Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mining indictment heavy-handed fiction

  • Print

FIRST, you get everyone's attention with a dumb pun in your title. Then submit an indictment of Canadian mining companies disguised as a novel.

In his heavy-handed fictional debut, a Nova Scotia-based environmental activist, conflict mediator and organic farmer trumpets the harm caused to developing world communities by companies operating offshore.

Stephen Law tries to reel in readers by depicting a fictitious Canadian company's complicity in covering up the harm caused when its poisonous tailings pollute the water supply.

Tailings of Warren Peace, released by a Winnipeg publisher, starts in contemporary Toronto, where the title character, a mild-mannered 20-something graveyard caretaker, begins a romance with an attractive and intelligent law student.

They find posters with such sentences as "They hit my big brother" and "My village died" displayed on lamp posts in a Toronto suburb.

These cryptic messages turn out to be a recently arrived Guatemalan's pitiful way of publishing horrid events occurring in her homeland.

It's an effective opening, which leads to the main characters becoming involved in a watchdog group intent on obtaining proof that mining companies are causing harm to developing countries like Guatemala.

This convenient but entirely believable intersecting of purposes is helped by a crisp writing style, but it could have been done without the poorly camouflaged hints that much of Canada's corporate world is corrupt.

For example, the offending gold mining company is called "Magma International" and the company that eventually takes it over is "Barron Gold." These names may amuse the Stronach family at Magna International and the Munks at Barrick Gold, but Law's decision to call his protagonist Warren Peace likely has Tolstoy's ghost groaning in pain.

Another distraction is a confusing structure featuring an overlapping of past and present events.

Frequent switches in time and place are interruptions to an otherwise engaging story about corporate heavies adept at thwarting the good intentions of environmental and human-rights activists.

Just when readers are hoping that the criminal actions by Magma International will be exposed in civilized courtrooms, the plot veers toward a world suited to James Bond.

Unfortunately, Warren is a pale image of Ian Fleming's hero, and readers may find it a stretch to believe in some of the plot coincidences.

Warren and the Guatemalan message-poster travel to her homeland to obtain evidence of the mining company's complicity in hiding the bodies of indigenous children poisoned by cyanide used in gold mining. While there they pose as Canadian inspectors.

Their ruse is uncovered by armed company overseers, but the fake inspectors easily flee the sprawling complex through a long tunnel supposedly dug by just one Guatemalan miner. Talk about a working-class hero.

In spite of its shortcomings, Tailings of Warren Peace succeeds in mimicking the real, often unholy alliances between corporate interests, global politics and Canadian investors looking for a high rate of return.

Yet fictional overkill, even the kind based on facts, can be a double-edged sword, and readers must decide if well-intentioned activists like Law would better serve their cause by publishing only verifiable data.

Joseph Hnatiuk is a retired teacher in Winnipeg.

Tailings of Warren Peace

By Stephen Law

Roseway/Fernwood, 262 pages, $20

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 27, 2013 J8

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Total Body Tune-Up: Farmer's Carry

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A golfer looks for his ball in a water trap at John Blumberg Golf Course Friday afternoon as geese and goslings run for safety- See Joe Bryksa’s 30 day goose challenge- Day 24– June 15, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 090728 / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS White Pelicans belly up to the sushi bar Tuesday afternoon at Lockport. One of North America's largest birds is a common sight along the Red RIver and on Lake Winnipeg. Here the fight each other for fish near the base of Red RIver's control structure, giving human fisher's downstream a run for their money.

View More Gallery Photos


Do you think the Jets will win Game 4 on Wednesday?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google