Human rights activists stage sit-in protest at Michael Levitt’s Toronto office

Community News & Features Jun 9, 2017 at 6:15 pm

MP Levitt mask worn by protester displaying his quote MP LEVITT OBJECT OF PROTESTS ON CANADIAN MINING’S HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES

By Jecris Tubigon

TORONTO – Representatives from various civil society organizations in Ontario trooped Friday (May 26) to the Toronto office of Michael Levitt to have a meeting with the MP and demand his apology for the “arrogant and dismissive” treatment he gave the five-member delegation from the Philippines that included two Indigenous women, at a meeting in his Ottawa office in March this year.
The activists also assertively reiterated the need for an independent Ombudsperson to address the practices of Canadian Mining Companies abroad related to human rights and environmental abuses.

According to witnesses present at the March meeting in Ottawa, Mr. Levitt was condescending towards the Philippine delegation and at one point snapped his fingers at the Indigenous women who were there to seek his help as the Subcommittee Chair on International Human Rights of the Parliament’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. Reportedly declared that allegations of human rights violations implicating Canadian mining operations overseas were not under his committee’s purview and told the delegation to talk to the Standing Committee on International Trade instead.

Some members of the protesting group in front of Levitt’s Toronto office

Some members of the protesting group in front of Levitt’s Toronto office

On Friday’s (May 26) Sit-in Protest, Mr. Levitt met with the civil society representatives and was presented with the group’s demands i.e., for Mr. Levitt to apologize to the Philippine Delegation and for his committee to make a positive and public action in favour of an Independent Ombudsperson for Canadian Mining Companies abroad. Levit gave a non-committal response on the demands and when told that the group would not leave his office until he gives a statement, he told the group they were welcome to so and he walked out of his office.

It wasn’t until an hour after that he came back and talked to the activists again, this time with a change of tone. He promised to call Bishop Antonio Ablon, who was a member of the delegation, who incidentally is already back in the Philippines but Mr. Levitt said he was going to call him anyway, despite being told that he could state his apologies to the group then and there which he refused to do.

As for the campaign for an Independent Ombudsperson, Mr. Levitt assured everyone present that he would look further into it and conceded that the protestors’ grievances were valid.

Bayani Edades of Migrante Ontario added that more than an apology and (empty?) politician-speak, what is even more important is for Levitt’s committee to hear and take action on the allegations of human rights violations committed by Canadian mining companies in the Philippines and in other countries of the global south and present these findings to the Canadian Parliament for positive action.


Smiling MP Levitt after a one-hour walk-out

Smiling MP Levitt after a one-hour walk-out

Demands of the protesters

Demands of the protesters

Protesters inside Levitt’s office (Photos: J. TUBIGON)

Protesters inside Levitt’s office
(Photos: J. TUBIGON)