Posted on January 18, 2010 (updated: January 18, 2010)

uOttawa-Ecojustice lawyers defend Quebec publisher from defamation lawsuit

Pro bono lawyers from the uOttawa-Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic will be in an Ontario court today defending three academic authors and a small Quebec publisher that earlier this year published a French-language book documenting the controversial activities of several high profile Canadian mining companies in Africa.

Lawyers from the clinic will be in the Ontario Superior Court today providing legal support to the Quebec public affairs publisher Écosociété and the authors as they battle a defamation lawsuit from a Canadian-based mining company.

The French-language book, entitled “Noir Canada”, was published in April 2008 and examines the evidence of complicity of Canadian mining companies in human rights abuses committed in various African countries, and calls for an independent public inquiry into the issue.

This spring, Écosociété was hit by two defamation actions from mining companies, one launched in Quebec by Barrick Gold and one in Ontario by Banro Corporation, a Canadian-based company with mining operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“We will be arguing that Banro’s lawsuit does not belong in Ontario Courts, since Noir Canada was written in French, by francophones, and targeted at Quebecers,” said lawyer Linda McCaffrey, Director of the Environmental Law Clinic, a partnership between the University of Ottawa and Ecojustice (formerly Sierra Legal Defence Fund). “If our motion to stay the proceedings succeeds, Banro will have to bring its lawsuit where it belongs; the Quebec courts.”

McCaffrey and Ecojustice lawyer Will Amos are collaborating with other pro bono counsel in the Quebec lawsuit brought by Barrick Gold.

“This case speaks to the issue of mining reform, public participation and freedom of expression,” said Amos.  “Certainly, within Quebec, this case has raised public consciousness about mining issues.”

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