Though many Canadians might not often think about the nation’s mining practices, they are “very well known” to the rest of the world, said National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald in a presentation to Council of General Synod Nov.15. This was not, MacDonald hastened to add, a good thing. “We have a superpower footprint in terms of mining-an imperial footprint, according to many people.”
The presentation, given by the public witness for social and ecological justice co-ordinating committee, featured a video created by Canadian ecumenical justice group KAIROS (which can be viewed here. The video was a product of a May 2011 conference, convened to look at Canada’s relationship to mining.
The video explores the impact that mining practices have on the communities and people who live near them, and features prominent faith leaders from across the world denouncing such practices. “I’m not so much interested at this point in getting people to condemn [the practices],” said MacDonald. “I would settle if we could just make people aware of [them].”
The viewing of the video was followed by a time for reflection by delegates on how mining issues relate to the church’s mission in the world, and how the church could be more active in bringing greater justice to the earth and its peoples.
Jennifer Warren, a lay delegate from the ecclesiastical province of Canada, pointed out that there are other social issues created by the mining industry-the destructive effects it has on families, for example, when one partner spends weeks at a time away from home, or when young people get caught up in the dangerous lifestyle that often attends mining work.
MacDonald said that this was a “very big issue” for indigenous people as well, noting that he has heard communities across the country express concern about it.
Henriette Thompson, director of public witness for social and ecological justice for the national church, also spoke about some of the ways in which the church is already advocating for change in this area, namely through a push to create an independent government mining ombudsman who would oversee Canadian mining practices around the world, and also for the mandatory standards of practice for mining companies operating overseas to ensure they abide by Canadian law.
At their joint assembly in July 2013, the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada approved a joint resolution that committed their membership to advocate for “responsible resource extraction” by Canadian mining companies and to support affected communities in demanding their right to “Free, Prior and Informed Consent” with respect to resource extraction, among others.