CDHAL), Inter Pares, KAIROS, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG), and others.

The five-person Mexican delegation includes Mariano Abarca’s son, José Luis Abarca, who founded an environmental foundation in his father’s name. Other delegation members will speak to more recent experiences in Mexico at public events being organized as part of their time in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto.

For more information contact:

See for up-to-date information about events, write to the Commissioner at our action page – and tweet your support to him @PSIC_Integrity using the hashtag #Justice4Mariano.

For media availability for the delegation, contact:

  • Pat Van Horne, United Steelworkers, (613) 731-6315; (613) 859-1763;