UPDATE (4/21/17): BIG NEWS!!!! Two women survivors of the violence at Barrick's mines are going to be at the panels and protest this year. These events are actually all about centring their struggles, we just haven't been able to announce their presence up until now.
From gaslighting tactics, to the cultural and legal barriers that prevent women from sharing their stories, there are the systemic forces that work to silence victims of abuse. This is especially present in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, where women who were victims of rape and gang rape from Barrick's security guards and mine police would be subject to stigma from their communities, rejection from their partners and neglect from the mining company who employed their aggressors.
After years of denying cases of sexual assault, Canadian mining company Barrick Gold compensated 119 women and girls who were victims of sexual violence by mine security to the tune of ~$10,000 each for these abuses. This redress package, which offered small “business grants” and “business training" to the victims, was the result of years of advocacy by Harvard and NYU Legal Clinics, MiningWatch Canada, Amnesty International, ProtestBarrick and finally Human Rights Watch. But this compensation was a bittersweet victory; the women were not provided independent legal council in accepting these packages, and were forced to sign a waiver promising to never sue the company in exchange for the redress.
Eleven of the women refused this remedy package, comparing the compensation package to accepting "lollies" for the horrors they were subjected to. These women teamed up with legal NGO EarthRights and threatened to sue the company, resulting in a higher out of court settlement. Since that time, the 119 women who originally accepted the money from Barrick have organized into women's groups and started to demand more dignified treatment from the company. Many others have never received any compensation at all, as allegations of sexual violence continue.
One large group of women and girls left out of the compensation package were those raped by the police who guard the mine. These police also guard the mine under an MOU with the Papua New Guinea state and are housed, fed, clothed and paid by Barrick.
The organization of these women is a force for Barrick to reckon with. Their experience has been validated by a long string of organizations and then even (eventually) the company themselves, but their continued lack of compensation is an affront to anyone with a modicum of ethical values. Their demands, in this context, should be easy for Barrick to meet... but only if Barrick feels that ignoring these demands would produce more negative consequences for the company.
This is why we have chosen these women's struggles as the issue to mobilize about this year, outside of Barrick Gold's Annual General Meeting. Every year, we gather with 50-100 people bringing attention to the most pressing issues at Barrick's mines. While Barrick's mines are a human rights disaster everywhere that the company operates, our focus on the women comes with hope that we can empower their struggle and their organizing efforts.
With these protests, every person contributes to the force of the advocacy that we do. We create community here in Toronto that is vested in seeing these abuses, that are all too common at Canadian mines sites globally, be met with some accountability and consequences for the companies that are responsible. Join us this Tuesday, April 25 at 10:30am, outside 255 Front St in Toronto, to add your voice to the call of these women for justice, better treatment, and accountability. The night before, there will be a panel discussion so that people can learn more about these issues and how they can get involved.