Blog Entry

Globe and Mail Proclaims on Rapes in Papua New Guinea

Catherine Coumans

Ph.D. Research Coordinator and Asia-Pacific Program Coordinator

On February 13, The Globe and Mail’s editorial board weighed in on the important issue of rapes by security guards at Barrick’s mine in Papua New Guinea (“Give due credit to Barrick Gold”). Remarkably, The Globe determined that the deal Barrick is offering women who were raped and gang raped by employees of its Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea “seems fair.” In return for such things as “counselling, access to micro-credit and medical care” Barrick requires of a rape victim that “she will not pursue or participate in any legal action” against the company “in or outside of PNG.”

Barrick’s deal, however, is neither “fair,” nor is it best practice. What Barrick is offering is not an out of court settlement. These indigenous women, who are poor and have very low levels of formal education, have not benefitted from any of the protections or safeguards offered by a court of law - and if they take what Barrick is offering them they never will. In similar cases that MiningWatch has documented of private agreements from the US and Australia, claimants are not required to sign away rights to future legal action on the same claims - they are even entitled to use compensation money to sue the entity that paid it.

Having proclaimed on the fairness of the deal Barrick is offering rape victims in return for legal immunity, The Globe brushes over the fact that Barrick has known for years that its guards were raping local women without doing anything about it, ignoring reports from local leaders, and legal and human rights clinics at New York University and Harvard. The Globe calls this lack of response by Barrick “regrettable” - not deplorable or unacceptable. In its choice of words The Globe shows disregard for the lives of these women and their families, even as it bends over backwards to "give due credit” to Barrick Gold.

Like Barrick, The Globe has long ignored this story despite the fact that local leaders from Porgera have come half way across the world to Canada to issue press releases and raise alarm about the rapes at Barrick’s annual meetings in Toronto since 2008. Globe reporters were always in attendance, but did not take the time to interview these community leaders.

Finally, The Globe uncritically adopts Barrick’s excuses proclaiming sexual violence against women a “serious problem in Papua New Guinea, due in part to the country’s patriarchal culture.” In light of the horrors of the rapes in Porgera, this unexamined statement by the editorial board is all too similar to a dismissive statement made by Barrick Gold chairman Peter Munk in The Globe when he responded to questions about the rapes in Porgera by referring to countries in which “gang rape is a cultural habit.”

Violence against women is a problem all over the world, not just in so-called weak governance countries. This fact has come home hard this week in a Human Rights Watch report about high levels of violence by Canada’s police forces against Indigenous women in Canada. When that violence is perpetrated by a company’s security forces, the company should not exacerbate the abuse of those women’s rights by securing legal indemnity for the company before providing remedy packages.