Barrick Gold, the world’s largest gold mining company, has successfully pressured Talonbooks into cancelling its plans to publish Imperial Canada Inc.: Legal Haven of Choice for the World’s Mining Industries. The book focuses on the economic, social, and environmental repercussions of the Canadian mining industry internationally.
“This has the potential to develop into serious legal action,” said a representative of Talon who asked to remain anonymous.
Written collectively by Alain Deneault and the members of the Collectif resources d’Afrique, Imperial Canada Inc. critically examined the factors that have led Canada to become home to the majority of the world’s mining companies.
It focuses on four themes: the mining codes of Quebec and Ontario, the Toronto Stock Exchange, Canada’s involvement in Caribbean tax havens, and Canada’s official diplomatic approach toward international institutions that govern worldwide mining, all of these factors perpetuate what the book calls the extension of Canada’s “imperial heritage” into today’s extractive sector.
The authors examine the extent to which Canada supports mineral speculation, grants subsidies to mining companies, and most importantly, provides a legal sanctuary for companies facing lawsuits from communities that are experiencing adverse effects due to their extraction operations.
Montreal-based journalist Tim McSorely has reported that the book “outlines alleged human rights abuses carried out by Barrick Gold in various African countries, including the deaths of more than 50 Tanzanians in 1996 and fuelling the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
Imperial Canada Inc. also examines Canada’s judicial practices of giving legal preference to one’s right to reputation over freedom of expression and the public right to information. The authors assert this legal tradition as the reason that many academics have been reluctant to present their mining-related work in Canada for fear of libel charges.
This is not the first time that Canadian mining companies have tried to silence their critics.
Noir Canada: Pillage, corruption, et criminalité en Afrique, also co-written by Deneault, presented a collection of documents detailing the impact of Canadian mining companies in Africa, and credited the continuation of these questionable operations to the “unfailing help of the Canadian government.”
It was successfully published by Édition écosociété in 2008, though Barrick Gold successfully cancelled the book launch in April of that year by serving the editors and publisher with a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation based on claims of inaccuracies.
In a press release that followed the cancellation of the book launch, the Collectif Resources d’Afrique said “It is understood that the financial means of a powerful mining company, compared to that of the researchers who prepared the book, permits the company to proceed by intimidation.”
The original intent of Talonbooks was to produce a direct translation of Noir Canada. However, after mining companies Barrick and Banro filed lawsuits against all who were involved in the production of the book, Talon was advised to develop a new approach in light of legal considerations.
Imperial Canada Inc. focused on Canada’s economic policy and other cultural and institutional factors in order to ask one question: why are 70 per cent of the world’s mining companies registered in Canada through the Toronto Stock Exchange?
Given that the book’s intent was mainly scholarly, Talonbooks said they were shocked to receive a threatening letter from Barrick’s lawyers demanding the complete handover of all pieces of the manuscript that either directly or indirectly reference Barrick Gold, any subsidiary company, an affiliated company, or any former or current company administrator.
The representative from Talon said there is no known explanation for what prompted the company to demand access to the manuscripts last month.
Also in the letter from Barrick Gold to Talonbooks Publishing, the company warned that if Talon failed to provide such documents, to rigorously check their facts, and to refrain from republishing any “defamatory contents” that were included in Noir Canada, Barrick would not hesitate to take legal procedures against the authors, or “any other person who will have played a part in the drafting, the translation, the publication, the diffusion or the promotion,” of Imperial Canada Inc.
As manuscripts prior to release are considered private property, Talonbooks – perceiving the letter as seriously threatening – saw Barrick’s actions as a deep violation of privacy, according to the representative of the publishing company.