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Canadian mining company can be sued for alleged rights abuses in Africa: Judge

In what one activist described as the first time that a case against a Canadian corporation for alleged involvement in human rights abuses has proceeded this far," the Superior Court of Quebec ruled on April 27 that the case against Canadian corporation Anvil Mining Limited in relation to alleged involvement in a 2004 massacre in the Democratic Republic of Congo can proceed to the next stage.

"As far as I know, every other case has been dismissed at the initial stages," Matt Eisenbrandt of the Canadian Centre for International Justice told The Hook by email on May 17.

As The Tyee reported late last year, the class action against Anvil Mining was filed with the Montréal Court on 8 November 2010 by The Canadian Association against Impunity, an organization representing survivors and families of victims of the Kilwa massacre.

Anvil Mining is accused of providing logistical support to soldiers of the Congolese army who allegedly raped, murdered and brutalized the people of Kilwa in a massacre in 2004. According to the United Nations, over 70 civilians died as a direct result of the military action, including some who were executed and thrown in mass graves.

In his decision, Judge Benoît Emery of the Quebec Superior Court rejected Anvil Mining's position that there were insufficient links to Quebec to enable the Quebec court to have jurisdiction over the case. Lawyers for the company also argued that even if there was sufficient attachment to Quebec, the case should be brought in the DRC or Australia.

Judge Emery stated: "It is apparent …that it is impossible to determine that the authorities of the Congo or of Australia would clearly be more appropriate for hearing the case. In fact, at this stage in the proceedings, everything indicates that if the court were to refuse to accept the application [for a class action] on the basis of article 3135 of the Civil Code of Quebec, there would be no other possibility for the victims' civil claim to be heard."

Patricia Feeney, of The Canadian Association Against Impunity, said: "We strongly welcome this decision. It represents a significant step forward in the process of trying to hold Anvil Mining to account and to bring some justice to the victims of the massacre and their families."

The Canadian Association Against Impunity is a coalition made up of six nonprofit organizations, two Congolese, two British and two Canadian.

The court will next consider whether the case should be certified as a class action in mid-June.

Anvil Mining has denied any culpability in the Kilwa incidents and says it will defend itself against the class action suit.

Tom Sandborn covers labour and health policy issues for The Tyee. He welcomes feedback and story tips at

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