Ground-breaking ruling paves the way for Indigenous Guatemalans to have their day in a Canadian court

Ground-breaking ruling paves the way for Indigenous Guatemalans to have their day in a Canadian court

On 22 July 2013, Amnesty International Canada welcomed a precedent-setting decision by Justice Carole Brown of the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto.
In her carefully reasoned judgment, Justice Brown affirmed that claims brought by 13 Guatemalan Indigenous people against Canadian company HudBay Minerals and its subsidiaries should be permitted to go to trial. HudBay and its subsidiaries had attempted to prevent the claims from going forward, arguing that a parent corporation can never be held liable for murder, shootings and rapes allegedly committed by security personnel employed by a Guatemalan subsidiary.

This decision means that four years after her husband’s death, Angelica Choc will be able to tell Canadians her family’s tragic story and seek justice for the brutal killing of her husband, Adolfo Ich.  It means that 11 Maya-Q’eqchi’ women who were allegedly raped by security personnel working for the Canadian company’s subsidiary will be able to have their day in court. And it means that the 13th plaintiff, German Chub, who was shot and paralyzed on the day Adolfo Ich was killed, will be able to tell a Canadian judge what happened to him and how his life has been changed forever.

Amnesty International had intervened at the hearing in March 2013, when the companies tried to stop the claims from going forward. At the hearing, Amnesty International – represented by lawyers Paul Champ and Penelope Simons – argued that a parent company may owe a duty of care to people who might be harmed by the conduct of its subsidiary companies. Legally speaking, in Canada, individuals and corporations have an obligation to take reasonable care to avoid conduct that entails an unreasonable risk of harm to others. In light of international standards on corporate behaviour, AI argued that a reasonable parent corporation would inform itself of the human rights risks associated with operating in a conflict-affected area such as Guatemala, and conduct itself in accordance with these norms.

By ruling that cases can proceed, this judgment represents a major victory for these particular plaintiffs – who will have a chance to prove their claims in Canadian court – and also for the larger struggle to ensure that Canadian corporations respect international human rights standards, wherever they operate.

Read a Globe and Mail article about the case here:…

Read Amnesty International’s earlier public statement about the case at:…

For a detailed description of the case, visit