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Burma and Democracy Protests: Where is the coverage of Ivanhoe?

September 30, 2007

Burma and Democracy Protests: Where is the coverage of Ivanhoe?


Burma (aka Myanmar) has been on the front page of the Globe and Mail twice this week, and has been featured by many other publications and media outlets, as monks and pro-democracy protesters are mercilessly killed on the orders of the military junta that rules the country.

This has spawned a whole outpouring of solidarity and concern in various forms, as should be expected.

But the media coverage has been truly bizarre, and it seriously compromises the aims of that solidarity. The massive coverage given to the Burmese crackdown raises two very serious questions, the premises of which are somewhat contradictory:

1. Where was the the media outrage when this was happening in Haiti?

In the very case where Canada was most deeply involved (in that it was training the police and the justice system, supporting the government, and facilitating loans and aid to the government at the time) and thus in a better position to intervene and actually have an effect, the media was silent across the board. 8,000 murders and 35,000 rapes, that's what the Lancet study found was likely to have occurred in Port-au-Prince, mostly by paramilitaries and newly-recruited police (often from paramilitaries), and mostly targeting the poor majority and their organizers and political representatives. All the media could do was briefly attack the study, and then fall silent again when an investigation upheld the results of the study (and of the handful of other such reports that the media and political parties ignored).

It seems that in a case where a gruesome scenario is said to be the enabled by intervention from China or Russia, the media coverage is free to unfurl the full extent of the brutality visited upon those struggling for democracy.

But when Canada is involved, the media is unable to deal with the idea that their government might not be behaving benevolently. Which brings me to the second question:

2. How can the media justify omitting any mention of Ivanhoe Mines?

Try to find any coverage at all that mentions Ivanhoe mines in relation to a story about Burma. Try harder.

Ivanhoe Mines, as the Canadian Friends of Burma informed those willing to listen as recently as last June, is the fourth largest contributor in export income for the military junta. Which means that a Canadian mining company helped buy the guns that shot those protesters.

This issue was supposed to have been settled some time ago, as Ivanhoe had promised to divest from its holdings in Burma. Evidently, there is not yet any evidence to suggest that it in fact has done so.

The group's website's section on Canadian policy is unfortunately out of date, so it's hard to say what the current state of Canada's policy is.

When something is going wrong, and people are dying, the proper response is not to ask "how can I place the blame on my rivals?" The proper response is to ask: "what can I do that will have an impact, and contribute to stopping the violence?" And the answer to the latter question usually begins with asking what one has control over and not the opposite of that.

As long as the media doesn't discuss Canada's role, it's hard to see the media's saturation coverage of this as anything other than totally disingenuous.

Would immediately freezing the assets of Ivanhoe (and any other Canadian mining company helping violate human rights) have an effect on the junta?

No one knows, because it's not being discussed.

Update: Thanks to Kabir Joshi-Vijayan, here's a list of Canadian companies investing in Burma, based on this list. There's also this update from MiningWatch in 2000, which explains a little more about Ivanhoe in Burma.

  • Air Canada
  • CHC Helicopter Corporation
  • East Asia Gold Corp
  • Export Packers Company Ltd.
  • Good Harvest Seafood Inc.
  • Jet Gold Corp.
  • Ivanhoe Mines
  • Kayjet Promotions
  • Leeward Capital Corp.
  • Midland Foods (Winnipeg) Inc.
  • Midland Seafoods Inc.
  • Saan
  • Tai Foong International Ltd.
  • Taiga Consultants Ltd.
  • TG World Energy Corp.
  • Trimark Athletic Supplies
  • Wah Loong Ltd.

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Canadian Miners Sour on Burma
Ties with junta earned millions for BC-based Ivanhoe.
By Christopher Pollon
Published: October 12, 2007