November 20, 2019
By Laura Robinson
Today we met with the Canadian Embassy in Guatemala with the goal of sharing the stories we had been trusted with during this delegation. After leaving Antigua yesterday, we spent the evening preparing questions in order to ask how the Canadian government was handling the issues we had encountered and how they planned to address them.
We made it to the meeting on time despite the fact that protests were occurring around the city to oppose the Guatemalan Congress attempting to pass an Admission of Charges Law which would reduce sentences for those who admit to crimes such as illicit association and money laundering. We had to pass through security at the Canadian Embassy but once we were through that hurdle, we met with the Assistant to the Ambassador, Monica Izaguirre and the political attaché, Mateo Barney. This was not the first time BTS has met with the embassy and it was evident at the meeting that the embassy was aware of BTS’s presence and work over the years. To begin the meeting, we introduced ourselves and gave a brief description of who we had met with and the places we had visited over the past twelve days. We raised five questions during the meeting, ranging from how Canada should be diversifying the development it performs abroad away from mining, to how the fundamental right of the Xinka people to consultation would be respected, and how land defenders in threatened areas such as Nuevo Paraiso and Choctun Basila were being protected.
The meeting was quite frustrating, which is understandable given Canada is a government that struggles to respect the rights of the Indigenous peoples it occupies. However, I will highlight one moment: after explaining that we knew Pan American Silver has recently brought in supplies to the Escobal Mine whose operations are meant to be suspended, the political attaché shared that they were working closely with Pan American Silver whom they believed was really trying to do the right thing. This meeting was a very important opportunity to use our privilege as Canadian citizens to raise the issues we had witnessed with our government. It was apparent that we had learned a lot over this short trip but trying to hold the government accountable would not stop after we left that meeting.
In the evening after the meeting at the embassy, we decompressed from travelling by enjoying a despedida (a going away party) with food, dancing, and music from the amazing local musician Erick Carillo. We had plenty of fun in between squeezing all of our belongings back into our bags and laughing at all of the fun we had during the past week.
Today was a very important day for reflecting, for relaying information, and for holding the Canadian government accountable for their actions here in Guatemala. As the delegation parts ways tomorrow, many of us are reflecting on how best to pass on the stories that have been so generously shared with us here in Guatemala.