TORONTO, March 3, 2015 /CNW/ - The Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA) is concerned that International Trade Minister Ed Fast is wasting public funds with this week's appointment of a new Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Counsellor.
"The mandate of the CSR Counsellor has been flawed from the start. Regardless of who gets appointed, the Office is just window-dressing. We need an independent, effective Ombudsman that can investigate allegations and offer recommendations and remedy for workers or communities affected by Canadian-owned mines," said Ian Thomson, CNCA chair.
Over 95,000 Canadians wrote to Parliament last year to call for the creation of an extractive-sector Ombudsman. Last October, a private member's bill to create such an Ombudsman, Bill C-584, received support from all opposition parties in Parliament but was voted down by the government.
Since its launch in 2010, Canadian mining companies have avoided the CSR Counsellor's grievance mechanism process, choosing instead to walk away and effectively shut down any review of their conduct.
The updated CSR strategy announced by Minister Fast last November still allows extractive sector companies to pull the plug on the review process whenever they want. Companies that shut down a review of their conduct will continue to be able to raise funds on Canadian stock exchanges, or even receive public funds from Export Development Canada; the government strategy says merely that company obstruction of a CSR review will be "taken into account" by EDC.
Instead of real sanctions, the government hopes to compel companies to act more constructively by threatening to refuse letters of recommendation or a spot on a Canadian trade mission.
"Both industry and civil society have found the CSR Counsellor's Office completely ineffective. To be meaningful, it needs to have real powers of fact-finding, public reporting and remediation," said Ken Neumann, National Director of the United Steelworkers, a CNCA member.
The CNCA's Open for Justice Campaign calls for creation of an extractive-sector Ombudsman and legislated access to Canadian courts for non-nationals harmed by Canadian companies abroad. The CNCA brings together 29 Canadian NGOs, trade unions, religious organizations and solidarity groups to establish mandatory corporate accountability standards for Canadian extractive companies operating abroad, especially in developing countries.
SOURCE Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA)