Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in this House and add my support to our government's efforts to promote and encourage effective corporate social responsibility to Canada's extractive sector. I commend all members of all parties for the way they have commended Canada's extractive sector.
I recognize the complexity of the task at hand and I fully support the government's careful, considered approach to the advisory group's recommendations.
This issue is far too complex and involves too many different players to feel like we are pressured into moving too quickly and certainly the considered, careful approach is one that we would expect from any responsible government, which is why I am encouraged that our government is taking the time to get it right.
I am also very encouraged by the enormous progress that Canada has made on this issue over the many years. I was encouraged today when the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs pointed out in his speech some very effective, voluntary, corporate social responsible practices that have been put in place by Canadian companies over a number of years.
We see those responsibilities playing out in many different countries around the world. Many of these companies and industry associations are recognized for the great work they are doing in communities in Canada and abroad in support of education, health and social well-being and diversified economic development. Each one of those is a speech in itself.
Many corporations and many of our responsible oil companies are helping to enhance the education system, the health care system and the way of life for many people around the world. The government certainly encourages this.
We encourage and expect all Canadian companies in all sectors to respect all applicable laws and international standards and to work in close collaboration with host governments. We applaud their ongoing efforts to make a positive impact in the communities in which they are operating. However, there is a shared responsibility among all actors, including governments, to ensure the right conditions are in place to facilitate good corporate conduct. We have heard that here in this place today. We have heard different members from other parties talk about the government putting in place good practices and we see that is happening.
I would like to take a few moments today to recognize some of the great work the government is doing in support of corporate social responsible, or CSR, principles.
In addition to organizing the round tables under discussion today, Canada is also a strong supporter of the international extractive industries transparency initiative, or EITI. This was one of the advisory group's central recommendations. We can see that the government is living up to that. It has been recommended and we endorse that type of recommendation.
The initiative supports and promotes improved governance in resource rich developing nations by publishing and verifying all company payments and government revenues stemming from the extractive sector. It is proving to be an effective way of publishing what companies pay and what governments receive in an open, transparent and accountable manner.
I do not think it is a surprise to anyone that around the world these principles are not universal. These principles are not something that every governing body around the world would sign onto. Therefore, Canada plays a major role in working government to government to encourage these types of socially responsible principles.
The advisory group also recommended enhanced public reporting by the Canada Investment Fund for Africa, yet another step this government has endorsed.
As a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, Canada is a proud signatory to the OECD's guidelines for multinational enterprises. This is a multilateral instrument to promote corporate social responsibility and has been the cornerstone of Canada's approach to this issue.
This means that Canada is obliged to establish and maintain a national contact point, someone who is responsible for promoting OECD guidelines, handling inquiries and helping to resolve issues concerning specific instances of Canadian businesses' conduct abroad, including the business of mining and oil companies or, what we call, the extractive sector. The principle is being endorsed.
There has been talk about an ombudsman. We have a contact person responsible for some of that who is a director general within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. This is an effective way to engage stakeholders and to promote a positive, open and constructive dialogue between multinational companies and those that are affected by their operations in those countries.
As members know, Canada is also a member of the International Labour Organization, or the ILO. We fully support the ILO's tripartite declaration of principles concerning multinational enterprises and social policy. This is considered to be the universal basic reference point for social responsibility in the context of work or labour.
Export Development Canada, EDC, announced last year its support for the Ecuador principles. These principles are an international financing benchmark for assessing and managing social and environmental risks in project financing.
Canada has also provided financial support for a number of domestic and international initiatives aimed at promoting corporate social responsibility. For example, we provided financial support to the UN special representative to the secretary-general on business and human rights.
We have supported efforts to identify best practices for companies that are operating in combat zones. When Canadian corporations are in countries where conflict and war has broken out, there is a list of best practices for those companies.
What do Canadians expect? Canadians expect that in those types of situations our Canadian companies remain responsible. Therefore, a clear line of operating principles has been laid out.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is undertaking a comprehensive initiative to ensure that its trade and diplomatic officers in Canada and abroad have the information and tools they need to provide effective corporate social responsible advice to Canadian clients around the world. This includes informational sessions and targeted training modules to ensure our embassies abroad and the regional DFAIT offices have individuals who, when they need training on how to understand the corporate social responsibilities in that given country, are given that training to ensure they have the ability not only to understand the principles laid out, but that they can then pass it on to the companies operating within that jurisdiction.
We also recognize the importance of fostering close partnerships with host governments in helping developing countries build the capacity they need to establish strong, effective, corporate social responsible regimes in their own countries.
We do recognize that not all governments, especially those governments in developing countries, have the tools, the knowledge or the capacity to ensure that corporate social responsible principles are being applied in their own countries. If their own home governments are not going to put these polices in place, Canadians can be assured that Canada will.
That is why, for example, we are providing financial assistance to help Peru join the OECD Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises. Peru's adherence to the declaration would be a huge step forward for that country in terms of corporate social responsibility practices and adherence to the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises. Our involvement in Peru also contributes to strengthening economic partnerships in Latin America, a region that is of utmost priority for this government. It is an initiative that we are very proud to support.
In fact, resource governance is an issue in which Canada can play a big role. Our vast experience in developing our own resources over the decades has given us a wide scope of expertise to share with partners in developing nations. This would be an excellent area of further cooperation as developing countries build up their own expertise and create the foundations for successful, open and responsible extraction sectors that can benefit their citizens.
The Government of Canada, in partnership with mining associations and aboriginal organizations, has also developed a mining kit to help aboriginal people evaluate and participate in the opportunities offered by the mining sector. This kit is now used and adapted in many countries, including the Philippines, Australia, Norway and Peru. They recognize Canada's initiative and they are following up on our practice. Indeed, Canada's voice on this issue is an influential one that is being heard around the world.
We are also working closely with our partners through APEC, OAS, La Francophonie and G-8 to communicate the importance of corporate social responsibility principles to the business community. Indeed, at last year's G-8 summit in Germany, leaders agreed to promote a consolidated set of internationally recognized corporate social responsibility guidelines for the extractive sector. This is yet another good example of how we are working with our global partners on this important issue.
I am happy to say that we are even extending this principled approached to our trade negotiations. The member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca brought up the importance of trade negotiations and the removal of trade barriers.
As members know, we recently signed a free trade agreement with Peru. While this is a very significant victory for Canadian exporters and investors who will now enjoy unprecedented access to this important market, the agreement is good and important for another reason also. This treaty is Canada's first free trade agreement to include language that encourages the parties to support positive corporate socially responsible practices and reminds enterprises of the importance of incorporating those corporate social responsibility standards in their internal policies. We also signed parallel agreements on labour and the environment.
Canada is a leader in this. The opposition has asked when the government will come forward with a reply. It is a considered reply. It is a reply that will be coming in due course and we look forward to that.
We are grateful for the opportunity to share the good things that Canada is doing in--