Large crowd blocks downtown street in protest against mining industry convention

About 200 people took over a downtown street on Sunday afternoon to protest against an annual mining industry convention in downtown Toronto.

Protesters rally outside convention of Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada

Protesters held banners, carried placards, chanted "Shame!" and listened to speakers condemn the Canadian mining industry. (Muriel Draaisma/CBC)

About 200 people took over a downtown street on Sunday afternoon to protest against an annual mining industry convention in Toronto.

As police officers watched, the protesters rallied on Front Street outside the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, where delegates had gathered for the opening day of the convention of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada. 

The protesters held banners, chanted "Shame!" and listened to speakers condemn Canadian mining industry companies for allegedly violating human rights and environmental laws in countries outside Canada in which they operate.

"I think, every day, the ecological crisis gets worse," Kirsten Francescone, a member of MiningWatch Canada, told reporters as the rally got underway. 

"We definitely cannot think that more destructive mines that violate human rights and destroy people's environments is our way out of that ecological crisis. I am really concerned that the mining industry is using this space to say that we need mining to save us from climate change. We're here to say that shouldn't be the case," she added.

"We want other kinds of ways forward for a better future for all of us."

The protesters displayed an array of banners and placards to protest against the Canadian mining industry. (Muriel Draaisma/CBC)

Rachel Small, a member of the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, said it is important to stand up to what she believes is violence perpetuated by the mining industry.

"We are here in front of the world's biggest mining convention," Small said.

"Toronto is here to say no to business as usual with this industry continuing. We know what the Canadian mining industry looks like. We know that their business as usual is literally leading us to an unlivable planet. We cannot allow this to continue," she said.

"We are here in solidarity with every community around the world that has faced down the barrel of a gun for daring to say no to a Canadian extractive project."

Small said the protesters came to the rally to disrupt the convention. At one point, the protesters attempted to enter the convention but were stopped by police. They did, however, block different entrances to the building for about an hour.

She said the protest was held in part to show solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en chiefs who oppose a natural gas pipeline that would cut through their traditional territory in northern B.C.

"Canada is a country founded on the removal of Indigenous people for extractive projects. That's exactly what's happening right now on Wet'suwet'en land and that's exactly what Canadian mining projects are doing all over the world," she added.

On Sunday, one chief and senior government ministers said they have reached a proposed agreement over land title but debate continues over the pipeline. The dispute has led to solidarity protests and rail blockades across the country. 

More than 50 organizations endorsed the rally.

Organizers said many of the companies that provide economic support for the Costal GasLink pipeline project in B.C. also take part in the mining convention.

Sponsors of the four-day conference include such mining companies as Vale, Hudbay, Barrick Gold, Teck and BHP.

The association has 7,500 members. In recent years, the convention has attracted more than 25,000 people from 131 countries.

More than 50 organizations endorsed the rally. (Muriel Draaisma/CBC)



With files from Natalie Nanowski, The Canadian Press