KPU, KSA co-host expert panel on violence against environmental activists

Thu, Feb 16, 2017

Surrey, B.C. – Environmental activists are fighting for their lives—in more ways than one.

According to environmental and human rights watchdog Global Witness, 908 environmentalists were murdered in 35 countries between 2002 and 2013 because of their activism with 99 percent of these cases remaining in a state of impunity, as only 10 perpetrators were sentenced during that same period of time.

In 2015 alone, Global Witness reported that 185 people were killed in 16 countries for protesting environmental degradation involving mining, logging, agribusiness, and dam development, among other operations involving the use of limited natural resources. Of those killed, 40 per cent were indigenous.

It’s an important discussion that takes centre stage at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) later this month.

“As Canadians, we don’t always think about how our decisions negatively affect those in other parts of the world; for example, the demand for minerals for industrial and personal use has caused deadly social conflicts in developing nations,” said Jerry Murphy, academic and career preparation instructor at KPU. “We wanted to have this forum at KPU in order to raise awareness of these conflicts and make that point that it doesn’t have to be this way.”

Co-hosted by KPU and the Kwantlen Student Association, the “Injustice Against Environmentalists Globally” forum will be held on Feb. 28 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the KPU Surrey conference centre, 12666-72nd Ave.

Panelists include Don Wright of Amnesty International; Chandu Claver of the Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance and Hustisya Philippines; and Heather Neun of Lawyers Rights Watch Canada. A welcome will be provided by Kevin Kelly and Michael Kelly-Gabriel from the Kwantlen First Nation.

“The calibre of experience and insight within this panel is amazing,” said the KSA's vice-president of Student Life Natasha Lopes. “We are so thrilled to have these experts here, and we know the discussion will be moving, meaningful, and inspiring.”

Wright is an activism coordinator with Amnesty International Canada, based at the Vancouver office. He will discuss the Amnesty International report We are defending the land with our blood: Defenders of the land, territory and environment in Honduras and Guatemala. The report found that in countries such as Guatemala and Honduras, territory, land and environmental rights defenders (TLERDs), overwhelmingly indigenous, are killed and imprisoned because their activism challenges the power structure. Amnesty International calls on the governments of Guatemala and Honduras and elsewhere to provide protection for defenders so they can carry out their important work, investigate crimes against them and prosecute those responsible, and publicly state their support for the work of TLERDs.

Claver is a member of the indigenous Igorot tribe of the Northern Philippines. Since 1987, he has been an active indigenous rights activist and organizer for the Cordillera Peoples Alliance for the Defense of the Ancestral Domain, and for Self-Determination. Violently persecuted for his beliefs in 2006, he was forced to seek and was granted political asylum in Canada.

Neun is a labour law and human rights law specialist with a varied work and volunteer history in the defence and promotion of human rights. Her interest in Latin America developed while working with a Central-America focused NGO, and later as a field volunteer with Peace Brigades International in Guatemala. In the late 1980s, she coordinated a B.C.-based organization that did advocacy and education work on Canadian foreign policy and human rights in Central America. Since 2004, she's been an active member of Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, and since 2012, she has participated in an international lawyers project that supports human rights lawyers and defenders under threat in Colombia.

About Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Kwantlen Polytechnic University has served the Metro Vancouver region since 1981, and has opened doors to success for more than 200,000 learners. Four campuses—Richmond, Surrey, Cloverdale and Langley—offer a comprehensive range of sought-after programs in business, liberal arts, design, health, science and horticulture, trades and technology, and academic and career advancement. Over 19,000 students annually have a choice from over 120 programs, including bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, diplomas, certificates, citations and apprenticeships. Learn more at 

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