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Rev. Eddie Cormier celebrated his birthday in the Dominican Republic during a visit to the country in 2017. He has worked for years on social justice issues on the Caribbean island.
(Submitted photo)
Rev. Eddie Cormier celebrated his birthday in the Dominican Republic during a visit to the country in 2017. He has worked for years on social justice issues on the Caribbean island. (Submitted photo) - Bill McGuire

The problem is that the wealth generated by these minerals benefits very few people

BY MAUREEN LARKIN

AND EDDIE CORMIER

GUEST OPINION

Many Islanders have visited the Dominican Republic and have enjoyed the beauty of the surroundings, the friendly service, music for dancing, the joie de vivre. Few of us are aware that there is a darker side to this beautiful Island in the Caribbean.

Members of the Latin American Mission (LAMP) have lived in and visited Various Latin American countries. And we became aware of the other side. The casual visitor might think that the Dominican Republic is a country without many resources.

But that is far from the truth. Dominican Republic is rich in mineral resources i.e. (gold, nickel, silver). The problem is that the wealth generated by these minerals benefits very few people.

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Canada is a big player in the mining industry. “This country is home to more than 50 per cent of the world’s publicly listed exploration and mining companies,” states Graham Russell of Rights Action. “All the important corporate, investor and political decisions that resulted in very serious harms and violations of human rights were taken in Canada.” It is estimated that Canadian corporations control 50 to 70 per cent of the mining industry in Latin America.

For more than half a century Canada has been taking gold out of the Dominican Republic. Their human rights practices have been dismal. Their mining practices, in many cases leave behind a path of destruction (polluted streams, destruction of land, poisoned with arsenic and other toxic chemicals.

One example is Gold Quest which is currently exploring new mining sites in the San Juan de la Maguana area. There have been many protests, both local and national Including those led by the local bishop, Bishop Grullon. The messages on many posters clearly state which side they are on. No a la Mina Si a la Vida, (No to Mining, Yes to Life.) We know human rights abuses at Canadian oil and gas sites around the world are widespread and well documented.

Hundreds of individuals and non-governmental organizations (NGOs} such as Breaking the Silence have been lobbying the government to create a position, an ombudsperson, to monitor the extractive industries and ensure that they are accountable to Canadian Law.

Finally, in January 2018 the legislation was passed. An advisory committee will be named and work is being done to set up the goals and expectations of this new position.

We must follow closely how this person gets appointed[U1] . Will the person be independent from the minister? Will she/he have sufficient resources to do the job properly? We want this legislation to have some teeth.

We can’t eat gold. What is more precious: water, the environment, people, life.

- Maureen Larkin and Rev. Eddie Cormier are members of the Latin American Mission Program

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