By Matteo Cimellaro, Canada's National Observer
With 17 per cent of its forest already lost, the Amazon is near a tipping point. If that reaches 20 to 25 per cent, scientists say there will be irreversible changes.
Uyunkar Domingo Peas Nampichkai, a leader from the Achuar Nation of the Ecuadorian Amazon, put it simply at a news conference Wednesday: the Amazon is in a “deep crisis.”
As delegates from around the world gather at the United Nations’ COP15 biodiversity conference in Montreal, Indigenous Peoples in the Global South are calling out Canada for letting mining companies devastate their ancestral territories in the Amazon. It’s a central issue for protecting nature because 80 per cent of biodiversity is on Indigenous lands, according to the UN.
When companies destroy ecosystems, they often destroy the ancestral cultures and knowledge systems that were connected to that land, says Francisco von Hildebrand, president of grassroots NGO Gaia Amazonas.
The organization launched a campaign for COP15 called Hands off Amazon when a delegation visited Canada in June to meet with politicians and Indigenous nations. The campaign is pressuring citizens and politicians to push for stronger regulations, particularly on Indigenous rights and environmental protections, in the mining industry.
There are fewer than 2,000 mining companies in the world, but 75 per cent of them are headquartered in Canada. That makes Canada the single most important regulator of the sector that encroaches the most on Indigenous territories, von Hildebrand said.
The Global South is one of the most dangerous areas for Indigenous land defenders, with hundreds killed each year. At least 227 land and environment defenders were killed in 2020 alone, with a third of those attacks against Indigenous Peoples, according to a Global Witness report.
Last year, MiningWatch Canada’s Jamie Kneen told Canada’s National Observer those deaths don’t tell the whole story.
“They can be intimidated, attacked, anything short of being killed and they don't make the list,” he said.
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