OTTAWA, March 22, 2012 /CNW/ - The Government of Canada continues to ignore several key recommendations from the National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries, including those regarding the creation of an ombudsman and the adoption of measures to condition government support on corporate compliance with clear performance standards.
The Roundtables were convened amidst widespread public anger over the serious human rights and environmental impacts generated by Canadian companies operating overseas. The process sought to achieve real change in the behaviour of Canadian companies, more positive outcomes for workers and communities, as well as greater government accountability regarding public support for the industry.
A January press release by the Mining Association of Canada (MAC), which was echoed by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), presents a misleading picture regarding the implementation of recommendations made in the Roundtables.
A recent report commissioned by MAC, and publicly released with the January press release, reveals that only 3 of the Roundtables' 27 recommendations have been implemented. It notes that "[m]any recommendations (15) are either partially implemented at present … or require on-going efforts … and some (9) of the Roundtables recommendations have not been implemented at all."
In addition, emerging best practice in the extractive sector has left Canada lagging behind. For example, although the Canadian government has joined the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative as recommended in the Roundtables Report, it has not followed the lead of countries such as Norway and the USA in implementing the EITI domestically.
Notwithstanding the positive spin in MAC's press release, its study suggests widespread discontent with government progress. The report notes that only 7% of stakeholders interviewed are "satisfied" with the implementation of the Roundtables recommendations.
The MAC report fails to acknowledge that extractive companies lobbied against the Roundtables recommendations, long before the tabling of Bill C-300. MAC inaccurately describes the bill as the source of polarization regarding the extractive sector. In fact, it was industry back-peddling and government intransigence that provided the impetus for Bill C-300.
MAC recommends continued multi-stakeholder dialogue. While essential, such dialogue is compromised if there is a perceived lack of good faith, or if participants do not in fact represent key elements of their own constituencies.
As any review of recent news headlines will indicate, the issues and challenges that provided the impetus to the Roundtables remain unresolved since the Advisory Group issued its recommendations:
|-||Workers at Excellon's Mexico mine experienced the impotence of the CSR Counsellor process when the company summarily withdrew from the Counsellor's first case;|
|-||Anvil Mining, a Canadian corporation, is accused of providing logistical support to the Congolese army who murdered and brutalised the people of Kilwa in the DRC in 2004. However, victims continue to be denied access to remedy;|
|-||Vale, a member of MAC, earned the dubious distinction of winning the 2012 Public Eye People's Choice Award for the world's worst company;|
|-||The ILO Committee of Experts has called for the suspension of operations at Goldcorp's Marlin mine in Guatemala until local communities are adequately consulted. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has raised concerns with the Guatemalan government regarding environmental, health and security issues connected with the mine. James Anaya, UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples, has called on Guatemala and Goldcorp to comply with precautionary measures issued by the Commission. However, for reasons still unclear, last December, IACHR dropped the precautionary measure calling for the mine suspension;|
|-||In early February, two indigenous Ngöbe-Buglé men were killed during a police crackdown in Panama. Thousands of Ngöbe-Buglé have blocked the Inter-American Highway, demanding legislation to annul mining concessions granted in their territory, a number of which are held by Canadian companies;|
|-||On March 15, 2012, Bernardo Vásquez Sánchez, a community activist and defender of rights against a mining company was murdered in Oaxaca Mexico. The operation of an affiliate of a Canadian mining company has polarized the community, and the company is criticized for developing the mine without the consent of the community and putting local water supplies at risk.|
These and other incidents continue to draw international attention. On March 9, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) released a report expressing concern that Canada has failed to adopt measures concerning Canadian companies, particularly those in the mining sector, that violate the rights of indigenous peoples in their overseas operations. CERD recommended that the Canadian government adopt legislation to prevent such impacts and that it hold companies accountable.
The CNCA continues to support the full implementation of the Roundtable recommendations, and will collaborate with other stakeholder groups to make meaningful and rapid progress to that end. At the same time, the CNCA emphasizes that the Roundtable recommendations were intended as a starting point, and that much more needs to be done.
About the CNCA:
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.
For further information:
(Member of CNCA Steering Committee)
(416) 859-9953 (Mobile)