Stop Mining Companies From Using Forced Labor

Laborers by Amina Tagemouati

Target: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Goal: Stop Canadian companies from using forced labor in Eritrea.

Canadian mining companies working in Eritrea have allegedly been using forced laborers. Although Eritrea has been under UN sanctions since 2009, there are no laws preventing international companies from using forced labor in the country, and several multinationals operate in Eritrea mostly in the natural resource sector. Multinationals operating in Eritrea are often required to give construction and labor contracts to state-owned companies, many of which are staffed at least partly by people in a forced labor program.

The Eritrean government is responsible for a long list of human rights abuses that have caused an exodus of Eritrean refugees. One of the most common reasons that people flee Eritrea is the regime of forced work euphemistically referred to as ‘national service.’ The Eritrean ‘national service’ program forces a huge number of Eritreans to indefinite terms of forced labor.

Among these companies is the Canadian company Nevsun Resources Ltd. According to Human Rights Watch, Nevsun Resources Ltd. has previously been found to have forced laborers on its projects. When confronted with these facts, representatives from Nevsun claimed that they had no choice or power in the matter. However, the company’s response to its complicit behavior toward human rights abuses was not to withdraw from the project but to continue it. They still operate in Eritrea.

It is clear that there is a need to stop companies from supporting the regime of forced labor in Eritrea and that companies will not regulate themselves. Therefore, the countries that these companies are based in must step in and create rules and regulations to influence the regime to end its force labor program. Sign our petition and ask Prime Minister Trudeau to stand up for human rights and make it clear that no Canadian company should profit from forced labor.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

It is alarming to know that a Canadian company hires forced laborers. In 2008, Human Rights Watch discovered that employees of the Segen Construction Company, a construction company that Canadian company Nevsun Resources Ltd. had to hire, were forced laborers. Nevsun claimed that it was powerless to address the situation and has continued to operate in Eritrea. Nevsun is not the only Canadian company operating in Eritrea; Sunridge Gold is pushing ahead with a mining contract that may result in more forced laborers.

The Eritrean government has turned Eritrea into a totalitarian state, stripping its citizens of basic rights, freedoms, and values that are meant to be part of the Canadian identity. For a small country, Eritrea produces a high proportion of the world’s refugees in part because of the Eritrean government’s abuses. Among these abuses is a program of indefinite forced labor. The Eritrean government often requires foreign companies to hire local contractors in order to continue operations. These contractors are often state-owned business that draw from the forced labor program for their staff.

I urge you to implement a higher standard of ethics for Canadian companies operating abroad. The company’s inaction in the face of slavery is alarming and reflects poorly on all Canadians. 

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Amina Tagemouati

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