Victims silenced: Gang rape survivors from Papua New Guinea denied speaking rights at Barrick’s Annual General Meeting

Written by Sakura Saunders on May 15, 2017

Everlyn Mandi and Joycelyn Gaupe who say they are survivors of sexual assault at Barrick’s mining operation in Papua New Guinea, were given flowers as they left Barrick’s Annual Shareholders’ Meeting on April 25, 2017 in downtown Toronto. Photo by Allan Lissner.

Everlyn Gaupe and Joycelyn Mandi travelled across the planet from the highlands of Papua New Guinea to downtown Toronto to confront Barrick Gold at the company’s annual general meeting. Both survivors of gang rape at the hands of mine security, their goal was to confront the company about the violence near Barrick’s Porgera mine. But both Joycelyn and Everlyn were denied the opportunity to speak to Barrick’s shareholders, despite the fact that they both held legal proxies.

“After we came all this way, Barrick silenced our voices,” remarked Joycelyn Mandi, who is representing rape survivors who have never received remedy from Barrick. “So we feel like it’s the same as what they do to us in Porgera.”

After years of denying cases of sexual assault, Canadian mining company Barrick Gold compensated 119 women and girls who were victims of sexual violence by mine security with about $10,000 each for these abuses in 2012. This redress package, which offered small “business grants” and “business training” to the victims, gave this compensation in exchange for the women to sign a legal waiver stating that they could never sue the company. None of these women were offered independent legal council, nor were they consulted about the remedy that they received. Additionally, many women victims were never compensated at all and the claims brought to Barrick since this time have been ignored.

“My case was brought to your grievance office at the mine in 2015 together with the cases of 80 other women who have never received remedy,” read Joycelyn’s statement, which was said aloud to the shareholders by Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada while the women stood by her side. “We have a case number 3936, but until today we have had nothing but excuses from Barrick about why our cases have not been addressed and no one has spoken to us personally about our cases.”

After Everlyn Guape and Joycelyn Mandi came out of Barrick’s shareholders’ meeting on April 25, 2017, the police refused to let them and their supporters be on the sidewalk so they took Front street in downtown Toronto. Photo by Allan Lissner.

Everlyn Gaupe was one of the 119 women who participated in Barrick’s remedy program. She came to Canada to represent the 119 women who have organized to get fair treatment from Barrick. She came to ask Barrick to open up a new dialogue about the remedy of the rape survivors and also asked that Barrick release them from the legal waiver.

“In the AGM, Barrick shamed us by not letting us speak,” said Everlyn Gaupe. “When Barrick rejected us I was very angry, but I was surrounded by police and I felt like I could not do anything. At least our statements were heard by Barrick. They said that they would meet us, and I will say more to Barrick then.”

Regarding Barrick’s response to their statements, Joycelyn stressed, “Barrick didn’t answer my second question about how to stop the ongoing violence.”

While the women are in Canada, they are collecting used cell phones with photo and video capacity so that they can distribute these to the women in all of the villages surrounding Barrick’s Porgera mine, to help hold the company accountable as these abuses continue.

Klaire Gain, who was also denied speaking rights despite holding a legal proxy, took the microphone at the end of question period despite lacking the proper pass. She spoke of the impacts at Barrick’s Pueblo Viejo mine in the Dominican Republic, including a red alert that the community is experiencing, but has heard nothing from the company about. As with Porgera, the primary demand of the people next to the Pueblo Viejo mine is to be resettled away from mining activity.

The Mining Injustice Solidarity Network/ProtestBarrick, which provided proxies for the women to use at the meeting, are looking into legal responses to Barrick’s denial of the voice of these women.

Hear a radio interview with the women here.

Originally published by the Toronto Media Co-op.

Comments are closed.