Thank you. My colleagues and me are truly pleased to be here today.
I think it is propitious timing that we're here today. I do have a number of colleagues with me--more than you normally would have--and the rationale for that is that we weren't sure how wide your questioning might be, so we have a number of different groups within Foreign Affairs, from our corporate social responsibility, human security, and Sudan task force. We also have a colleague from CIDA regarding aid and development. So hopefully we can answer the full range of your questions and different issues.
We noted that the committee has an interest in the activities of Canadian companies in Sudan, and I think that was the starting point for us to be here. As the Canadian government does not currently promote investment or commercial activity in Sudan, there are very few companies active in Sudan. As a result, the information available on Canadian companies' activity--potential, real, or for the future--is somewhat limited, but we'll try to address any questions you might have.
Corporate social responsibility issues related to Sudan are also limited because of the number of Canadian companies active. However, the committee may be interested in the overall Canadian government approach and position on corporate social responsibility, upon which I'll elaborate a little bit later in my presentation.
The Government of Canada remains deeply concerned about human rights and the humanitarian situation in Sudan. Canada has repeatedly put on record its serious concern with ongoing human rights violations, in particular violence--including sexual violence--against women and girls, by all parties to the conflict in Sudan.
Canada is centrally involved in the efforts of the international community to find solutions that will lead to lasting peace throughout Sudan. To that end, since 2004 Canada has committed over $441 million in diplomatic, peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, reconstruction, and rehabilitation projects. Canada has been a supporter of peacekeeping in Darfur. We were one of the principal donors to the African Union mission in Sudan, which contributed to mitigating the violence of attacks against civilians and to providing a more secure environment in which humanitarian actors could operate.
Canada continues to offer its support during the transition period from the African Union mission to the UN mission. We continue to call on all parties to the Darfur conflict to facilitate the deployment of the hybrid mission and to cooperate fully with its implementation. Canadian senior officials systematically raise their concerns with respect to the situation in Sudan, both bilaterally and in multilateral fora. Canada is also participating in international efforts to support the Darfur political process, and we continue to call on all parties to the Darfur conflict to participate in the renewed peace talks.
Restricted humanitarian access also remains a serious concern, and Canada consistently advocates for safe and unhindered humanitarian access to enable humanitarian actors to assist those in need without fear of violence, intimidation, or harassment. Canada regularly calls on parties to the conflict in Darfur to protect civilian populations and refrain from attacks and acts of violence against them and humanitarian workers.
The UN Security Council, through various resolutions, has also imposed an arms embargo against Sudan, subject to certain humanitarian and peacekeeping exceptions, as well as an asset freeze and travel ban against four Sudanese individuals. Canada has implemented these sanctions with regulations under the United Nations Act. We would fully implement other UN Security Council decisions should they decide to take further measures in relation to the conflict in Sudan.
On the commercial side, it is important to note that since 1992, Canada has withheld trade and commercial support under trade development programs to Canadian businesses wishing to do business or invest in Sudan. In 2007, Canada's overall trade with Sudan consisted of imports valued at about $65 million, about 99% of which was gold, and exports valued at about $210 million, about 82% of which were cereals, particularly wheat and foodstuffs for the people.
Also, on February 5, 2008, the Government of Canada supported motion M-410. If passed, this would require the Government of Canada and crown corporations to divest from corporations conducting business in Sudan, as well as from all funds and financial instruments invested in or operating in these countries, subject to certain humanitarian exceptions. This motion will be discussed further in the upcoming weeks, but if it is implemented, it could place further pressures upon the Government of Sudan, including economic pressure, to meet international standards of conduct.
However, given the level of Canadian commercial engagement with Sudan, the overall effects of a unilateral disinvestment measure on the Canadian and Sudanese economies may be minimal. To our knowledge, and utilizing available databases, the department has only been able to identify a limited number of companies with commercial activity in Sudan. For example, La Mancha is a Montreal-based affiliate of a French mining company operating a gold mine in Sudan. Skylink is providing aircraft in support of Canada's commitment to peacekeeping in Darfur.
It should also be noted that more than 100--I think it's 108--Department of National Defence-owned armoured personnel carriers are currently operating in Sudan under the UN mission. These armoured personnel carriers are being maintained by a Canadian company under contract with DND, so when you look at the commercial figures, you'll see that some of that--there's a bit of a spike--is because of things like the helicopters, the maintenance of the armoured personnel carriers, and other issues.
Understanding the Canadian presence in Sudan is of critical importance, and for that reason the department is still investigating whether other, if any, Canadian firms are doing business in Sudan. This will require some time and some resources to confirm, but it's an active file for us.
With respect to corporate social responsibility-related issues in Sudan, we encourage all Canadian companies to adopt voluntary CSR best practices and international standards.
With reference to Canada's broader and overall approach on CSR at home and abroad, our government and Canadian companies continue to play a key role in the promotion of best practices internationally. Corporate social responsibility is defined as the way companies integrate social, economic, and environmental concerns into their business practices. CSR promotes sustainable results as well as wealth creation for companies and stakeholders, and it is critical to helping companies manage risks abroad, including environmental, human rights, and financial risks. The Government of Canada encourages and expects all Canadian companies to uphold voluntary international standards and principles and to reflect our values and international commitments. Voluntary initiatives can advance public policy objectives in a flexible, expeditious, and less costly way than regulation. Canadian companies are also encouraged to work transparently and in consultation with local communities in which they are active.
In February 2007, Canada announced its support for the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, or EITI, which calls for improved governance in resource-rich countries through the verification and full publication of government payments and government revenues from oil and gas mining. This is a significant step toward increased transparency and helps hold governments to account for the payments received from mining operations.
In addition, Export Development Canada announced in October 2007 that it has become a signatory to the Equator Principles. This is an international financial industry benchmark for assessing and managing social and environmental risk in project financing. I believe they were the first export finance institution worldwide to sign on to that.
Canada and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade promote CSR through the National Contact Point. This is an office responsible for promoting the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises. Its aim is to facilitate a positive and constructive dialogue between multinational enterprises and those affected by their operations.
In addition, our department is actively engaged in various outreach initiatives and continues to undertake CSR training and information sessions for government officials at home and abroad, enhancing our ability to best advise companies and engage foreign governments on CSR-related matters.
I should just mention as an aside here that all our heads of mission and all our senior trade officers receive training in CSR now before they go abroad.
In conclusion, with respect to Sudan, the Government of Canada remains deeply concerned about the human rights and humanitarian situation. In terms of commercial activity, we do not anticipate any significant increase in investment activity in Sudan. Moreover, if motion M-410 were to be passed, it would represent a further disincentive to trade and investment with Sudan.
Finally, Canadian companies with operations and activities in Sudan or anywhere else in the world are expected to follow high standards of behaviour with respect to issues relating to corporate/social responsibility.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. That's I think where we can take the statement and then be open for any comments or questions you might have.