The safeguarding of the environment cannot be divorced from ensuring justice for the poor and finding answers to the structural problems of the global economy.Pope Francis, 2019
This year, while heads of state are meeting to talk about how to address climate change in summits like the G20 or COP26, more and more activists in the Global South face dangers for protecting the biodiversity so crucial for our people and our planet. The most vulnerable members of our human family are bearing the triple burden of experiencing the worst impacts of climate change, of being overlooked in top-down climate discussions, and of being threatened and/or criminalized for speaking out.
A story from Cambodia
The land and forests are the very basis to the way of life of Indigenous communities in Cambodia.
Yet, deforestation is occurring legally and illegally, with permits or without, for wood harvesting and/or from building mining access roads. Development and Peace’s local partner in Cambodia, Development and Partnership in Action (DPA), trains community leaders and supports them throughout the lengthy process of securing official title to their lands. Once the land title is secured after a rigorous process, it is up to the community itself to patrol the land to defend it against encroachment and illegal activities.
A story from Honduras
In Honduras, Development and Peace’s local partner, the Honduran Centre for the Promotion of Community Development (CEHPRODEC) accompanies communities who are defending their rights, land and livelihoods.
They train local leaders in the defense of human rights, in documenting violations and to contribute to international analyses and strategic lawsuits.
Víctor Vásquez is an Indigenous leader and environmentalist from the Lenca community of Simpinula in Honduras. He has been charged for defending land from encroachment by businesses – land for which his community holds a government-recognized collective title.
The local office of the UN Human Rights Council in Honduras and four UN rapporteurs have expressed concern about the criminalization of Víctor and the misuse of the crime of forced displacement against him. Watch the video to learn more about the case.
Canada’s role and responsibility
The extractive industry is the deadliest driver of violence against environmental defenders. Canada, the home of approximately 75% of the world’s mining companies, claims to be a leader in responsible business conduct. Yet, there is no shortage of allegations of human rights abuses and environmental damage made by Canadian mining companies. Various UN bodies have pointed out that Canada is currently not meeting its obligations under international human rights norms, calling for effective policies and mechanisms to ensure all Canadian corporations, in particularly mining corporations, respect human rights when operating abroad, and for an independent mechanism to investigate allegations against Canadian companies.
Now more than ever, we need mandatory supply chain due diligence to stop corporate abuse and guarantee global solidarity. Through their operations, irresponsible companies are complicit in acts of violence and suffering. We, Catholic leaders throughout the world, call on states to put an end to this.Letter of support for human rights and environmental due diligence (HREDD), signed by bishops from around the world, including Bishop Gagnon, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), on behalf of the Bishops of Canada
To prevent human rights abuses and environmental harm before they happen, the international expectation for companies to perform due diligence must be made legally binding. In Canada, the implementation of a human rights and environmental due diligence (HREDD) law would mean that Canadian companies, and those that sell products in and have presence in Canada, would be required to prevent, address and remedy human rights and environmental abuses through their entire supply chains.
People and Planet First
As we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and collectively address the climate crisis, we must ensure that with all our plans, people and the planet come first. As Catholics, as Canadians, we must also ensure that all future economic activity operates in full recognition of the human rights of all persons involved, including their right to a safe, sustainable, and healthy environment. We can ensure that Canadian companies are not complicit in human rights abuses, including environmental degradation, and we can contribute to a global standard in which the protection of human and environmental rights is an enforceable obligation.
Curious to learn more?
or take a look at our Frequently Asked Questions on HREDD!
Hope is bold; it can look beyond personal convenience, the petty securities and compensations which limit our horizon, and can open us up to grand ideals that make life more beautiful and worthwhile.Pope Francis, 2015