OTTAWA, Oct. 22, 2013 /CNW/ - People who have been harmed by Canadian mining, oil and gas companies overseas may soon be able to bring their cases to Canada.
Today, 23 Canadian organizations and their international allies issued a call to action to Members of Parliament, and all Canadians, to ensure that victims of Canadian corporate abuse abroad can access justice in Canada.
The call to action addresses two key barriers to justice: weak out-of-court mechanisms and obstacles to suing in Canadian courts.
"It is time for Canada to create a mandatory extractive-sector Ombudsman and to legislate access to courts for people who are harmed by the overseas operations of Canadian oil, mining and gas companies," said Emily Dwyer, Coordinator of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA).
Canada's voluntary Extractive-Sector CSR Counsellor has proved hopelessly ineffective since the Office was established in 2009.
"We brought the first case to the CSR Counsellor's Office in 2011 when Mexican workers were harassed and intimidated because they tried to unionize at a Canadian mine," said Valeria Scorza, ProDESC, Mexico. "Even though the Counsellor found that our complaint was made in good faith and met all the criteria, she couldn't do anything because the company wasn't willing to participate."
Ms. Scorza's experience is not unique. No complaint has ever gone through a full review process. In most cases the company has simply walked away. Even the now disbanded advisory panel to the CSR Counsellor recognizes the Office is deeply flawed.
"A Canadian company implicated in human rights abuses should not be able to put a stop to a complaint process," said Ken Neumann, National Director for the United Steelworkers union. "An independent decision-maker should be making that decision, based on the merits of the case."
Companies regularly try to hide from accountability by insisting that cases related to their overseas operations should not be heard by Canadian courts.
"In our globalized world we can't hide behind the idea that the harm is happening somewhere else and is someone else's problem," says Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada. "Canadian companies need to be held to account in Canadian courts."
The CNCA's campaign is responding to calls for solidarity from international allies directly impacted by Canadian companies' extractive operations.
"People in the global South are demanding justice from transnational mining companies," said Rev. Rex Reyes, National Council of Churches of the Philippines. "As the home of this global industry, Canada must do more to hold companies to human rights and environmental standards. We need mechanisms that give us justice."
The CNCA unites environmental and human rights NGOs, faith groups, labour unions, and research and solidarity groups across Canada who are advocating for federal legislation to establish mandatory corporate accountability standards for Canadian extractive companies operating abroad, especially in developing countries.
International guest speakers at launch events:
Angelica Choc, Guatemala
Plaintiff in Choc vs. HudBay, one of three cases against HudBay Minerals proceeding in Ontario civil courts. For more see www.chocversushudbay.com
Valeria Scorza, Mexico
Complaint against Excellon Resources submitted to the CSR Counsellor's Office. For more see: http://www.prodesc.org.mx/?page_id=558
Sister Maudilia Lopez, Guatemala
Complaint against Goldcorp submitted to the National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines. For more see: http://www.oecd.org/daf/inv/mne/48754883.pdf
Rev. Rex Reyes, Philippines
National Council of Churches of the Philippines. For more see: http://nccphilippines.org/site/
CNCA member organisations include:
• Amnesty International Canada • Africa-Canada Forum • Americas Policy Group • Asia Pacific Working Group • Canada Tibet Committee • Canadian Council for International Co-operation • Canadian Labour Congress • Committee for Human Rights in Latin America • Development and Peace • Entraide Missionnaire • Friends of the Earth Canada • Halifax Initiative Coalition • Inter Pares • KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives • MiningWatch Canada • Projet Accompagnement Québec-Guatemala • Public Service Alliance of Canada • Publish What You Pay-Canada • Social Justice Committee of Montreal • Solidarité Laurentides Amérique central • Steelworkers Humanity Fund • United Church of Canada • Unifor
SOURCE: Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability
For further information:
Emily Dwyer, Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, (819) 592-6657, email@example.com
Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Amnesty International, (416) 363-9933, ext. 332; cell (416) 904-7158; firstname.lastname@example.org
Ken Neumann, USW National Director for Canada, (416) 544-5951
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, (416) 544-5966, (416) 434-2221, email@example.com