Ecojustice defends publisher against lawsuit from Canadian mining companies

Ottawa – Lawyers from Lenczner Slaght LLP and the uOttawa-Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic went before the Supreme Court of Canada to defend the academic authors and publisher of a book that documented the controversial activities of several high profile Canadian mining companies in Africa.

The book in question, Noir Canada: Pillage, corruption et criminalité en Afrique, was produced by lead author Alain Deneault and Écosociété, a small public affairs publisher. It examines the evidence of complicity of Canadian mining companies in human rights and environmental abuses committed in various African countries. Furthermore, it calls for an independent public inquiry into the issue.

“Banro’s lawsuit does not belong in Ontario Courts, since Noir Canada was written in French, since the defendants are based in Quebec, and since there is no evidence that the book has been read in Ontario,” said lawyer Will Amos, director of the uOttawa-Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic. “If our motion to stay the proceedings succeeds, Banro will be forced to bring its lawsuit where it belongs – the Quebec courts.”

In the spring of 2008, Écosociété was hit by two defamation actions from mining companies, one launched in Quebec by Barrick Gold and one in Ontario by Banro Corporation, both of whom have mining operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“This case speaks to the issues of freedom of expression, accountability of Canadian mining companies operating abroad, and public participation in a democracy,” said Amos.  “If they win, the authors and publisher will be able to enjoy the legitimate advantage gained by Quebec’s new anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation) law.”

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