Solidarity with Écosociété! Stop Barrick's Lawsuit!

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Freedom of expression under attack: Québec ecological publisher sued by Barrick Gold to force them into bankruptcy

A Solidarity concert in support of Écosociété will be held in Montreal on Thursday June 12 at the Kola Note, 5240, Parc Avenue, at 8:30 pm. Featured artists include Les Zapartistes, Tomás Jensen, Ève Cournoyer, Jérôme Minière, Ivy, Jean-François Lessard, Kumpa’nia et Adama Zon will be sharing the stage starting at 8:30 pm. Novelist Stanley Péan will be the MC.

For 15 years, Québec publisher Écosociété has published books that aim to help define a more just society that is more respectful of natural resources, based on participatory democracy and a sustainable economy. Écosociété releases about ten books public a year in French, on topics such as ecology, consumption, economy, social values, globalization, geopolitics, agriculture, and international solidarity.

Barrick Gold, the world largest gold mining company, has launched a $6 millions lawsuit against Écosociété solely in order to crush them and force them into bankruptcy. Following publication of Noir Canada. Pillage, corruption et criminalité en Afrique, Barrick demanded that the small non-profit publisher, and the authors of Noir Canada, pay $5 million for compensatory damages and $1 million in exemplary damages — in total 25 times Écosociété’s annual revenue.

Écosociété has launched a Solidarity Campaign to fund its defence, and to defend freedom of expression and access to information.

Maude Barlow, Naomi Klein, la Ligue des droits et libertés, the Council of the Canadians, and the Canadian Labour Congress are among those who have declared their support. More than 4500 individuals have already signed the petition and 1000 people have written to the Québec Minister of Justice to ask the government for anti-SLAPP legislation.

This lawsuit muzzle, or Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP), represents a serious threat to the right to information and freedom of expression and therefore to democracy. Écosociété refuses to be muzzled and promises to carry on its work as a socially committed publisher.

Écosociété asks for all forms of possible support to carry on this David and Goliath struggle. In particular, they are asking supporters to:

  • Sign the online petition for an anti-SLAPP law and send it to all your contacts
  • Write to your MP and to the minister to ask for an anti-SLAPP law
  • Send a donation
  • Buy the book Noir Canada

Noir Canada. Pillage, corruption et criminalité en Afrique brings together and analyses publicly available national and international documents (reports, books, documentaries…), concerning various abuses committed by Canadian companies working in Africa, in particular in mining and oil. It also deals with the support these corporations receive from the Canadian government.

For more information, see the Écosociété Solidarity website in French, English or Spanish.

1 Comment

  • On behalf of Barrick Gold I would like to comment briefly on your article “Solidarity with Ecosociete! Stop Barrick’s Lawsuit.”

    It is interesting to us that you unreservedly characterize the Ecosociete lawsuit as a “strategic lawsuit against public participation,” (“SLAPP”) filed with the intention to “crush” a “small non-profit publisher.”

    Please let me take this opportunity to share with you Barrick’s view of the lawsuit: As the title of the book implies, the book ostensibly recounts incidents of “pillage, corruption and criminal activity” by certain Canadian companies doing business in Africa. In particular it accuses Barrick, among other things, of homicide, genocide, association with the mafia, arms trafficking and promoting armed conflict in the Congo resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of people. These are the most serious allegations of misconduct imaginable.

    These allegations, however, are utter fiction and should never have been made, repeated or embellished. For example, contrary to the three chapters of the book that focus on Barrick, Barrick had no mining operations whatsoever in the countries in question (i.e., Tanzania, the Congo, and Uganda) at the times that the alleged “pillage, corruption and criminal activity” that is the subject of Barrick’s lawsuit took place. Had even a cursory check of the authors’ “facts” been conducted – including any consideration of Barrick’s extensive public disclosure of where it was operating during the relevant time periods – it would have been obvious to you that the book is simply false and misleading as it relates to Barrick.

    It is our understanding that a generally accepted definition of a “SLAPP” lawsuit is one which attempts to prevent (1) constitutionally protected speech; (2) by imposing the burden of a non-meritorious lawsuit; (3) that is designed to inhibit public dialogue. Here, however, the false allegations that Barrick was responsible for homicide, genocide, arms trafficking, and the like, are not constitutionally protected speech. These are the very sorts of statements that we understand the laws of Canada to proscribe. This is so because the statements are demonstrably false, injurious to Barrick’s reputation, and were made with reckless disregard for the truth. Indeed, to my knowledge, the authors made no effort whatsoever to check any of their facts with Barrick as part of their “research” and then they published the allegations even though they were warned in advance by Barrick that the allegations referenced above were false. Consequently, the lawsuit clearly is both meritorious and warranted.

    Of equal interest to us is your conclusion that Barrick filed this lawsuit in order to “crush” a “small non-profit publisher” and inhibit public discourse. That is an interesting – if erroneous – perspective on why we are vigorously responding to the authors’ outrageous and false allegations. Barrick is a Canadian public company that finds itself subject to demonstrably false accusations of genocide, mass murder, involvement in organized crime and the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people. For Barrick, the issue is not about the size or non-profit status of a publisher. It is not about the publisher at all. It is about the truth – and the protection of a company’s reputation – which is important to Barrick’s more than 100,000 shareholders, 20,000 employees, and the scores of communities in which we operate.

    Barrick filed the lawsuit so that the truth about the authors’ allegations – and the utter lack of facts supporting them – will become clear to all. Surely you are not suggesting that Barrick has less right to protect itself in the courts from such serious allegations than any other Canadian citizen or entity just because the publisher is “small” or “non-profit” – or because you appear to sympathize with the publisher’s political objectives? Surely you would prefer that the truth could ultimately have its “day in court,” so to speak?

    We appreciate that the authors and publisher would apparently prefer not to be held accountable for their character assassinations. They would apparently prefer to have the truth or falsity of their extremely serious accusations resolved as a matter of “public opinion” by petitions, letters of support, “solidarity” campaigns – and book sales. However, when determining the truth of serious allegations such as those made by the authors we have the right to an objective forum that protects fairly the rights of all concerned and where accusations of extraordinarily serious misconduct can be addressed on the basis of sworn testimony and documentary evidence rather than unfounded rumours and innuendo. Our lawsuit does not, as you imply, inhibit public examination of these issues. On the contrary, it ensures that there will be a transparent and objective public forum for their resolution. If you are inclined to show your “solidarity” with any cause we would have thought that that you would prefer a fair public examination of the truth by an objective third party – as opposed to baseless and unaccountable character assassination.

    In any event, and whatever your preferences, thank you for considering Barrick’s perspective on the subject of freedom of speech and the responsibilities that accompany it.