moved that Bill C-486, An Act respecting corporate practices relating to the extraction, processing, purchase, trade and use of conflict minerals from the Great Lakes Region of Africa, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am so proud to be standing here today to launch debate on the conflict minerals act, Bill C-486.
The journey to here began five years ago.
Five years ago, I visited the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country equally beautiful and sad. For more than 15 years, Congolese government forces, rebel groups and private militias have been fighting to control the land and the abundant natural resources that have been the cause of this country's misfortune.
I spoke with Congolese government officials to see what was being done to enable a future of peace and sustainable development. The most striking response was not an answer but my question returned back to me. I was asked what I was doing. It was a fair question, because the truth is that the tragedy of the Congo is not merely a Congolese or an African problem. It is our problem, and the reason is in our phones and in our jewellery.
Many people are simply shocked to learn of the scale of the crimes in the Congo and the connection between consumers and the conflict. For the record, here are some of the facts.
The conflict that has been raging in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1998 is the deadliest conflict since World War II. In 2011, the number of rapes was estimated at 48, not per year, per month or per day, but per hour. Rape is used as a weapon of war. In 2012, 2 million people were displaced. That is approximately the equivalent of the combined population of Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Conflict minerals generate $180 million per year for armed groups, literally keeping some militias in business.
Up to 40% of those working in the mines are children. These children, who are exploited and abused, are then prime targets for recruitment by armed groups.
The lack of public awareness about this issue might seem like a cause for despair, but for me it is a cause for hope, because when people do learn about the connection between minerals and conflict, they are connected directly themselves. Once they are personally connected to this issue, they cannot help but care.
Since my time in the Congo, I have made it a personal priority to use my role as a legislator to help connect Canadians to this issue and curtail the presence of conflict minerals in Canada.
Last March, I introduced the bill on conflict minerals in the House of Commons.
The drafting process was comprehensive, with many months of positive and fruitful consultations with industry and civil society representatives in Canada and abroad.
The bill was introduced at a time of international action on conflict minerals, and the pace has only picked up since last year.
In May 2011, the OECD, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, published guidance and made a recommendation on exercising due diligence in this regard. Then, in August 2012, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced a new regulation requiring businesses to exercise due diligence in using tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold.
The European Union is introducing its own regulations following consultations with a wide range of stakeholders. At last year's G8 summit in Scotland, Canada joined other countries in making important commitments to extractive sector transparency.
In the G8 communiqué, the government specifically pledged to support conflict-free mineral sourcing. I want to read a section of that pledge tonight from section 40 of the communiqué. It states:
As part of our commitment to extractives transparency, we continue to support responsible, conflict-free sourcing of minerals from conflict-affected regions, including gold, diamonds and other precious stones. We will promote positive economic development and responsible sourcing in the artisanal mining sector, particularly from conflict and high-risk areas. We reaffirm our continued support for the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas, and the International Conference of the Great Lakes Regional Certification Mechanism as part of global multilateral, multi-stakeholder efforts to combat the trade in conflict minerals through certification, responsible business conduct and respect for human rights.
This bill implements the OECD guidelines mentioned in this communiqué. It is simply a matter of keeping our promise.
Practically every major technology firm, including BlackBerry, Microsoft, Apple and Nokia, is now trying to avoid using conflict minerals in its products.
We have recently seen path-breaking, game-changing commitments to source conflict-free minerals. In January, Intel announced that its microprocessors would be conflict-free, and in February, Apple committed to sourcing the minerals in its products responsibly. Apple has already followed through on this commitment for tantalum and is also doing so for tin, tungsten, and gold. These industry leaders are showing that a better supply chain is possible, and so is a better world.
These companies also realize that in today's market, accountable companies have a competitive advantage. This was the message I received in consultations with Canadian industry representatives. Companies are ready to get on board with regulations so long as the regulations are clear and emphasize the competitive advantage of social responsibility. The private sector will accept clear rules for transparency and accountability. Government needs to be responsible as well. My bill would implement the OECD guidelines in Canada.
The bill requires Canadian companies that use minerals from the Great Lakes Region of Africa to exercise due diligence to ensure that no armed groups engaged in illegal activities benefit from the extraction, processing or use of those minerals.
Companies would have to publish their findings on their websites and in documents filed with the Canadian government. The government would then share the report with the producing countries. This would support local efforts to manage and reform the mining industry, supporting action from the ground up. The bill recognizes that stopping the conflict mineral trade requires collaboration between governments in both developed and developing countries, as well as with civil society and industry. Working together is the only way that lasting results can be achieved.
Collaboration requires leadership. I would like to see that initiative coming from Canada. It is a role that Canada can and should play. Canadian mining companies are market leaders. It is time Canada became a corporate social responsibility leader as well. Canada and Canadian companies should be diligent, accountable, and transparent in their operations overseas, but this is as much about consumer rights as corporate responsibility.
My bill will allow Canadians to know whether the minerals in the technology products they purchase may have funded or fueled war. Consumers will be in a position to make informed choices.
I believe that consumers, if given the necessary information, will hold companies accountable for their sourcing choices. To complement this legislative effort, I also launched the just minerals campaign. It is a grassroots initiative to support action on conflict minerals. We have partnered with a wide variety of groups, from students to environmental campaigns, to Congolese associations, to fair trade advocates. Across the country, online and offline, the campaign is under way and gathering steam. More than 3,000 Canadians have already signed a petition supporting the bill.
This is not about right- or left-leaning politics. It is about what is right and wrong. Together, we have the ability to make the world a better place. It is up to us to take action.
Other countries have recognized this. In the U.S., the Dodd-Frank Act that brought in similar requirements got bipartisan support.
I also believe that change is possible because we have done this before.
The blood diamonds campaign is a fantastic example of how the world, and Canada, can make real improvements in the sourcing of consumer goods. The illegal trade in diamonds was providing substantial funding to warlords and rebels in Africa throughout the 1990s. Separate and joint meetings of diamond producing countries, international organizations, global civil society, and extractive companies led to the Kimberley Process for certifying rough diamond exports.
Today, Kimberley Process members account for nearly all of the global production of rough diamonds. Illegal exports are largely prevented, and legal trade is fostered by the increased consumer confidence provided by certification.
This legal and responsible trade contributes to sustainable economic and social development. We now have the opportunity to similarly transform the trade in the minerals at the root of the conflict in central Africa.
Just as it was the case with blood diamonds, conflict minerals have been attracting ever greater levels of attention from extractive corporations, local governments, and international NGOs.
Corporate interest in social and environmental responsibility is growing.
Local leadership in central Africa is growing. Although my bill would be the first to implement the OECD due diligence guidelines in an OECD country, they have already been enshrined in law in the DRC and Rwanda.
Some exciting projects are now under way to bag and tag mineral exports in the same way that diamonds are now traced. Partnership Africa Canada, for example, a civil society leader in implementing the Kimberley Process, is doing just that right now. Internationally, last year's G8 communiqué reiterated support for responsible conflict-free mineral sourcing and cited the OECD guidelines.
The time is right for significant change.
Minerals are found everywhere in the world, but they need not be blood-stained. Together, we must prevent the war in the Congo from entering our homes.
I sincerely hope we can work together on this bill, demonstrating the co-operation Canadians want and the world needs. Together, let us take conflict out of Canadian homes.