Class action for Congo

A motion filed in Quebec Superior Court in Montreal on Nov. 8 accused the Canadian company Anvil Mining Limited of providing logistical support to the Congolese military during a 2004 conflict that left more than 70 civilians dead.

The families of victims and survivors of the dispute in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are now turning to the international community for justice.

The Canadian Association Against Impunity (CAAI), an organization that brought together survivors and relatives of victims, is taking Anvil Mining Ltd. to court.

They allege that Anvil provided drivers, trucks and other logistical support to the Congolese military to counter an attempt by a rebel group to take over the town of Kilwa, where the dispute eventually occurred. The CAAI claims that the insurgency was an economic threat to Anvil because Kilwa was an integral port to Anvil’s operations.

In a Nov. 9 press release, the company stated it had not yet reviewed the allegations in detail but intends to defend itself.

A United Nations report published in August cited the Anvil case as an example of how justice is not accomplished in the DRC. Brought to the Canadian court system, the trial aims to finally achieve justice. Montreal activist and author of
The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Yves Engler, sees that this case has potential to be a positive advancement in Canada’s international conduct.

“The ability to actually bring [the Canadian mining companies] before Canadian courts actually reduces the scope of what they can get away with in the Congo,” explained Engler. “In that sense, I think the court case is a very good development in Canada.”

In an official news release about the case, the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) noted that Canada’s House of Commons recently defeated legislation that would have created a mechanism for individuals to complain about the actions of Canadian companies overseas. Although this may seem like a step backwards, the Anvil case still has potential to set a benchmark for complicity in human rights violations by multinational corporations. “In terms of setting a precedent, whereby Canadian companies are scared that by doing something like that abroad, they might end up in Canadian court,” Engler expressed, “I think that is a definitely an important precedent.”