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Event Preview: Social Justice Centre Conference

The Social Justice Centre Conference is taking place from Tuesday March 24 to Monday March 30. Main Facebook event

I will never forget that Adolfo gave his life and blood for this land, and I will do the same.
– Angelica Choc

On 27 September 2009 Adolfo Ich Chamán, a respected Mayan Q’eqchi’ leader in the community of La Union, Guatemala, was brutally murdered. The security manager of the Canadian-owned mine operating in the area was arrested in connection with the killing. Unsurprisingly, Adolfo was an outspoken critic of the harms that the mine was inflicting on his community.

Such violence is common in Guatemala, and justice rare, especially for the Indigenous Q’eqchi’, who just a few decades ago faced genocidal massacres from the ruling military dictatorship. Adolfo’s wife, Angelica Choc, thus decided to bring to court the parent company of the mine, HudBay Inc., in Canada rather than Guatemala. Canada has a notoriously weak legal framework governing the resource sector; Canadian courts are unable to try Canadian companies for crimes their subsidiaries commit in other countries. Angelica’s case set a precedent, however, when the judge ruled that the case could be heard in Canadian courts.

Angelica Choc will be visiting UBC, unceded Coast Salish land, as part of the Social Justice Centre Conference 2015, participating as a panelist at an event named A Questionable Proposition of Values on Thursday March 26. While Canadian mining is causing harm to communities and the environment around the world, resource extraction has been dispossessing First Nations on this land for much longer. Kanahus Manuel of the Secwepemc Nation, who has been resisting Imperial Metals, the company responsible for the Mount Polley disaster, will be joining Angelica on the panel. Miguel Mijangos, the co-founder of the Mesoamerican Movement Against the Extractive Model; Jennifer Moore, a journalist covering Latin American mining conflicts; and Alain Deneault, an academic who has written extensively about Canadian mining (and gotten sued for $11 million for it) will also be on the panel.

The panel will be discussing, among other topics, the federal institute called the Canadian International Resources and Development Institute, which is headquartered at UBC and run jointly with Simon Fraser University. Students at both universities have been raising critical questions about the mandate and structure of the institute, growing into a larger campaign called Stop the Institute, which has included an international petition demanding its closure. Stop the Institute was involved in organizing many of the events in the conference.

These speakers are in Vancouver as part of the State of Extraction conference at Simon Fraser University, a historic event bringing mining-affected community members, activists, and academics to speak about resource extraction and Canada’s role. The Social Justice Centre has organized similar events at UBC in order to bring many of these voices to UBC students, faculty, and staff as well.

Not all the events in the conference are about extraction, however. There is also a concert fundraiser for the 43 missing students of Ayotzinapa, Mexico, and a panel about corporatization and affordability of the university.

Full list of events (click on the arrows to expand)

Main Facebook event for the conference linking to all the others

Tuesday, March 24

Diadora’s testimony from La Puya: Stories of resistance to Canadian mining in Guatemala

Tuesday March 24, 5:00–6:30 PM @ Buchanan A103

Since March 2012, widespread opposition to the El Tambor mine, a project of Canadian mining company Radius Gold, led to the iconic La Puya resistance at a crossroads near the town of San Jose del Golfo in Guatemala. Although in May 2014 their roadblock was violently opened up, community members directly affected by this mine continue to attend their shifts at the La Puya intersection.

Diadora, a grandmother that has been told that she and her community will have to relocate because they live in the valley below the mine site, has done regular shifts at the site since the beginning. She shares with us her personal testimony and her perspectives on proposed extractive projects in her community.

This testimony is a preview of a larger film effort by UBC students and alumni to bring the stories of people and communities suffering the depredations of Canadian extractive companies to the cities and institutions where they’re hosted.

Samuel Stime and Ana Elia Ramon, two of the filmmakers, will be discussing the project.

Wednesday, March 25

UBC Concert for Ayotzinapa

Wednesday March 25, 8:00 PM – 12:00 AM @ Asian Centre Auditorium

A concert, fundraiser, and awareness event about the missing students of Ayotzinapa, Mexico. In September 2014, 43 students went missing in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. Many questions have been raised about the Mexican government’s involvement in the disappearances. Although such violence is not uncommon in Mexico, this was the last straw for many, and the incident has sparked an enormous grassroots movement to demand accountability from the Mexican government.

Two bands, Locarno and Alma Chevere, will be performing. There will also be an informational component to the event explaining the situation and what you can do to support the relatives of the victims and stand in solidarity with the community.

The entrance is by donation, with all proceeds going towards a community radio station for Ayotzinapa, as per the community’s request.

Thursday, March 26

A Questionable Proposition of Values

Thursday March 26, 2:30–4:30 PM @ Irving K. Barber 302

A moderated panel discussion on Canadian mining, the privilege the sector is given by federal and provincial governments, and the impacts of these companies on communities and territorial rights-holders.

The panel will deconstruct the ideological roots behind CIRDI – the Canadian International Resources and Development Institute – a mining , oil, and gas industry think-tank now hosted at UBC.


  • Angelica Choc, a Mayan Q’eqchi’ woman from Guatemala whose husband was killed by the security forces of the Canadian mining company HudBay. She is a plaintiff on the historic Choc vs. HudBay case.
  • Kanahus Manuel of the Secwpemc Nation. She has been involved in the Yuct Ne Senxiymetkwe Camp blockade of the Imperial Metals mine site.
  • Miguel Mijangos, co-founder of the Mexican Network of Mining-Affected Peoples (REMA) and the M4 movement (Mesoamerican Movement against the Mining extractive Model).
  • Jennifer Moore, journalist and Latin America Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada. She has extensively covered mining conflicts in Latin America.
  • Alain Deneault, an author and academic at the Université de Montréal. He was sued for $11 million dollars by two mining companies for his book Noir Canada.

The Corporate University in The 21st Century: Panel Discussion

Thursday March 26, 5:00–7:00 PM @ Buchanan A103

A panel discussion on the state and future of the university, exploring issues of affordability, corporatization, and the role of the university in a democratic society.


  • Members of the I Am A Student – UBC movement, formed to oppose the recent tuition and housing fee increases at UBC
  • Rodney Little Mustache, UBC student, to discuss barriers for First Nations to attend university
  • Elvin Wyly, professor of urban geography at UBC, to discuss inequality and corporatization of the university

Some background on the idea for the event:

In 2014, it was announced that Arvind Gupta would become the next President of UBC. Gupta was previously the CEO of Mitacs, a body which sets up academic–corporate partnerships. His closeness with industry appears to be one of the reasons he was chosen as President.

Shortly after taking office, UBC administration proposed devastating student fee increases: a 10% increase to international student tuition and a 20% increase to 8-month housing contracts. A grassroots movement, I Am A Student, arose to oppose these increases.

On 13 January 2015 Gupta gave a talk at Green College laying out his vision for “The University of the 21st Century”. During the talk he emphasized the role of the university in solving problems for industry.

This event plays off Gupta’s talk, but will instead explore the problems that the university faces in the 21st century, including corporatization and affordability, and discuss the prospects for the positive role it can play in society.

Monday, March 30

Screening of The Devil Operation + Q&A with directors

Monday March 30, 5:00–7:00 PM @ Buchanan A102

A free screening of The Devil Operation plus a Q&A with directors Stephany Boyd and Miguel Araoz.

Father Marco, a humble priest from the mountains of Peru, is being followed. A private security firm is filming and photographing the priest’s every move; their meticulous reports are code-named ‘The Devil Operation.’

Marco’s allies are murdered and tortured, but he and his disciples refuse to be victims. They turn their cameras on the spies and develop a counter-espionage plan that leads to South America’s largest gold mine.

For the past two decades, Father Marco has defended farming communities against the Yanacocha mine’s abuses, earning him the nickname ‘The Devil’.

Peru is one of the world’s top gold producers and the state has ceded power to transnational corporations who guard their territory like outlaws from the Wild West.

This real-life political thriller exposes the new wave of corporate terrorism faced by Latin America’s human rights defenders.