VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Should a lawsuit alleging human rights abuses against foreign workers at a Canadian mining company be heard in Canada?
A four-day BC Court of Appeals hearing begins on Monday to hear an appeal of a decision made last year.
In October of 2016, the BC Supreme Court found employees working in Eritrea at Vancouver-based Nevsun Resources’ mine did have the right to have their allegations heard in Canada.
Nevsun is arguing the case should be heard in Eritrea.
But University of Ottawa law professor Penelope Simons doesn’t think their appeal will be successful.
“That is because of the evidence that has been put forward so far. It shows Eritrea doesn’t have a functioning judicial system, a fair system, where the plaintiffs could get access to justice,” she says.
“The judge was convinced that it would be difficult for these people, who are now refugees, to get a fair trial and not be intimidated or tortured if they went back to Eritrea.”
Nevsun owns 60 per cent of the Bisha copper mine while the Eritrean government owns the other 40 per cent.
The original ruling involved three workers, but since then two more lawsuits, involving 45 former Nevsun employees, have also been filed against the company.
Many allege they were forced to work at the mine following their obligatory term with the National Service. They describe being confined in “sweatboxes” measuring only four feet wide by four feet deep with no ventilation. They also claim they were given very little to eat while working long hours for six and a half days a week.
Nevsun maintains “the Bisha Mine has adhered at all times to international standards of governance, workplace conditions, and health and safety.”