Evidence of meeting #29 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was responsibilities.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Sabine Luning  Professor, Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, Leiden University , As an Individual

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

[Member speaks in Dutch]

Just for the benefit of everyone, I was just saying that I too have Dutch heritage, but I was born here.

I appreciate your testimony and I find it very interesting. There is something that needs to be stated, and we have to keep our eye on the ball, as we say here: to my knowledge, at least, governments—and, you may argue, possibly socialist governments or communist governments—have never produced one cent of wealth. It's private industry that does produce wealth.

In this country we have a grand tradition of extraction and mining. We are, I think, foremost in the world. We've proven that we're very good at this. We have a particular company, Talisman, that once was extracting oil in the Sudan. I'm sure you're aware of it.

4:15 p.m.

Professor, Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, Leiden University , As an Individual

Dr. Sabine Luning

Yes, I've heard of it, for sure.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Under enormous pressure from a number of groups, that company folded up their tents and went home, and today the Chinese have filled that gap.

The reason I say this is that we must recognize that extraction is going to happen. We must recognize also that the idea of companies using what we call a “social conscience”, a new term that's developed in the last 20 years possibly, is something new, and it has been evolving. I would argue that it has been evolving at a very positive trend.

The other thing I would argue is that free societies like ours and yours do a much better job at developing resources and making a positive contribution to society.

The other thing that I think needs to be pointed out is that we often forget, coming from Europe, how civilizations are carved out. We don't forget that here in North America, because we see the wilderness, the hinterlands, and we see how the loggers came in first and were followed by the settlers and then, after the roads had been built, by industry. That's a normal procedure. I think what we've experienced in North America is being experienced today in a lot of the third world countries. Fortunately, the countries and the nations that have the greatest control demand that we do it at a level that is beneficial to those in those third world countries.

Having said that, I just want to remind you exactly what we're doing here. How can we, as a government—foreign affairs, in this particular case—help other countries? We all agree around this table that we want to better the lives of the people in those third world countries. What is the best way to do that?

Would you agree that the free societies—and notably, I think, Canada—are in a much better position to do that than societies that don't have that freedom? I speak specifically of China.

4:15 p.m.

Professor, Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, Leiden University , As an Individual

Dr. Sabine Luning

I'll answer the question, but first, with regard to Talisman, I think what actually happened in that case was at the time very specific.

In fact this company was Canadian, but it had its home, by the way, in Amsterdam. It had a subsidiary in the Netherlands. Talisman was indeed put in a certain position and pushed, through Canadian choices and ethical standards, to move out of Sudan, and I think Canada can congratulate itself that it has done that. That is exactly the sort of accountability that Canada and society should ask from their companies, and they should withdraw if at any point they operate in a setting in which they can only be contaminated by, or implicated in, violence and civil war.

It is a fact that afterwards another company may come in, but I think you should be very careful not to lower standards—human rights standards as well as livelihood standards—just because others would not have those standards either. There I would just say—

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

I have to interrupt, because we have a very strict chairman.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Actually, your time is up. I apologize.

We're going to go to Mr. Larose for five minutes.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jean-François Larose Repentigny, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Ms. Luning, thank you for your participation. Your presentation was most interesting. What struck me most was balance. Also, the recognition of the importance of government, social stakeholders, citizens, non-profit organizations and also the mining companies, who do contribute something.

I also appreciated the aspects you raised when you mentioned state discipline. You also mentioned institutional responsibility and a very clear division of tasks.

When I look at the direction that CIDA has taken so far, I am quite concerned. When the minister testified here, she mentioned she was considering other avenues, which is quite laudable, because I believe one must always have an open mind and listen carefully.

That being said, let us take the example of an organization that has been working on sustainable development for several years and which lost its funding overnight, without reason: I am talking about Development and Peace. We do not understand. It is worrisome to have a government that mentions that mining companies should play a bigger role, which does not seem to match the principle of balance. Especially since each country has its own particularities. Citizens know what they need. There is a long history of problems with many mining companies in our own country, and we are very democratic with respect to regulation.

Would you have any comments about this? Have you any other examples of countries in which mining companies have taken up a bit too much room and where such a balance does not exist? What were the negative consequences?

4:20 p.m.

Professor, Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, Leiden University , As an Individual

Dr. Sabine Luning

You're asking me to give examples of where it did not work at all, and mining companies got so much leeway that—

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jean-François Larose Repentigny, QC

I don't know if the translation was good, and I'm bilingual.

What I'm asking for are specific examples of where balance did not exist and the mining companies ended up having more than they should have had. As well, what were the negative impacts?

4:20 p.m.

Professor, Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, Leiden University , As an Individual

Dr. Sabine Luning

I'm not sure I can answer that question right away, because in many countries, in the current moment, mining companies have a lot of room to manoeuvre, and that is one of the things we should point out. That's why I have argued very strongly for this separation.

In many countries that are now liberalized, we see that certain mining codes that have been introduced have been taken from mining company examples or have been informed with the help of mining companies. In many more situations you could say that the balance is on the side of the mining companies already, because they have played a large role in helping to set up the legal frameworks within which they operate.

That's why I think it's so important to stress much more separation between these tasks: it's because we've seen, even in a formal way, so much blurring of influence, and that has set the balance to the advantage of the companies at the expense of other public interests.

Is that a good answer to your question?

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jean-François Larose Repentigny, QC

Yes, thank you very much.

I'm going to pass my time to my honourable colleague Hélène Laverdière, Mr. Chair.

March 28th, 2012 / 4:20 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. President.

Thank you for your presentation. Unfortunately I missed part of it, because I had other commitments. I have already had a report that it was very interesting.

I have two questions for you. We often hear some of our colleagues around the table here, or otherwise, saying that what is key is that you increase the revenues for the states, both revenues from mining companies and tax revenue from people working at the mining companies. To me it gives the impression sometimes that it's like throwing money at the problem and thinking that the problem of underdevelopment will be resolved by throwing money at it. I'm quite skeptical about that. Examples such as the Congo make me wonder. I'd like you to comment on that.

I have another question, which is more of an economic question. Are there developing countries that run the risk of suffering from the famous Dutch disease?

4:25 p.m.

Professor, Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, Leiden University , As an Individual

Dr. Sabine Luning

Of course. Let me answer the first question.

You talk about the Congo. I have already alluded to Burkina Faso, which is a very different country, but which also has certain problems to which money is not always a solution; rather, it can be a problem. That's why I've insisted so strongly that revenues and taxes can be better negotiated.

Indeed, if there are trends towards higher prices for minerals, then of course I think the division should be better and the host country should benefit. In order for that money to arrive at the right place, you need proper institutional capacity-building. That's what I've emphasized very strongly.

Of course, there is this issue of the Dutch disease. This is one of the things that was also very strongly addressed in the Haglund report that I mentioned at the beginning of my presentation. It is very difficult for countries such as Burkina Faso, with a sector that is currently booming very fast and substantially, to not have these effects on other parts of the economy.

I think Professor Bebbington, in his statement on February 29, rightly emphasized that you should not take development to be just a project, but look at the larger picture and the larger institutional activities. In that sense, I think some of the initiatives now being carried out by Canadian NGOs to set up training to see if there can be spinoffs of the mining revenues into other parts of the economy are crucial.

In that sense—in economic terms as well—there is a lot of work to be done to make this into revenues that contribute to the public good and to other parts of the economy, to make it into a poverty reduction exercise rather than just increasing inequalities.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Thank you very much.

We're going to move to our last questioner of today, Ms. Grewal.

You have five minutes.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Dr. Luning, thank you very much for agreeing to speak to our committee and for sharing the knowledge you gained from your research.

I understand that for 15 years, large-scale mining companies have started engaging in corporate social responsibility with the aim of contributing to developing local communities affected by their operations. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you have suggested in your work that frameworks for corporate social responsibility fail to incorporate structural features of social processes.

Could you please expand on this point in layman's language? Thank you.