The Two Faces of Canadian Diplomacy: Undermining International Institutions to Support Canadian Mining

Justice & Corporate Accountability Project, 2022

79 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2022 Last revised: 27 Apr 2022

See all articles by Charis Kamphuis

Charis Kamphuis

Faculty of Law, Thompson Rivers University

Charlotte Connolly

Dalhousie University, Schulich School of Law, Students

Date Written: February 4, 2022


This report documents the Canadian government’s political support for Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine in relation to proceedings initiated by Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala before an international human rights body. It documents and analyzes the actions of officials from the then named Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade & Development (DFATD) and the Canadian Embassy to Guatemala in response to the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) precautionary measures requesting that the Government of Guatemala suspend the Marlin Mine. Federal ATI records reveal that Canada undertook a multifaceted strategy to influence the IACHR proceedings in favour of Goldcorp and to counteract the suspension measure recommended to protect Indigenous communities from the harms alleged.

Part I begins with a primer on Canadian economic diplomacy in support of Canadian companies abroad and its human rights impacts. It then summarizes available reports and research on the Marlin Mine conflict and its roots in a lack of consultation with, and consent from, local populations, in addition to serious and unresolved concerns about environmental contamination, the criminalization of community leaders, intense protests, and numerous episodes of violence. These issues formed the basis of the petition filed by 13 Indigenous Maya Mam and Maya Sipakapense communities alleging human rights violations and their accompanying request for precautionary measures, which were later granted by the IACHR in May 2010.

Having established this context, Part II identifies Canada’s domestic and international obligations with respect to the IACHR proceedings. This includes Canada’s responsibilities to promote respect for human rights, including Indigenous rights; to protect the independence and impartiality of the IACHR; and to hold the company to a high standard and facilitate dialogue and dispute resolution. We identify these obligations by referring to Canada’s CSR policy, the OAS Charter, the IACHR Statue, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, and other international human rights treaties ratified by Canada.

Part III presents our empirical findings following our review of ATI records. It describes the conduct of the Canadian authorities in response to the IACHR request and details the myriad interventions made by Canada that appear to: 1) attempt to discredit the human rights and environmental concerns that formed the basis of communities’ IACHR petition; 2) pressure the Government of Guatemala to disregard the suspension request; and 3) advocate on behalf of Goldcorp and leverage the company’s influence in the IACHR proceedings. The section summarizes Canada’s failures in this case study to uphold it domestic and international obligations to the IACHR and the OAS.

Part IV concludes by highlighting the environmental concerns that persist in the post-closure phase and the absence of redress and justice for affected communities. In this part, we describe how this case study demonstrates the need for reforms to Canada’s law and policy framework with respect to economic diplomacy and human rights. We identify potential areas for reform that are consistent with an emerging consensus among international treaty bodies that if Canada chooses to provide political support to Canadian companies’ operating overseas, it must comply with its international obligations to promote the respect for human rights. While Canada’s current policies allow conditional state support for companies operating abroad with certain human rights related expectations, this report joins a growing body of evidence that Canadian officials are consistently either unable or unwilling to follow those policies. As a result, there is an urgent need for reforms to curtail policy violations by requiring companies to undertake human rights due diligence, and by creating monitoring mechanisms to ensure the transparency, oversight and accountability of the actions of government officials in these contexts.

Keywords: international human rights law, economic diplomacy, corporate accountability, environmental rights defenders, the Oragnization for American States, Guatemala, Canada

Suggested Citation

Kamphuis, Charis and Connolly, Charlotte, The Two Faces of Canadian Diplomacy: Undermining International Institutions to Support Canadian Mining (February 4, 2022). Justice & Corporate Accountability Project, 2022, Available at SSRN:

Charis Kamphuis (Contact Author)

Faculty of Law, Thompson Rivers University ( email )

805 TRU Way
Old Main Building Room 4743
Kamloops, British Columbia M3J 1P3


Charlotte Connolly

Dalhousie University, Schulich School of Law, Students ( email )

Halifax, Nova Scotia

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