Corporate Social Responsibility of Extractive Corporations Outside Canada Act

An Act respecting the Corporate Social Responsibility Inherent in the Activities of Canadian Extractive Corporations in Developing Countries

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

Sponsor

Ève Péclet  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Defeated, as of Oct. 1, 2014
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment is intended to ensure the extractive activities of Canadian corporations in developing countries respect Canada’s commitments under international law and the International Bill of Rights. It creates the Office of the Ombudsman and requires corporations to report to it on their extractive activities. It also gives the Office of the Ombudsman responsibility for developing guidelines on best practices for extractive activities and requires the Ombudsman to table an annual report on this Act and its operation before each House of Parliament.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Oct. 1, 2014 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.

Corporate Social Responsibility of Extractive Corporations Outside Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

September 25th, 2014 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Durham Ontario

Conservative

Erin O'Toole ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House tonight to speak to Bill C-584. This is a bill that has tapped a number of themes that keep surfacing from the opposition members from time to time, who show a profound lack of understanding of the extractive industry here in Canada and globally. That should not be surprising, coming from a party that is essentially opposed to private sector job creation.

I am going to use my time before the House to talk about what Canada is doing in terms of corporate social responsibility and to point out a few of the fallacies in the ideas behind the all-magical ombudsman with a magic wand that many of the members of the NDP seem to think will eradicate problems that have not even been shown to be rooted in operations of Canadian companies around the world.

Several years ago, in 2009, our government announced an ambitious program on corporate social responsibility. This came as a result of industry and NGO feedback on company operations around the world generally and on the extractive industries of mining and oil and gas specifically.

Canada has many leading operators in these areas, and Toronto is the global centre for mining finance. In many ways Canada has a tremendous, robust, and diverse economy, and although we are not world leaders in a lot of things, I am happy to say that our capital markets in Toronto have a long history of being the centrepiece of financing for such operations and that they do so in a way that is transparent and accountable to investors here in our markets.

The strategy the government embarked upon was based on four pillars for Canadian operators working internationally.

The CSR strategy's first pillar is capacity-building within countries internationally to make sure that the investment is not just in a mine or an operation but that capacity is built around the economic activity generated by the investment in that country.

We have to remember, as witnesses have told us at committee and as I have been told in my consultations, that in some of these countries there is massive unemployment and a big disparity in wealth. Some of the employers end up being some of the largest investors and employers in the country.

As part of my outreach on the corporate social responsibility program, the government heard from groups such as Engineers Without Borders that capacity-building, in terms of a local supplier or a local procurement network in that country, can actually have a multiplying effect. It is not just the mine or the exploration efforts; people in the country are being employed in the supply, logistics, transport, and geo-engineering aspects of these projects. That capacity-building piece is the first pillar.

The second pillar is promoting international corporate social responsibility guidelines. There are many of these guidelines in operation right now that many corporations in Canada and abroad use to try to bring best practices to their own operations. The World Bank has guidelines. In Canada, the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada has published its guidelines. Those guidelines are among some of the most ambitious out there, and they try to encourage their members to follow them.

The third pillar of our strategy was the creation of the corporate social responsibility counsellor. The first counsellor was Dr. Marketa Evans, and I will speak a little more about her work in a moment.

The role of the counsellor was not only to help educate people and review practices that industry was adopting with respect to corporate social responsibility but also to play an important function in conflict resolution through dialogue. If time permits, I will try to show the hon. colleague who brought this bill forward how that goal is far more attainable and far more pragmatic than the suggestions in her bill before the House today.

Conflict resolution through dialogue can be the goal of the CSR counsellor.

Finally, the fourth pillar was to try to build a centre of excellence here in Canada around corporate social responsibility. That plays well on our strengths that I already referred to: Canada as a centre of excellence in terms of the financial capital markets for mining and the extractive industries, and some of our Canadian players that are also large employers in our economy.

In my role as parliamentary secretary for international trade, I had the distinct pleasure of reaching out in our five-year review of the corporate social responsibility platform our government embarked upon in 2009. That review involved direct consultations. I had direct consultations with civil society organizations and NGOs, direct consultations with industry players and industry associations. As well, I had consultations with Dr. Marketa Evans, the CSR counsellor who is no longer in the role, but helped open the office through her work.

I would like to thank Dr. Evans for her work. She had 100-plus engagement sessions with industry on CSR practices and their operations globally, bringing the second pillar I referred to earlier, that international CSR performance guideline, and bringing that approach to industry. Beyond that, Dr. Evans also tried to bring some of the best practices she had from her experience in the NGO world prior to becoming the CSR counsellor. She followed directly, in many cases, the World Bank policies with respect to corporate social responsibility and practices worldwide.

It was interesting that in the consultations I had with civil society groups, they saw there was great potential with a lot of the elements of CSR programs that some players and industries are doing. The biggest I found in my consultations was this capacity building, our first pillar, where the investment of a Canadian company into another country, particularly a developing country, is the opportunity for this local procurement and supply network. Groups like Engineers Without Borders and others found that not only did it have a multiplier effect, meaning more jobs for men and women on the ground in these countries with huge unemployment, but also over time, if the investment of development or exploration of a mine ended, in a lot of cases that peripheral work and that local supply network could lead to a vibrant local economy.

We also heard from some of the NGOs, such as World Vision, that have worked on some of our approaches trying to bring together industry, DFATD, the international development of our foreign affairs, and an NGO actor on the ground in these countries. That is important because somebody in Ottawa, be it a senior civil servant or an ombudsman, is not on the ground in these countries, but in a lot of cases the NGOs are. The NGOs in some cases, like World Vision, have decades of experience operating on the ground. If we can work with their development expertise and have a multiplier from government and a multiplier from industry, why would that not be good?

When the member introduced this bill on June 3, she said, “We are not talking about the Smurfs here.... We are talking about people whose rights are being violated, people who are displaced without their consent...”. Certainly there is a lot of concern about crime, displacement and troubles in a lot of these countries, but this is a serious issue and our CSR policies are serious approaches.

The final thing I would add is in regard to an ombudsman, which the member is proposing in this bill. She said an ombudsman would have real powers to investigate. Someone in Ottawa does not have investigative powers in foreign countries, and never would.

Our four-pillar plan is a prudent approach, and I would ask the opposition to support it.

Corporate Social Responsibility of Extractive Corporations Outside Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

September 25th, 2014 / 5:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to share some thoughts in regard to Bill C-584.

At the outset, I want to say that as a caucus, Liberals have had the opportunity to go through the member's bill. My colleague from Montreal has already had the opportunity to speak to it at second reading. We have indicated that we do support the bill going to committee, because we do think there is a great deal of value. It is about ethical standards.

The House of Commons can play a role in terms of ensuring there is more corporate responsibility when it comes to international affairs, especially in the area of development proposals and mining, for example, in some of the underdeveloped countries. We recognize the value of that. In fact, other members in our caucus have attempted to do something of a similar nature, in the sense of trying to raise the bar for Canadian corporations that do business beyond our borders.

In particular, most recently the member for Scarborough—Guildwood introduced Bill C-300. I had the opportunity to speak to that bill. From what I can recall, it dealt with mining and oil and gas companies. It would have ensured there was a sense of transparency through an annual reporting, including showing payments. I use that as an example.

I have heard some of the comments from the government in terms of this type of legislation, and the government tends to want to resist or turn down the legislation. I think that is a mistake. There is a great deal of value in seeing legislation of this nature advance through the process.

I believe it would have been a great value for my colleague's bill, Bill C-300, to have gone to the next level. It came very close, in terms of the actual vote. I believe that a number of members from the Conservative Party saw the merit in that particular bill.

In essence, the bill did what was currently happening in the United States, in that standards are set in legislation. The U.S. is not the only country in the world that has already done that. My colleague, on behalf of the Liberal Party, in his particular initiative attempted to do something here in Canada that was actually being done in other countries. It would have had a very positive impact.

I listened to the previous speaker when he talked about his three- or four-point plan, and it seemed to me that the government is not open, from a legislative perspective, to playing a stronger international leadership role.

I believe Canada has good reason to get involved, and good reason to pass legislation of this nature.

Recently the Canadian Human Rights Museum, one of our national museums, opened in my home city of Winnipeg. That museum is all about human rights and the importance of human rights. If this bill were to see the light of day and it passed, it would go a long way in dealing with some of those human rights issues that we often hear about.

We need to be aware that it is a very small world nowadays. There are many different forms of media. Constituents are very much aware of world issues today, and this is one of those issues that is raised on an ongoing basis.

A year or so ago, I visited a high school just outside of Winnipeg North. There was a group of students from grade 11 or grade 10, who wanted to talk about what role Canada should be playing in terms of corporate social responsibility in developing countries.

This is very admirable. It is encouraging to sit in a classroom and hear grade 10 or grade 11 students who get it. They understand that Canada has a role to play in dealing with international exploitation.

We know people are forced to work in horrendous conditions. We know many developing countries have all kinds of exploitation. We know there are Canadian investments and corporations, both private and non-profit, in many of those countries, where the exploitation of workers or the environment takes place. Because of the involvement of those Canadian-based companies or agencies, there is an opportunity for us to demonstrate, as those students did, that we understand what happens beyond our borders and that when there are those serious violations, whether it is on human rights or the environment, we are prepared to act where we can.

If we acknowledge that, what we should give the signal that we would like to see the bill go to the committee.

What does the government have to lose by allowing the bill to go to committee? We could then hear from some of the NGOs and other stakeholders on what they would like to contribute to the larger debate.

The idea in the bill is to have an ombudsman, an individual who has the responsibility of establishing some guidelines, putting things into place, then administering it and ensuring that it is being followed. It is definitely an idea that we should allow to go forward. There are number of things we could allow to move forward.

I made reference to my colleague, the member for Scarborough—Guildwood' bill, Bill C-300, from the previous session. If we had allowed that to go forward and it was passed, it would have meant that we had acted upon something that other countries had done.

There is a litany of different ideas are out there. We should try, as much as possible, to listen to our constituents to get a better understanding of what they believe. I think they believe there is a social responsibility for corporations, companies and non-profits that do business in those countries to do something when the people or the environment are exploitated, and we can.

The government should recognize there is a need for Canada to play some leadership role in this. I would challenge the government to come up with ideas and fulfill the leadership role that has been lacking to date.

Corporate Social Responsibility of Extractive Corporations Outside Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

September 25th, 2014 / 5:50 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I always thought that economic development, economic growth and wealth creation were not meant to be an end in themselves, but a way to provide the best quality of life to the most people. I imagine that many of my constituents agree with me, since they gave me the honour of electing me in 2011. What is good at the national level should also be good at the international level. That principle underlies what I have to say about Bill C-584, introduced by my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île.

We are debating an extremely important bill, and I think it needs to be passed urgently. Corporate social responsibility is, without a doubt, a central element of our diplomatic arsenal and the image that Canada projects in developing countries, especially in the extractive sector.

First of all, I want to talk about a series of key points that can help us understand why this bill is so important. More than 75% of international extractive companies have their headquarters here in Canada. Furthermore, more than 1,000 mining companies are registered on Canadian stock exchanges. Canadian mining companies invest a lot of money abroad, and there are more than 8,000 exploration properties and mining projects in a hundred or so countries.

The government has a responsibility with respect to the activities of these companies, and it must ensure that their standards and practices reflect Canada's commitments in terms of international law, human rights and environmental law. Canada's responsibility is made even greater by the fact that the countries in which the extractive companies are working are all too often struggling with chronic political instability, high levels of corruption and, sometimes, military conflicts. Sadly, some mining companies are lacking in transparency and ethics, which aggravates the political instability in these countries and does not contribute to the economic and social development of the people. As I said earlier, that is what we want to accomplish.

However, civil society has not remained unmoved in the face of all this. A round table was as created, and NGOs and mining companies have been able to work together and discuss the need to create and promote a Canadian corporate social responsibility framework. One of their main recommendations, which was very simple but also very effective, was to create an ombudsman position, which would be responsible for corporate social responsibility, or CSR. The ombudsman position is covered in this bill, introduced by my colleague, the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île.

The voluntary regulation of extractive activities is an obvious failure. In order to address human rights and environmental violations by extractive companies, the Conservative government came up with a wonderful process, a miracle solution known for its success: self-regulation. We have heard about this in many sectors, but I will not go into them. The Conservatives' approach led to the resignation of the first counsellor, Ms. Evans. Furthermore, if anyone is interested, it seems that the position is still vacant.

The Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor lacks the authority to investigate complaints and has no legal power to ensure that stakeholders participate in good faith in the arbitration process. In other words, it is a big empty shell. In short, the mandate of the Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor is setting the stage for failure insofar as mining companies committing violations are not likely to be subject to a thorough investigation or economic sanctions encouraging them to adopt best practices.

In conclusion, you might say that the counsellor did not achieve the ultimate objective she was assigned, which was to strengthen the accountability of Canadian mining companies operating abroad. The dysfunction of the Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor is leading us to introduce a more effective legislative mechanism by establishing a CSR ombudsman.

Before addressing the issue of the CSR ombudsman, I would like to give an overview of the NDP's contribution in this area. My colleague, the hon. member for Ottawa-Centre, tabled a bill to establish the duty of due diligence in respect of the activities of mining companies in the Great Lakes Region of Africa.

Under his bill, companies working in this region of Africa would have to control their supply chain from the moment the mineral is extracted until it is incorporated into the final product. The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster introduced a similar bill, Bill C-323, which allows persons who are not Canadian citizens to initiate tort claims based on violations of international law or treaties to which Canada is a party if the acts alleged occur abroad.

Along with the bill introduced by the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, these two bills form the legislative backbone of the NDP's efforts to improve accountability and promote values such as respect for human rights and environmental standards.

Now, let us focus on the role of the ombudsman. Creating an ombudsman is a response to a recommendation made by the 2007 national roundtables on CSR and the Canadian extractive industry. I would remind the House that we are somewhere in 2014 and that there has not been much movement on that. The report was written jointly by civil society—meaning NGOs and major unions—and mining companies. The idea of creating an ombudsman is also a response to the characteristics of certain African mining sites.

In a 1992 report, the World Bank identified mining as a growth sector in the African economy. The African mining sector received foreign investment, a factor in economic development. Of course, opening up the mining sector to private investors unfortunately meant that governments withdrew their structural support.

The result of that withdrawal is that governments are no longer responsible for regulating mining activities. Instead, they focus on creating an attractive legal and tax environment for private investors. Consequently, amending mining and tax codes weakened the governments' ability to regulate.

Ghana is a perfect example. After a decade of draconian budget cuts, the government no longer has the human and financial resources to ensure that the development of the mining sector addresses the challenges posed by economic, social and environmental development.

The deregulation of the mining sector was not backed by a proper regulatory framework to support socio-economic development. Quite the opposite. The deregulation of the mining sector contributes to environmental degradation and human rights violations.

The extreme deregulation of extractive activities stalls development instead of giving local populations the kind of leg up they can and should be able to take advantage of. In Burkina, the mining code does not provide for environmental assessment during the exploration phase, nor does it give equally qualified local workers priority for employment in the mines.

A report from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative mentioned that financial benefits for African states following the deregulation of the mining sector were minimal. Mining companies almost all avoided paying income tax and capital gains tax. It is unacceptable that Canadian mining corporations should hinder economic development efforts in developing countries.

The CSR ombudsman would promote the institutionalization of a code of conduct for the Canadian mining sector operating abroad. The code of conduct would be based largely on standards set by the OECD and the International Finance Corporation. In addition, our proposal has the support of a broad coalition of stakeholders, including mining companies.

I still have so much to say, but I have run out of time, so I will stop there. I strongly support the bill introduced by my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île.

Corporate Social Responsibility of Extractive Corporations Outside Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

September 25th, 2014 / 6 p.m.
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Newmarket—Aurora Ontario

Conservative

Lois Brown ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to this tonight. I am a late addition to the speaking role, but I am thrilled to be part of this.

I first want to say how incredibly proud I am of the members of PDAC, the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada. I have had the opportunity over the last number of years to visit its convention in Toronto, where I meet its people who are part of the mining industry here in Canada, the suppliers. Most importantly, I meet there the people who I had the opportunity to meet when I was in Africa. I have done extensive travelling in Africa and I will tell everyone why I am so connected there, but first I need to tell my hon. colleagues how important it is to speak about Ghana and Burkina Faso, two of the countries he mentioned.

One of the most important things we can do as Canadians is to help African countries take responsibility for their own resources and see the benefits of those resources in the hands of the people in Africa. In our budget three years ago, we established the Canadian International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development, which is a coalition of the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and École Polytechnique in Montreal. I had a meeting with them in August when I was in British Columbia at UBC and we had a very robust conversation about the initiatives that the institute is taking.

Complementary to that, we have helped to establish the African Minerals Development Centre. Canada is the largest contributor to that initiative, having contributed $15.3 million over five years. I was at the funding conference last December in Mozambique and they are absolutely thrilled with the kind of work that Canada is doing to help them establish their own regulations and legislation to become independent, self-regulating countries, which see the benefits of those resources in their own countries.

I spent an hour with the minister of mines from Mozambique, the hon. Minister Bias, who has been involved in the mining industry for a good portion of her adult life. She is the one who is going to be leading the African Minerals Development Centre through the next two years as it establishes itself. It is going to be housed with the African Union and the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa. The oversight of the African Union is going to be responsible to the African Commission. The ministers of mines from every African nation who attended the conference in Mozambique are absolutely thrilled that they are going to have the assistance of Canada to get this institute established.

I will read a quote from the African Mining Vision website. It states:

The Africa Mining Vision is a pathway, formulated by African nations themselves, that puts the continent’s long term and broad development objectives at the heart of all policy making concerned with mineral extraction.

I also spoke about the adoption of this by the heads of state in February 2009, which was put together following the October 2008 meeting of the African ministers responsible for mineral resources development. They want to move from the historic status of mining exporter of cheap raw materials to manufacturer of supplies and knowledge-based services.

I was very pleased to be in Botswana the first time I was in Africa to see the centre where all of the diamonds, which used to be taken out of Botswana and sent to Amsterdam and Belgium, were graded and cut. All of those good service jobs were taken to Europe.

Now in Botswana, outside the De Beers facility where the minerals are actually graded, it is Botswanian people who have the opportunity to do the cutting and the polishing of those stones. It is creating really good, paying jobs for African people. Now, Botswana has moved to what is considered a middle income country in Africa. It is providing opportunities for the people there. It is exciting to see that those things are happening.

My colleague the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade talked a bit about the equator principles that Canada signed on to many years ago.

The other thing that we signed on to, because we believe that Africa and these emerging economies need to have control over their own resources, is the extractive industry's transparency initiative that we joined in February 2007.

The extractive industry's transparency initiative is the authoritative source on how countries can implement the EITI. It is the global transparency standard for improving governance of natural resources. There are 12 initiatives in all, but I will just read a couple of them into the record because it is important that people understand that we believe these CSR initiatives are so important. It says:

We recognise the enhanced environment for domestic and foreign direct investment that financial transparency may bring....

We are committed to encouraging high standards of transparency and accountability in public life, government operations and in business.

We believe that a broadly consistent and workable approach to the disclosure of payments and revenues is required, which is simple to undertake and to use.

There are nine others that I do not have time to read.

It is important for people in this chamber and for people who are watching to understand that I consider Africa my family. My son-in-law is from Ghana. My son-in-law came to Canada with a masters degree in physics. He completed a second masters degree here in material sciences, and then he went on and finished his doctorate in the United States in electrical engineering. Kofi and my daughter have just spent the last year living in Tarkwa, Ghana, where my son-in-law, Dr. Kofi Asante, has been guest professor at the University of Mining and Technology. Ghana was not called the Gold Coast for nothing. It has inordinate amounts of gold in its soil, and the job that my son-in-law has had over the last year is to help Ghana see the benefit of those resources go into its own economy.

With a doctorate in electrical engineering, Kofi is also helping Ghana utilize the solar power that it has. He has just signed a contract with the government to provide a 20-megawatt energy facility, so that the country can use its solar power. It is scalable to 70 megawatts, and it is such an exciting project.

I leave my colleagues with a very poignant story. My daughter was teaching grades 4 and 5 English at the school connected to the university. While she was there, she used letter-writing as one of her tools for teaching composition. She had the students in her class write letters to the school here in Ontario where she had taught. A little girl in grade 5 by the name of Ama wrote—and it is something that I have memorized because it underlines everything that we want to see happen in Africa. Ama wrote in her letter to a little girl here in Canada that she is so glad to be in school because she wants to be somebody in the future.

That says everything that Canada wants to see happen in these emerging economies. We want to give Ama a future, a hope, and an opportunity. Our companies that are investing there, doing really good corporate social responsibility, are going to help these African nations get on their feet, utilize these resources, and become sustainable, developed economies.

Corporate Social Responsibility of Extractive Corporations Outside Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

September 25th, 2014 / 6:10 p.m.
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NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak in support of Bill C-584.

I am following on the heels of my colleague from Newmarket—Aurora, who has just told us some very positive stories based on her personal experience, and I have no doubt that there are positive stories and positive experiences with the extractive sector.

I am from the city of Toronto and our stock exchange, of course, is heavily invested in the extractive sector. I too have attended the Prospectors and Developers Association conference in Toronto for a few years now. It a huge, wonderful international gathering of representatives from the extractive sector. We were very proud to host that major international convention in our city of Toronto.

To begin with, let me say that there are very many positive role models and examples of companies in the extractive sector that we look to as leaders, both here in Canada and around the world. However, sadly, that is not the case for all companies in all parts of the world.

I will begin by citing an article from the CBC that was written last year, and it will speak for itself.

Tens of thousands of Colombians took to the streets of Bucaramanga, the country's sixth-largest city, last month to defend their water supply from a Canadian-owned gold-mining project.

The chief target of their protest was Vancouver-based Eco Oro Minerals Corp.

The company is exploring for gold and silver in a high-altitude, environmentally sensitive area that is the main source of water for Bucaramanga's one million inhabitants.

This was the fourth anti-gold-mining demonstration in the area since 2010, and one of the biggest.

But Eco Oro shouldn't feel singled out. It is only one in a string of Canadian mining and exploration companies that have drawn the ire of local communities around the world.

On March 12, for example, more than 10,000 Greeks protested in Thessaloniki against several gold mining projects owned by Vancouver-based Eldorado Gold.

Then on March 21, Catholic priests marched with 5,000 locals in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, against a project owned by Vancouver-based B2Gold Corp.

Canadian companies have also been targeted in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Israel.

“Canada is very well represented in global mining conflicts because, in large part, Canada is the home of most of the junior mining companies of the world,” says Ramsey Hart, the Canada program co-ordinator at Mining Watch, an Ottawa-based advocacy group.

The reason for this, he says, is that Canada has a favourable environment for high-risk, speculative investments, the kind that drives international mineral exploration.

Unlike the U.S. Alien Tort Statute, which allows foreign citizens to bring American companies to U.S. courts for abuses committed in a foreign country, there are no mechanisms to hold Canadian companies overseas accountable for their social and environmental policies. "We've just completely dropped that ball," Ramsey says.

The article continues:

The last attempt to impose minimum standards on Canadian companies was a bill sponsored by the opposition Liberals that would have set international standards for human rights and the environment for oil, gas and mining companies operating abroad, and would have made government political and financial support contingent on compliance.

Bill C-300, however, was defeated by six votes in a minority parliament two and a half years ago.

New Democrats joined and supported that vote. However, 17 Liberals were absent, which is unfortunate because they would have made enough to carry that vote and we would have had action on this file.

Thank goodness for the New Democrat member of Parliament for La Pointe-de-l'Île and her bill on corporate social responsibility in the extractive sector. What is being proposed in her bill is exactly what we need. It is a bill that would create a corporate social responsibility ombudsman for the extractive companies doing business in other countries, which is exactly what this news article was talking about.

It would also allow Canada to live up to the reputation that we want to have abroad. Canada is a country that believes in social justice, protecting the environment and defending human rights. This is the image that Canadians surely appreciate of our country. When we travel abroad, it is the image that we want to portray. Whether inadvertently or intentionally, we do not want companies that can be seen as ambassadors to let us down on any of these fronts.

The bill proposed by our colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île would respect our commitments under international law and the international bill of rights by creating an office of the ombudsman. This would require corporations to report to the office on their extractive activities. It would give the ombudsman the responsibility for developing guidelines on best practices for the extractive activities and require the ombudsman to table an annual report on how companies around the world were doing to the House of Commons and therefore to the people of Canada. That is very important.

I began by saying that Canada was a world leader in the extractive sector. We are very proud of that. Close to 75% of the world's extractive companies are headquartered in Canada. However, many of the countries in which these companies operate sometimes have fragile democracies. They may not enforce human rights or environmental standards as well as Canadians or the citizens in those countries would like. Sometimes the mining companies, with their business endeavours, can create instability in these so-called host countries.

Sometimes these countries lack either the political will, the capacity or the ability to enforce protective measures that would actually defend the citizens they should represent. We believe Canadians do have some responsibility, and the measure that is being proposed in the bill is a measure that other countries around the world have taken.

I will give the government credit. It has taken some action. It created an extractive sector counsellor office. As the name suggests, it was really counselling businesses. It had no power to do anything. In essence, it turned the responsibility for corporate behaviour over to the very corporations that were responsible for the behaviour. That is a bit of a conflict of interest. It has not stopped the government when it comes to rail or food safety, or any other sector of the economy that ought to be regulated by the government, but that is what it has done here.

This counsellor has no ability to enforce anything or to do anything. The office has not been able to achieve anything. In fact, the only counsellor that the government appointed resigned in frustration with one year to go before the end of her term. That was last October, and the position today remains vacant. This is how seriously the Conservative government treats corporate social responsibility in the extractive sector. It clearly does not.

This is an important issue for Canadians. More than 600,000 Canadians have supported this campaign since 2006. The campaign has found friends in the corporate network for social accountability in groups like Amnesty International, Development and Peace and Mining Watch Canada. It has also found support in people like: Tony Andrews, the former executive director for the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada; Pierre Gratton, president and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada; and Reg Manhas, senior manager, Corporate Responsibility and Government Affairs, Talisman Energy Inc.

This is clearly long overdue. It is something Canadians want. It is something the government should finally achieve. The House should vote in favour of Bill C-584.

Corporate Social Responsibility of Extractive Corporations Outside Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

September 25th, 2014 / 6:20 p.m.
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NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to rise in the House today to support the bill introduced by my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île, Bill C-584, An Act respecting the Corporate Social Responsibility Inherent in the Activities of Canadian Extractive Corporations in Developing Countries. I congratulate my colleague on the great work she does every day in the House of Commons. I am really proud of her.

I support this bill, as do hundreds of my constituents in Drummond who sent me letters asking me to support this bill to create an office of the ombudsman for the mining sector.

My partner supports it too, and that is saying something, because she is from Colombia. She has witnessed the disasters that some Canadian mining companies can cause in Latin American countries. My partner, Liliana, has urged me to support this bill, and I am proud to do so.

This initiative reflects NDP values: social justice, environmental protection and human rights. In short, this bill seeks to implement a recommendation by the national roundtables on corporate social responsibility and Canadian extractive industries dating back to 2007, as my colleagues said. Businesses and non-governmental organizations met to study the issue and they agreed on a resolution.

The main recommendation is to create an independent ombudsman's office that would act as a watchdog for the mining industry. We want to enforce corporate social responsibility standards and laws. That is very important.

Canada is in a unique position, since 75% of the world's mining companies are registered in Canada. Since we are a true haven for mining companies, our responsibility as Canadians is to ensure that these companies respect human rights, workers' rights and the environment as they do business around the world, whether in Latin America or in Africa. That is very important.

We cannot rely on self-regulation alone; we saw the results of such an approach in the XL Foods scandal and the Lac-Mégantic tragedy. We must take a serious approach that meets the needs of both extractive companies and the people who care about workers' rights and the environment.

The Conservatives claim to be masters of protecting mining companies, but they are completely out of touch because the mining companies themselves contributed to drafting this recommendation. In my humble opinion, the government must listen to this recommendation by the roundtables on corporate social responsibility. It is therefore imperative that an office of the ombudsman be created to ensure that the rights I mentioned are respected.

I will conclude and gladly give the floor to my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île, who can close on her bill.

Canada could be a world leader on this by establishing international standards requiring responsible business conduct.

The NDP wants to help developing countries protect their natural resources and ecosystem, as well as workers' rights. That is why we believe we must promote social justice, environmental protection and basic human rights abroad.

We want to create an ombudsman position, as the majority of the players are calling for. The ombudsman's mandate will be to investigate complaints, publish the results of his or her investigations and make recommendations to the government on additional legislative provisions and sanctions. That is what we need, and that is what the people of Drummond and all Canadians are asking for.

Corporate Social Responsibility of Extractive Corporations Outside Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

September 25th, 2014 / 6:25 p.m.
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NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, as you know, it is always an honour for me to rise in the House to talk about corporate social responsibility. It is a topic that is very important to me.

Before I begin, I would like to thank all my colleagues in the House who took part in the debate. A special thanks goes to the organizations that have been working on corporate social responsibility for a very long time. They helped me in drafting my bill.

I have very little time for my response, five minutes, and I told myself that I would not respond to the Conservatives. Nonetheless, you know me, Mr. Speaker, and I would simply like to digress for a moment. My Conservative colleagues tell a good story, and I greatly appreciate their points of view. However, I have my own story to tell, the story of thousands of people around the world. They look at Canada with the hope that we will put an end to the abuse they are suffering once and for all and that we will help them to have better lives, safer lives in a healthy environment, but above all lives in which their fundamental rights are not violated.

I do not expect the government to acknowledge the facts—which have been acknowledged by this Parliament and the United Nations—but I can say that a number of reports recognize that abuses have been committed.

Some years ago, the problem of the social responsibility of Canadian mining companies in developing countries was not a hot topic, far from it. Despite the negative repercussions felt in many communities around the world, it has taken some time for the impact that these companies are having on human rights to come to light. I would like to give a little background on this.

In 2005, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade tabled a report in Parliament recognizing what a negative impact the activities of Canadian mining companies were having on local populations, especially vulnerable populations in developing countries. The report recommended that the Canadian government eliminate the voluntary approach, and called for stricter policies on corporate social responsibility.

In 2006, as soon as the Conservative government was elected, it said that in response to that report it would hold a series of national round tables on corporate social responsibility. NGOs, industry stakeholders and civil society took part in these consultations and adopted a report. It was that report that led to this bill. It recommended creating an ombudsman position.

What did the Conservatives decide to do? They decided to use voluntary measures, exactly what the report—which was adopted by Parliament—said not to do. Unfortunately, since the office of the ethics counsellor was created in 2006, not a single case brought before the office has been followed up on. Why? Because the companies have refused to take part in the dialogue. The Conservative members can talk about their approach involving mediation and dialogue all they want; it did not work. At this very moment, people, human beings, are being abused by companies that are violating their basic rights.

Self-regulation and voluntary measures do not work. Let us finally give a voice to these hundreds of thousands of people who unfortunately have none and are living in a nightmare. I beg the government to take action. After all, it did accept and adopt that report. It accepted the main recommendation, to create an ombudsman position. The Mining Association of Canada signed the report. Everyone agrees that an ombudsman position needs to be created. The hundreds of thousands of people who are in situations in which their basic rights are being abused and violated have this right.

Corporate Social Responsibility of Extractive Corporations Outside Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

June 3rd, 2014 / 5:30 p.m.
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NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

moved that Bill C-584, An Act respecting the Corporate Social Responsibility Inherent in the Activities of Canadian Extractive Corporations in Developing Countries, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased today to begin the first hour of the second reading of my bill, Bill C-584, An Act respecting the Corporate Social Responsibility Inherent in the Activities of Canadian Extractive Corporations in Developing Countries.

Today, we have a unique opportunity to take on our responsibilities as individuals, and also as a country. Canada is in a unique position, because approximately 75% of international extractive corporations are incorporated here, under Canadian legislation. Our responsibility is that much greater since we have to ensure that those corporations respect international human rights and meet environmental standards outside Canada.

We are not talking about the Smurfs here, but about something very real. We are talking about people whose rights are being violated, people who are displaced without their consent, without consultation, and people who are watching their environment being destroyed.

The companies themselves have understood two important things. First, they have a social responsibility to the communities, through the activities engage in. In 2007, representatives of the major mining companies signed the recommendations of the national round tables on corporate social responsibility and the Canadian extractive industry. One of those recommendations was the creation of a corporate social responsibility ombudsman office. The Executive Director of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, the Senior Manager of Corporate Responsibility and Government Affairs at Talisman Energy, and the current President-CEO of The Mining Association of Canada all participated and all signed the recommendations.

The second factor that affects the extractive companies is a matter of image and credibility, as we know. The companies understand that in the digital age, when information is increasingly easily accessible to people, who are increasingly aware of social causes, it is worthwhile for the companies to demonstrate transparency. Moreover, more and more private investors and investment funds are looking at a company’s reputation before becoming shareholders or investing in it.

Unfortunately, the Canadian corporate social responsibility strategy does not go far enough to guarantee that Canadian companies that operate in developing countries adhere to human rights and environmental norms and laws.

In 2009, the Conservative government created the Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor in response to the report of the national round table on the subject, but did not give it any real power. The counsellor has neither the authority to investigate complaints nor the legal authority to ensure that the parties involved participate in the arbitration process in good faith. Its record is a fiasco. None of the six cases submitted were resolved in mediation and in three of those cases, the mining companies accused of violating human rights refused to participate in mediation. All of the cases are therefore closed, and the first counsellor appointed, Marketa Evans, resigned in October 2013, a year before the end of her term. The counsellor position has remained vacant since her resignation.

The industry unquestionably needs to rethink the way it handles its relations with governments and communities outside Canada. To do that, it needs clear guidelines and government help. It is time to look reality in the face. Voluntary measures do not work and corporate goodwill is not enough.

In a 2008 UN General Assembly report, John Ruggie argued that the legislative framework governing the activities of corporations in the natural resources sector is outmoded. He also found that the worst cases of human rights violations have taken place in low-income countries, countries that had recently experienced or were still experiencing conflict, and countries where the rule of law was weak and corruption levels high.

This frame of reference sets out three broad obligations that fall to states and corporations. States have an obligation to protect populations, primarily through legislative, administrative and judicial means, when corporations commit human rights abuses. Corporations have a responsibility to respect human rights by acting with due diligence and being aware of the adverse consequences that their activities and economic relations can have for human rights.

Finally, they have an obligation to ensure access to effective recourse through both legal and non-legal means.

It is only right that they be accountable for their actions abroad. Unfortunately, rather than focusing on developing mandatory, effective mechanisms, the Conservative government continues to act meekly and timidly, and to promote voluntary initiatives.

Bill C-584 would establish an ombudsman with a clear mandate, a specific framework and real powers. We need an independent ombudsman in charge of enforcing standards and laws in respect of corporate social responsibility. The ombudsman would be mandated to investigate complaints on the actions of Canadian companies abroad, publish the findings of his investigations, and make recommendations to the Government of Canada regarding legislative amendments and the sanctions that should be imposed on companies at fault.

It is our belief that Canada must promote values of respect, social justice, environmental protection and respect for human rights abroad. Practices not permitted in Canada should not be permitted abroad either. Holding extractive companies to account is simply a question of justice. By taking this action, we will be giving a voice to those who do not have one. Together, we will give a voice to justice by creating the position of ombudsman.

I would like to point out that, today, I am the voice of over 500,000 people who have been fighting since 2006 from within Development and Peace for the establishment of an independent ombudsman with the power to hear complaints and take action. I would also like to recognize the work of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, or CNCA, a large network comprised of environmental and human rights NGOs, faith-based organizations, labour unions, and research and solidarity groups across Canada, which have been calling for the creation of the position of ombudsman for many years.

I believe that there is a clear message being sent when both NGOs and companies sign off on a recommendation. As legislators, we have a duty to listen to society.

Last weekend, the Permanent People’s Tribunal, or PPT, was in session for two days. The tribunal was comprised of a jury of eight international experts who were called upon to assess the impact of the mining activities of Barrick Gold, Goldcorp, Tahoe Resources, Blackfire Exploration and Excellon Resources in Latin America. After having heard from numerous witnesses and experts, the tribunal reach the conclusion that these mining companies are responsible for a number of human rights violations, and that the Canadian government is, in part, responsible for failing to prevent and, even, facilitating these violations.

When the verdict was read on Sunday afternoon, Mireille Fanon-Mendès-France, one of the eight members of the jury, lamented the fact that “Canadian mining companies often act as new colonizers” and that they “arrive in the country, take possession of the lands and violate the peoples’ right to self-determination”.

This French expert, who works on the UN Human Rights Council, mainly denounced the acts of discrimination against indigenous peoples and neighbouring communities resulting from the activities of Canadian mining companies.

While the tribunal may not have any legal authority, it definitely has moral authority. Now it is up to us to act and to pass Bill C-584 to ensure that no human rights violations by Canadian businesses are tolerated outside Canada. We cannot and must not close our eyes to the protection of human rights. We must ensure that natural resources in developing countries are developed in a responsible manner.

The government is part of the solution to ensure that the international actions of these extractive companies are consistent with the standards and statutes regarding compliance with the social responsibilities of Canadian and international businesses. Canada’s reputation has too often been tarnished because a mining project caused environmental degradation, rising social tensions and even violence.

In February 2011, for example, the NGO Human Rights Watch reported that security forces working for the Canadian corporation Barrick, one of the largest gold producers in the world, were guilty of rape at the Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea. In May, five people were killed in violent riots at the site of Barrick's North Mara mine in Tanzania. In the meantime, the Calgary oil company Talisman Energy continued its exploration activities in the Amazon jungles in Peru despite the opposition of the region’s indigenous Achuar people.

And yet Talisman is still perceived as a champion of the social responsibility of companies in the industry as a result of its public support for the concept of the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples. What is wrong with this picture?

If we are not yet convinced of the urgent need to act, let us consider the fourteenth report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development:

Over the past several years, the Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Development has heard evidence related to the activities of Canadian mining and other resources companies in developing countries, including Colombia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Most recently, it has held hearings on the activities of the Canadian mining company TVI Pacific Inc. in the Philippines, as well as on the broader issue of corporate social responsibility with respect to the activities of Canadian mining companies in developing countries. These hearings have underlined the fact that mining activities in some developing countries have had adverse effects on local communities, especially where regulations governing the mining sector and its impact on the economic and social wellbeing of employees and local residents, as well as on the environment, are weak or non-existent, or where they are not enforced. [The Subcommittee is] concerned that Canada does not yet have laws to ensure that the activities of the Canadian mining companies in developing countries conform to human rights standards, including the rights of workers and of indigenous peoples.

I hope this issue goes beyond partisanship, and that we will all agree that it is high time to take action against the reprehensible activities of certain Canadian mining companies abroad.

Bill C-584 is a path for justice and one more pillar to support human rights abroad. I hope to have the government's support to try to give a voice to those who, sadly, do not have one.

Corporate Social Responsibility of Extractive Corporations Outside Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

June 3rd, 2014 / 5:40 p.m.
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Oak Ridges—Markham Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and for Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for bringing forward the bill. I have looked at the bill and I wonder if the member could table for me any assessments she has done with respect to the financial and legal implications of it.

I am also somewhat concerned by the massive encroachment into the rights of the provinces that the bill, if passed, would undertake. Could she also comment on the consultations she had with provincial counterparts with respect to the encroachment on their rights and would she also table those consultations?

Again, could she table the financial recommendations, the financial impacts, the legal impacts, and her consultations with the provinces? Quite honestly, if she has not done those types of consultations, would she consider withdrawing the bill until she has done that very important work? It would help us to be in a better position to decide whether we could support the bill.

Corporate Social Responsibility of Extractive Corporations Outside Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

June 3rd, 2014 / 5:45 p.m.
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NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, in terms of financial implications, I would like to point out that the bill uses funds already allocated to the Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor.

The financial implications had therefore already been calculated by this government when it created the position of corporate social responsibility counsellor in 2009. If the legislation needs to be amended to alter the financial implications, for example, then we will deal with that when the time comes. For now, this government has already done the calculations and there are no additional financial implications tied to this bill.

In addition, I consulted with almost all of the NGOs that had a hand in the national roundtable report on corporate social responsibility and the Canadian extractive sector. I would like to point out that this initiative was put forward by the government in 2006. It was the one that held the consultations. I reviewed everything that was said. This bill was endorsed by the industry, by the NGOs and by civil society.

Corporate Social Responsibility of Extractive Corporations Outside Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

June 3rd, 2014 / 5:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is important that we recognize the whole idea of corporate responsibility. This is not necessarily new. I know my colleague, the current critic for the environment for the Liberal Party, has taken a keen interest, as other members have over the years, in wanting to advance a higher sense of corporate responsibility. I think Canadians as a whole would look to the government to come up with initiatives that would have an impact and would influence what happens in the world.

Would my colleague provide some additional comment on the type of support available? In fact, it would be nice to see the bill go to the committee, where it could draw upon some of the stakeholders who are very opinionated on this very important issue.

Corporate Social Responsibility of Extractive Corporations Outside Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

June 3rd, 2014 / 5:45 p.m.
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NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his question.

Again, I want to point out that this was the main recommendation of the national roundtable report on corporate social responsibility and the Canadian extractive sector. This recommendation was endorsed and drafted by the principal extractive sector and NGO stakeholders.

When the report was tabled, there was virtually unanimous agreement on accepting the principle of creating an ombudsman position. Also, as I said in my speech, a number of civil society NGOs have expressed support for this recommendation since the report was tabled in 2007, notably Development and Peace and the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability.

I can assure my colleague that civil society and the people my colleagues met with in their ridings support this bill. I am not saying that we have reached a general consensus, but I do think that we have achieved a consensus as far as creating an ombudsman position is concerned.

Corporate Social Responsibility of Extractive Corporations Outside Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

June 3rd, 2014 / 5:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment the member for her enthusiasm and corporate social responsibility. All of us here want to take this seriously.

It gives me pleasure to rise in the House today and speak about what our Conservative government is doing in our approach to supporting and promoting corporate social responsibility, or CSR, particularly with Canada's international extractive sectors operating abroad.

I want to emphasize that this government encourages and expects all Canadian companies working internationally to respect all applicable laws and international standards, to operate transparently and in consultation with host governments and local communities, and to conduct their activities in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.

Our Conservative government works across all sectors and with a wide range of stakeholders to underscore the importance of responsible business conduct, good governance, and meaningful stakeholder engagement, broadly and in the extractive sector specifically.

Canada is a trading nation. Our economy relies on doing business around the world. From the trade perspective, we promote CSR to Canadian businesses because they contribute to our economic success. I want to be clear. The vast majority of Canadian companies conduct their operations in a responsible manner. It is a key reason why Canadian companies are highly regarded and internationally respected. It is also one reason Canada is a global leader in the extractive sector.

Canadian companies operating abroad recognize that responsible business practices are fundamentally important to their ultimate success and to their bottom line, including shareholder value. Canadian companies recognize that a commitment to responsible business practice is a commitment to their own success.

I would now like to turn to a CSR strategy that our government has created.

The CSR strategy was created around a number of core areas. However, much of the focus has been centred on four key elements. These are often referred to as the four pillars of the CSR strategy. They include enhancing the capacities of developing countries to manage the development of minerals, oils, and gas, and the benefit from these resources to reduce poverty; promoting widely recognized voluntary international CSR performance guidelines; establishing the Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor; and supporting the development of the Canadian Centre for Excellence in CSR.

Other areas of CSR strategy include promoting and recognizing that transparency and disclosure are key to the success of CSR activities. Co-operating with stakeholders for continuous improvement in the implementation of the CSR strategy and extractive sector CSR practices is also very important.

The CSR strategy has proven to be a strong framework by which the government encourages and promotes responsible business practices by Canadian companies working internationally in the extractive sector. The CSR strategy has also garnered strong support from a broad range of stakeholders, including industry, civil society, and host countries.

The government's approach to CSR is based on its commitment to the value of using voluntary mechanisms for dispute resolution, such as those offered by Canada's National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the NCP. The use of voluntary initiatives based on internationally developed and recognized standards offers a flexible and effective approach to resolving issues of mutual concern, and can advance public policy objectives in a more expeditious and less costly way than relying on regulatory or legislative regimes. Voluntary mechanisms for dialogue and dispute resolution are respectful of the countries that host Canadian companies. It is for those countries, not us, to judge what laws should be in place within the respective jurisdictions.

Compared to the many legal alternatives, non-judicial mechanisms offer a cost-efficient and more accessible alternative for all stakeholders. Voluntary mechanisms also allow relationships to flourish on the basis for creating economic and social benefits for both the company and the host community. Coercive mechanisms shut down dialogue and risk ending positive relationships.

Through the CSR strategy, our Conservative government's efforts are squarely focused on encouraging constructive collaboration and dialogue. This approach is further exemplified by the Canadian Centre for Excellence in CSR, which has been successful in establishing an environment for productive discussion among key industry, civil society, and government stakeholders on sensitive issues affecting Canada's extractive sector.

This government has made a commitment to review the CSR strategy five years following its implementation date. In 2014, I am pleased to report that the government has been active in carrying out this mandate. The review is informed by a comprehensive process that includes round table consultations with industry and civil society, supplemented by an online public consultation process. The Minister of International Trade and his parliamentary secretary also held consultations in the summer and fall of 2013, which has fed into the CSR strategy review.

The preliminary findings of the review confirm that the CSR strategy should continue. It clearly responds to the needs of the host communities and Canadian extractive sector companies operating abroad. We are confident that the CSR strategy will become even better as a result of the broad consultations we have undertaken during the review process.

Everything I have said so far clearly highlights why Bill C-584 is duplicative. It simply restates key elements of the existing CSR strategy. The government already works with the Canadian business community, civil society organizations, foreign governments and communities, as well as other stakeholders, to foster and promote responsible business conduct in countries where Canadian extractive sector companies operate.

The CSR Counsellor's office and the CSR guidelines promoted in the CSR strategy play an important role in assisting companies and facilitating dialogue between project-affected stakeholders to allow for sustainable economic growth in the countries where Canadian companies are active.

This government supports the overall objective of fostering enhanced accountability for the extractive sector, while continuing to address the CSR-related challenges of Canadian firms operating abroad.

However, I urge my colleagues to oppose this bill for three reasons.

First, legally the bill raises several constitutional issues. The bill purports to compel Canadian extractive companies to report on how they conduct their business when they are operating abroad. This clearly falls outside the Government of Canada's jurisdiction. Jurisdiction over how a company conducts its business is primarily provincial. Extractive sector companies do not fall into the federally regulated category. Even for federally incorporated companies, the federal government lacks the jurisdiction to legislate the commercial activities of these companies overseas. As a result, it is likely that any legal action challenging the constitutionality of the bill would be successful.

Second, Bill C-584 duplicates the key elements of Canada's existing CSR strategy, which already articulates how the government provides tools and information to assist Canadian extractive sector companies enhance their ability to manage social and environmental risks abroad. As mentioned earlier, much of the guidance and undertakings recommended in the bill are currently provided by Canada's NCP for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

Third, the CSR strategy is currently being reviewed. It is therefore premature to put forward this bill when concerns that have prompted its introduction may be addressed following the completion of the CSR strategy review.

For these reasons, I ask all hon. members to vote against the bill, which is legally unenforceable and duplicative and whose consideration is clearly premature, given the ongoing CSR review process.

I have had the privilege of travelling into Central and South America with different committees and have seen some of the different Canadian mining companies operate. I am proud to see how important they think CSR is. In fact, in Peru, it is really interesting. When one looks at the Canadian mining or extractive industries there, they are so highly regarded that other countries are hiring Canadians to help set up and establish their mines because we know how to do it.

I understand the enthusiasm that the member has for this type of legislation and her concerns, but she can rest assured that we are taking these concerns very seriously and already working with many stakeholders to ensure that these CSR concerns are being addressed.

Corporate Social Responsibility of Extractive Corporations Outside Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

June 3rd, 2014 / 5:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak to Bill C-584, although I have to admit I am disappointed with what I have just heard from the government side, which seems to suggest that everything is going along perfectly and there is no need to do very much. In fact, if one looks at what it has been doing, it has been dragging its feet for a very long time.

I would like to congratulate my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île for this initiative. She is headed in the right direction and the Liberal Party will support this bill, An Act respecting the Corporate Social Responsibility Inherent in the Activities of Canadian Extractive Corporations in Developing Countries.

I would like to begin by thanking the large number of my constituents who wrote to me about this bill and about their concerns regarding the activities of Canadian mining companies in foreign countries. We would not be hearing from them if everything was going along perfectly.

Many Canadians care deeply about these sorts of issues and want to see us holding ourselves to a higher standard. I share those concerns and wishes. As I will be arguing, it is in everyone's interest that Canada adopt the highest possible standards in this area.

Corporate social responsibility is an important issue, and Bill C-584 is one of several private members' bills that have been introduced in recent years that seek to better regulate the activities of Canadian corporations working in the extractive sector.

My own colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood, for example, introduced a bill in the previous Parliament. It was called Bill C-300. I have to commend him for this, because he really did make a very honest effort to address corporate social responsibility in the mining sector. It was a private member's bill that would have been the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. legislation passed in September of 2013, which requires mining and oil and gas corporations to submit annual transparency reports that disclose all financial payments provided by them to foreign governments for the purposes of furthering mining or oil and gas industry activities.

The bill before us today shares the same basic goal as the bill advanced by the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, but approaches it from a different angle by proposing to establish an ombudsman who would be responsible for:

(a) creating guidelines respecting the best practices to be followed by corporations in their extractive activities in developing countries; and (b) monitoring the corporations’ extractive activities to ensure compliance with the guidelines.

Earlier I mentioned the importance of corporate social responsibility. This is important because it is through a good regime of transparency and ethical safeguards that corporations acquire the social licence to operate successfully.

My colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood put it eloquently in a past speech, when he explained that:

Social license is more than a stack of legal documents and geological surveys; rather it is the social permission of the people affected to mine the minerals. Sometimes the people are well represented by their government and sometimes not.

The Canadian government has an obligation to ensure that companies based here are not engaged in corrupt activities that encourage foreign governments to not act in the best interests of their own citizens. This happens more than we would like.

For example, in January 2013, as documented by the CBC, Human Rights Watch reported that a Vancouver-based company failed to ensure that forced labour was not used in the construction of a mine it operated in Eritrea. The agency said that Eritrea's conscripted workers, some of whom had been forced to work for over a decade, face torture or other serious abuse, and revenge is taken on their families if they desert their posts.

Sadly, all over the developing world there are other similar examples of corporations failing to live up to the ethical standards that they need to adhere to. Most do, and do a great job, but we are here to make sure that they all do.

A failure to respect the human rights of workers and residents in areas affected by mining operations can lead to social instability and failed states. We all end up paying the price when this happens.

In the example I just cited, there is some evidence that the Canadian company tried to address the problem on its own, but evidently whatever action it did take was insufficient to prevent these abuses from occurring. This is bad for Eritreans, it is bad for Canada's global reputation, and it is also bad for the mining company itself, which was subjected to considerable criticism.

The company might very well have benefited from independent guidelines regulating how it should operate in foreign countries and a watchdog to ensure it was compliant with those guidelines.

In fact, there is already a broad consensus among civil society, NGOs, industry, and some governments that there has to be something done about the problem of unreported payments and corruption involved in a variety of enterprises, particularly the extractive sector, and that we need to have increased transparency in order to curb corruption. The government claims that it shares this goal, yet I note that it failed to support the bill from my colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood, which would have brought Canadian regulations up to par with American and EU standards. I suspect a similar fate, based upon what my Conservative colleague just said, will befall this bill presented by the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île. I hope I am wrong.

The Prime Minister announced with much fanfare in June 2013—that is, a year ago—that the government would adopt a G8 initiative that requires companies to disclose any payments they make to foreign governments, but a year later, no such legislation has been introduced. My hon. colleague from the Conservative Party said, “We're on top of this and our corporate social responsibility plan is just working beautifully”.

We are told now that something will be forthcoming by April 1, 2015. There is no excuse for this two-year delay. We will see if the government is any quicker at introducing these rules than it has been so far in, for example, regulating carbon emissions in the oil and gas sector. That was promised five years ago.

One way that it might demonstrate good faith and show that Canada is taking this issue seriously is to allow Bill C-584 to be taken to committee.

With regard to the bill itself, let me reiterate again that it is a very well-intended piece of legislation. Liberals recognize that, and we are supportive of it.

That said, there are a few areas that can be improved. For example, clause 9 of the bill indicates that corporations would have to report to the office of the ombudsman on any extractive activities within one year of the act coming into force. However, a later section, subclause 10(1), gives the office of the ombudsman up to three years to develop the guidelines. If the ombudsman does, in fact, take three years to develop the guidelines, how will companies be able to report in the first and second year in the absence of those guidelines?

However, that is something that could be corrected in committee.

Another problem is in clause 8 of the bill, which would require companies to:

(a) take all necessary measures to minimize the negative impact of its activities on the environment or on human rights in the developing country

Without defining what “necessary measures” are, the bill would leave major loopholes for corporations that the bill is supposed to close.

There are a couple of other things; however, my time is coming to an end. I would encourage all members in this House to vote in favour of taking the bill to committee, because its objectives are good objectives for Canada, good objectives for the extractive industries, and the right thing to do.

Corporate Social Responsibility of Extractive Corporations Outside Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

June 3rd, 2014 / 6:05 p.m.
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NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for bringing this legislation forward. I was delighted to second the bill.

I want to pick up on what my colleague from the Liberal Party said. I am heartened to hear that the Liberal Party supports this legislation.

The last time we debated similar legislation put forward by the member's colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood, the Liberal Party unfortunately did not support it entirely. At the time, the Liberal leader and some members of the front bench could not find a way to support Bill C-300, so I am glad the Liberals will be supporting sending the bill to committee.

These are really important initiatives. We have already had an overview of what the bill proposes to do, but for those members who are hearing about this legislation for the first time, it essentially says that Canadian companies doing business abroad should more or less follow the same rules that they follow here. That is essentially the theory around this legislation and that is what the round table came up with.

The round table, as has been mentioned, included members of civil society, industry, and government. Ed Broadbent, who formerly represented my riding, was very much a part of moving that forward.

Then Alexa McDonough had a bill similar to the one we are debating now; I also had a similar bill, and my colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood put forward Bill C-300. We have had a lot of debate and discussion.

The government has said that it has acted. It has talked about its CSR counsellor being in place. The government felt that this was taking care of people's concerns about the behaviour of Canadian extractive companies abroad. However, when that position was created, we all noted that the position was actually toothless.

It is important to note the title of counsellor, not ombudsman. When complaints came in, the counsellor did not have the power to investigate them. The problem with the counsellor position was that it was incumbent upon both parties, the party making the accusation and the company, to accept an investigation. To no one's surprise, there were not many investigations. The CSR counsellor was not effective at all.

My colleague has brought this issue back to the House of Commons. It is fantastic to see the progress that has been made because of civil society. It really should be noted that civil society has incredible leverage, particularly when it comes to both foreign policy and domestic policy. Development and Peace and unions such as steelworkers that are involved with extractive companies have been front and centre in making this issue known to Canadians and to politicians. They want them to move forward, and they have not let up. They want Canada to be smart about what we do abroad and proud of what we do abroad. That way Canadian companies abroad are seen as responsible actors.

Development and Peace, the faith communities, unions, and everyday Canadians have been carrying this flag and making sure that we do not lose sight of this issue. It is terrific that my colleague has taken it up. She is carrying on the work that was done before.

I also want to acknowledge the change in mindset of the mining sector. In particular, for the record, I want to cite the Mining Association of Canada. This organization has written to government to advocate what we heard from my Liberal colleague, which is to bring in regulations on what we call “publish what you pay”, meaning that the transactions that any company does abroad would be made public. They want to see consequences if companies do not make those transactions public.

The government has said it is consulting on this issue, but industry is ahead of government. What is going on here? We need to get the government to listen more carefully, not just to Canadians but to industry as well. The government has to get on board and get moving on this issue.

I will read what the association said on this issue. It was noted, and I will not be surprising some members, that there was a bit of tension between industry and civil society representatives on the last iteration of this legislation, Bill C-300.

Here is what the Mining Association of Canada is saying in a letter to government:

The function of the Office of the CSR Counsellor should...be focused on the “front end” [at the beginning of the process] of any request for a review...to clarify the issues and the guidelines involved, to encourage the parties to address the issues through direct dialogue under local-level mechanisms, and to advise parties on the implementation of the guidelines. MAC believes companies will be motivated to participate in this front end of the process, as they have participated in the initial stages of the requests for review brought to the Office to date, and as an alternative to other, more formal forms of review.

It goes on to say, and here is the important part:

This first step is essentially to determine the nature of the dispute and whether mediation could be effective in resolving it. In MAC's view, this first step should be mandatory: a company's refusal to participate in this front-end process should have as a consequence a loss of public support for the proponent's project by the Government of Canada's Trade Commissioner service.

It is industry that is saying this. This is progress. This is the Mining Association of Canada acknowledging that collectively the industry has a responsibility to engage when there are concerns and complaints about activities on the ground.

The government says that somehow this is not in its domain. It is extra-territorial. It cannot be involved in these things, et cetera. Industry is saying no; we need to be engaged.

We have seen incredible advancement. We have seen engagement. What we need to see from government is to be at least at the same level as industry and adopt these measures that have been put forward.

The reason is that, when we see mining operations abroad—and we see it, frankly, here in Canada and we see it with gas and oil as well—and the fact that companies can make a profit from mining, no one has a concern around that. However, when we see that people's human rights are abused or that the environment on which they rely is being negatively affected and they feel they have no voice at all, what are their choices? I have Bill C-486 before the House on conflict minerals,

When mining companies, extractive industries, or oil and gas companies are abroad, they are not just any companies; these are Canadians companies, and there are certain values and responsibilities, I will say, that go with that.

We have heard stories of mining companies hiring security firms to clear the land, so anyone who protests any of the developments is cleared off the land and sometimes people are killed. This is extraordinarily troubling for many of us, but the question is, what are we going to do about it? Will we just continue to listen to these grievances, or will we act?

That is why the bill is so important. It says that there is a responsibility for the Government of Canada to have an objective person to oversee the concerns that may arise because of our activity abroad.

CSR is a great term. The problem I have noted over the last number of years is that it seems to only apply in-house to business and the corporate side. Frankly, I think it is quite obvious to many that it should be something that government adopts, that the cornerstone of part of our trade policy and our foreign policy should be corporate social responsibility, and the Canadian government should ensure this happens.

We just had some great debates in our foreign affairs committee about what happened in Bangladesh with the Rana Plaza collapse. Over 1,000 people died a year ago, on April 24. Why? It was because there were not proper standards and because the integrity of the building was not kept up. What happened? We saw 1,100 people die, many of them children, most of them women.

We can do better. We need to have oversight. The bill is a reasonable offer. We can make sure that when Canadian companies are operating abroad, we can say in good faith that they are following the same values and the same regulations that we want to see them follow here.

I would ask the government to at least look at what is being proposed and see if we can improve it, so that we can be proud Canadians when Canadian companies are operating abroad.