Lawyers support Guatemalan colleague in fight against Canadian silver mine


Osgoode Professor Shin Imai is available to discuss why Canadian lawyers are pressuring the federal government to help ensure the safety of a Guatemalan colleague

TORONTO, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018 – Canadian lawyers and international organizations are asking the Canadian and Guatemalan governments to ensure the safety of Guatemalan lawyer Rafael Maldonado in a fight against Canadian mining company Tahoe Resources, said Shin Imai, a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School and counsel to the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project.

headshot of Rafael Maldonado, credit Front Line Defenders

Rafael Maldonado

Maldonado has actively defended community members concerned about the impacts of Tahoe Resources’ mining operations. He has received death threats, his office has been ransacked and shots were fired at his car earlier this year.

“Canada needs to be seen to be protecting the right to carry out legal representation without being intimidated or murdered,” said Imai.

In June 2017, Maldonado successfully argued that the silver mine should be suspended because the Guatemalan government had ignored the existence of Xinca Indigenous people in the area affected by Tahoe’s Escobal project. Within two days, Tahoe stocks plummeted 40 per cent. Supporters of the Tahoe mine took out advertisements attacking Maldonado’s place of work, the Guatemala Centre for Social and Environmental Legal Action.

“Advertisements like this are very dangerous in a country like Guatemala, which has one of the worst records in the world for the murder of human rights defenders,” said Lisa Rankin, Guatemala coordinator for the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network. Rankin has supported communities around the mine for the last five years.

International organizations such as Frontline Defenders from Ireland and Amnesty International have also profiled Maldonado as a human rights defender in need of protection.

On Dec. 20, 2017, the Canadian Bar Association wrote to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland expressing concern for Maldonado’s safety. Earlier in the fall, the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project, a group located at Osgoode Hall Law School wrote to the Canadian Embassy in Guatemala. Letters were also sent to the president of Guatemala by the Law Society of Upper Canada and the Law Society of England and Wales.

Shin Imai and Lisa Rankin are available to discuss why Canadian lawyers are pressuring the Canadian and Guatemalan governments.

*Backgrounder is available upon request.


Rafael Maldonado, credit Front Line Defenders

Nobel Laureate women visit peaceful resistance against Tahoe in Guatemala, credit Nobel Women’s Initiative


York University champions new ways of thinking that drive teaching and research excellence. Our students receive the education they need to create big ideas that make an impact on the world. Meaningful and sometimes unexpected careers result from cross-disciplinary programming, innovative course design and diverse experiential learning opportunities. York students and graduates push limits, achieve goals and find solutions to the world’s most pressing social challenges, empowered by a strong community that opens minds. York U is an internationally recognized research university – our 11 faculties and 25 research centres have partnerships with 200+ leading universities worldwide. Located in Toronto, York is the third largest university in Canada, with a strong community of 53,000 students, 7,000 faculty and administrative staff, and more than 300,000 alumni. York U's fully bilingual Glendon Campus is home to Southern Ontario's Centre of Excellence for French Language and Bilingual Postsecondary Education.

Osgoode Hall Law School of York University has a proud history of 129 years of leadership and innovation in legal education and legal scholarship. A total of about 900 students are enrolled in Osgoode’s three-year Juris Doctor (JD) Program as well as joint and combined programs. The school's Graduate Program in Law is also the largest in the country and one of the most highly regarded in North America. In addition, Osgoode Professional Development, which operates out of Osgoode’s facility in downtown Toronto, offers both degree and non-degree programming for Canadian and international lawyers, non-law professionals, firms and organizations. Osgoode has an internationally renowned faculty of 60 full-time professors, and more than 100 adjunct professors. Our respected community of more than 18,000 alumni are leaders in the legal profession and in many other fields in Canada and across the globe.

Media contacts:

Sandra McLean, York University Media Relations, 416-736-2100 ext. 22097,

Virginia Corner, Communications Manager, Osgoode Hall Law School of York University, 416-736-5820,