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Supporters of slain Mexican activist take case to Supreme Court of Canada

OTTAWA — The family and supporters of a Mexican activist who was killed after opposing a Canadian company’s mining project are asking the Supreme Court of Canada to review a federal ombudsman’s decision not to investigate the case.

The case dates back to 2007, when Calgary-based Blackfire Exploration Ltd. opened a barite mine in Chiapas, Mexico, sparking local opposition, protests and the blocking of a road to the project.

After being beaten and threatened with death for leading protests against the environmental and social effects of the mine, activist Mariano Abarca was shot and killed outside his home in November 2009.

Members of Abarca’s family and organizations concerned with mining abuses presented information to the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner in 2018, asking him to verify whether there had been any wrongdoing by members from the Canadian Embassy in Mexico.

Federal Court Judge Keith Boswell ruled three years ago that it was reasonable for the commissioner to decide not to investigate on the grounds that the embassy had not breached any code of conduct.

Earlier this year, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the Integrity Commissioner’s decision not to open an investigation.

The Supreme Court will decide in the coming weeks whether or not to hear the case.

“The process for reporting wrongdoing by public officials is meant to be informal and accessible,” said Nicholas Pope, a lawyer for the petitioners. “But now it’s stiff and formal and will only further discourage people from coming forward.”

One of Abarca’s four children, Jose Luis Abarca, said family members were denied their right to know the truth.

“We know nothing will bring my father back, but we want to see Canada take meaningful action to prevent this from happening again in the future.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on April 19, 2022.

The Canadian Press