Canadian mining companies are some of the worst offenders of human rights and environmental standards in developing countries. Mining Watch recently obtained a 2009 report commissioned by Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada which noted that "Canadian mining companies are involved in more than four times as many violations as the next two highest offenders, Australia and India."
Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) John McKay tabled Bill C-300, Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries Act, in February 2009. On October 27, 2010, the bill was narrowly defeated in the House of Commons by a vote of 140-134. If the bill had passed, it would have ensured that Canadian companies respected human rights and environmental best practices while operating overseas. It would have also ensured Canadian companies that violated human rights and environmental standards were not publicly funded.
A majority of Liberals, NDPs and Bloc Québécois voted in favour of the bill. While it is not surprising that all Conservative MPs present voted against the bill, it is concerning that 24 opposition MPs from the Liberal, NDP and Bloc Québécois parties were absent from the vote. Because of the narrow margin in which the bill was defeated, their votes were critical to carrying the bill through. What is even more concerning is that a recent Globe and Mail article pointed to corporate lobbying as a likely cause for nine of the absences. The article noted that "the registry shows MPs were lobbied by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, Goldcorp Inc., Vale Canada Inc., Iamgold Corp., the Mining Association of Canada, Stillwater Mining Company and Xstrata Nickel."
Civil society groups including the Council of Canadians, Mining Watch, Common Frontiers, Polaris Institute, Indigenous Peoples' Solidarity Movement Ottawa and Soeurs du Sacré-Coeur de Jésus are asking people to show their support by signing onto the letter below.
Later this month, the letter will be hand delivered to a community in San Luis Potosí, Mexico that is involved in a local struggle against a Canadian mining company, which is destroying a nearby mountain and threatening local water supplies. The letter will also be sent to organizations working with affected communities as well as MPs. The purpose of the letter is to show affected communities that Canadians condemn the harm caused by Canadian mining companies and demand that our government implement legislation to hold these companies accountable for human rights violations and environmental degradation.
If you would like to sign onto this letter, please send your name, organization (if applicable) and city/province to [email protected]. French and Spanish versions of this letter are also available. The deadline for sign-on is November 16 at noon EST.
For more information on international and domestic mining issues, visit: http://www.miningwatch.ca/
For the Globe and Mail article, "Mining industry lobbied nine of 24 MPs who helped kill ethics bill," visit: http://m.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/mining-industry-lobbied-nine-...
For the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada's report, "Corporate Social Responsibility: Movements and Footprints of Canadian Mining and Exploration Firms in Developing Countries," visit: http://www.miningwatch.ca/sites/miningwatch.ca/files/CSR_Movements_and_F...
To all communities affected by Canadian mining operations:
As Canadians, we deeply regret the failure of our Members of Parliament to hold mining companies accountable for their human rights records and environmental practices abroad and to hold our government accountable for the financial and political support it provides to Canadian mining companies. On October 27, 2010, Bill C-300, entitled the Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries Act, was narrowly defeated in the House of Commons by a vote of 140-134.
If the bill had passed it would have created a framework of human rights and environmental standards for Canadian extractive companies operating in developing countries. It also would have provided communities around the world with a complaints mechanism. The federal government would have had the responsibility of investigating complaints against Canadian extractive companies. If a company were found to be out of compliance with the standards, the Bill allowed the Canadian government to withdraw funding for that company (from, for example, Export Development Canada) and to withdraw political support for that company (from, for example, the local embassy).
Making Canadian government support conditional on extractive companies meeting human rights and environmental standards would have provided a strong incentive for Canadian companies operating abroad. We are extremely disappointed that our Members of Parliament failed to seize this critical initial opportunity to hold Canadian companies and the federal government accountable for the activities of Canadian extractive companies operating overseas.
We are deeply disappointed that despite the Bill having been tabled by Liberal MP John McKay, other Liberal party members played a pivotal role in leading the defeat of their own member's Bill. In particular, Party leader Michael Ignatieff did not vote on it despite claiming to support its aims. We are also very disappointed that several New Democratic Party and Bloc Québécois MPs did not support this motion as it would have proven to be pivotal on this issue.
We are saddened that the defeat of this critical Bill reinforces the notion that at this point in time Canada is truly undeserving of a seat on the UN Security Council. Canada's historic loss in the bid for a seat on the UN Security Council in October reflected Canada's faltering image on the world stage due in part to its lack of support for critical human rights and environmental norms. Canada failed to support the recent UN resolution on the right to water and sanitation and Canada and the US are now the only countries opposed to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Canada has also publicly stated that it has no intention of meeting its legally-binding commitments as a signatory to the Kyoto Accord.
Legislation regulating Canadian companies abroad is sorely needed. As of 2008, some 75% of the world's exploration and mining companies have their headquarters in Canada. Canadian extractive companies are associated with approximately 10,000 projects in over 100 countries. A recent report commissioned by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) pointed to Canadian companies as the worst offenders prone to community conflict, environmental contamination, and unethical if not illegal practices. Canadian companies have been implicated in significant environmental damage as well as egregious human rights violations in recent cases in Mexico, Papua New Guinea, and Guatemala, to name a few.
Based on the work of the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises (John Ruggie), the Ministry of Economic Affairs of the Netherlands conducted a study into the legal liability of Dutch companies and their subsidiaries operating abroad. The study, which examined the ability of court systems in the Netherlands to hear complaints from foreign nationals, noted that "there are...strong policy reasons for home States to encourage their companies to respect rights abroad." In a meeting between Ruggie and Global Witness, participants concluded that "home states should play a bigger role in addressing business and human rights concerns in conflicted areas." This past July, the US passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act which promotes responsible mining by requiring US companies to report payments to foreign governments and trafficking in conflict materials.
We are deeply disappointed that in opposition to the emerging trend of countries holding their companies accountable at home for violations of international human rights and environmental standards especially when they operate in weak governance zones abroad, Canada has again failed to join other countries in advancing international human rights and environmental norms. We stand in solidarity with all the communities around the world harmed by Canadian mining companies. Despite our Members of Parliament's failure to seize the opportunity provided by Bill C-300 to create a strong mechanism for enhanced industry and government accountability, we commit to renewing our work at legislative reform. We also commit to redoubling our efforts to mobilize Canadian public opinion in order to rein in abuses by Canada's extractive industries whether operating at home or abroad.
(Your name/organization here)
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