During Holy Week, Christians follow Jesus from Passion Sunday to Easter morning by way of the dark road of suffering and death on Good Friday.

Praying our sacred story raises questions of life, death, right, wrong and repentance, and moves us to ponder current issues: personal, national and global.

Recently, we heard the story of a Guatemalan community facing the development of a mine by Tahoe Resources, a Canadian company.

In a municipal referendum, 98 per cent voted against the mine. Community members allege that after the consultation, four indigenous leaders were abducted and one of them killed. A month later, security guards fired on homes, injuring another 10 people.

Members of this community feel this intimidation was linked directly to their opposition, and one of them said, “the whole country is living in a time of Good Friday and suffering.”

We are left wondering when this community will experience Easter’s promise of new life.

Canada’s role in global mining is huge. Sixty per cent of mining and exploration companies operating globally are listed on Canadian stock exchanges.

Former Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver noted in his address to the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada that “over 70 per cent of the world’s equity financing for mineral exploration was raised by companies listed in Canada.”

While a number of mining companies have taken steps to improve their corporate social responsibility, there are still disturbing gaps, particularly in how some companies relate to the indigenous communities on whose land most of their activities take place.

In July 2013, the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada passed a joint resolution supporting “responsible resource extraction.”

We have a long history of engagement on this issue, from years of ecumenical advocacy for corporate social responsibility to an exposure visit to the Canadian oil sands in 2009, and a global ecumenical conference on the impacts of mining held in Canada in 2011.

At the same time, we have much to learn about these issues. This is a long-term challenge, requiring patience, persistence, and commitment. All of us — individuals, faith communities, corporations, and governments — need to work together to address these issues.

When visiting partner churches elsewhere in the world, we are challenged to do something about the impact Canadian mining companies are having on their communities.

They tell us they are not able to openly debate the economic development that comes with mining, or potential harm to the environment, for fear of violence and intimidation. In too many cases, communities do not have adequate recourse to legal remedy in their own countries.

We face similar issues in Canada when resource extraction projects on indigenous territories are planned without full free, prior, and informed consent. Impacted communities have concerns about ecological impacts and the abrogation of their rights.

In accord with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we believe indigenous peoples in Canada who face the impact of resource extraction have a fundamental right to be part of the decision-making process.

Working with KAIROS in the “Open for Justice” campaign, our churches are also advocating for an independent extractives sector ombudsperson with powers to investigate allegations and recommend corrective action.

Where legal action may be appropriate, the campaign calls for access to Canadian courts. Those raising mining capital through Canadian companies should be accountable to Canadian values. When alleged abuses occur, due process and fair access to Canadian courts are essential for making resource extraction a more responsible venture.

Even as we “live through a time of Good Friday,” we know God walks with all toward new life. We invite you to join us in praying for the humility and discipline to use the Earth’s resources wisely, and to support peoples everywhere in defining their own development goals.

We ask you to consider supporting the call for access to Canadian courts and an independent extractives sector ombudsperson through the “Open for Justice” campaign.


The Reverend Susan C. Johnson is National Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, The Most Reverend Fred Hiltz is Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada and The Right Reverend Mark MacDonald is National Indigenous Anglican Bishop.