Talonbooks has postponed a controversial book about the Canadian mining industry after being threatened with legal action by Barrick Gold, the Toronto-based mining giant. Speaking yesterday on CBC Radio’s Q, Talonbooks publisher Karl Siegler told host Jian Ghomeshi that Imperial Canada Inc.: Legal Haven of Choice for the World’s Mining Industries, originally scheduled to be published in spring 2010, has been pushed back to the fall at the earliest.
Siegler received a letter from Barrick in February demanding that the firm hand over the manuscript to the book, which was adapted from inspired by a French-language book published in Quebec called Noir Canada: Pillage, corruption et criminalité en Afrique, which looks at the African mining operations of Canadian companies. (Both books are by Alain Deneault, but Imperial Canada does not look at the mining operations of particular companies, focusing instead on the legal framework that allows a majority of the world’s mining companies to register in Canada.) Siegler initially chose to ignore Barrick’s request. From CBC.ca:
“As far as we were concerned, they had no right to demand or see copies of manuscripts that were in development prior to their public release. Anyone working on a book has a right to privacy and should not be subject to this kind of supervision.”
However, the two translators working on the book, Fred A. Reed and Robin Philpot, also received threatening letters from Barrick and immediately stopped working on the book. After consulting a lawyer, Siegler was advised to halt publication to avoid facing years in court and legal bills that could wipe out the company’s finances:
“Everyone involved stood to lose millions of dollars,” Siegler said. “In the publisher’s case, we stood to lose not just the company but all of the titles we have in print, roughly 500 titles dating back to the 1960s, many of which are Canadian classics.”
While the Talonbooks website lists the book as cancelled, Siegler told the CBC that he hopes to publish Imperial Canada as early as this fall if he can convince everyone involved to continue.
Apparently, Barrick’s bully tactics are nothing new: along with another mining company, Banro, Barrick is suing the Quebec publishers and authors of Noir Canada for $11 million in a case that will go before the courts this fall.
[UPDATE] Talonbooks president Kevin Williams has told Q&Q that the company is receiving pro bono legal representation from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and hopes to resume work on the manuscript for Imperial Canada soon.