Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Pierrefonds—Dollard for having his private member's motion drawn so early in the private member's lottery. I would also like to congratulate him for presenting such a worthwhile motion on such an important issue.
I am honoured to speak to the motion and I am honoured to have seconded the motion.
The motion dovetails with Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries, presented by the Liberal member for Scarborough—Guildwood.
I would also like to congratulate members of the Development and Peace movement. I personally received over 500 signature cards from members of that organization who live in my riding.
I would like to thank those who sensitized me on the issue through private conversations either at town hall meetings or in my office, namely, Brian McDonough, André Bergeron, Dr. Mona Abbondanza.
I would like to thank those individuals who visited me in my riding office to discuss the issue and to impress upon me the importance of implementing the recommendations that my hon. colleague from Pierrefonds—Dollard no doubt worked on when he was a member of the foreign affairs committee in the 38th Parliament.
I would like to thank Jack Zylak, Nathalie Doiron, Patricia Oliveri, Nelson Furtado, Thérèse Pereira, Lynn Jansen, June Francis, Yvonne Bourque, and Monica Lambton. These individuals worked hard to collect the signatures on the over 500 cards that I received. They have done a remarkable job of advocating for this cause.
All of us in the House are familiar with citizen lobby campaigns that use, among other things, direct mail techniques, but rarely have I seen such a professional, effective and strategic effort on the part of such a good cause.
I would like to give members a little context. As I mentioned, this initiative comes out of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, which, during the first session of the 38th Parliament, became concerned about the increasing evidence that some Canadian resource extraction companies were conducting their operations in developing countries without adequate regard for local, social, environmental and human rights standards.
Accordingly, the committee recommended that the government undertake a comprehensive study of the issue by meeting with relevant industry associations, non-governmental organizations, development experts, environmentalists, human rights advocates, and government officials to determine the best course of action to move the issue forward.
As a result of that, the previous Liberal government initiated national round tables on corporate social responsibility and the Canadian extractive industry in developing countries.
What followed was 10 months of rigorous and meticulous negotiations and discussions with representatives from the extractive industry, advocacy groups, academics, government, and members of the public, all of which culminated in a report containing the very recommendations we are discussing today.
Canadian mining companies do not intend to violate environmental rights or human rights in developing countries. Often they are operating in very difficult jurisdictions that do not have appropriate laws and regulations. The executives of these companies are obviously operating at a distance from where the mining activities are taking place.
As we deplete mining resources, mining operations must go further into the outlands of the various countries in which they operate where no doubt the situation is even more nebulous and hard to monitor.
That is why one of the recommendations that came out of the advisory group's report, namely the recommendation that we create a mining ombudsman, would be so important. It would provide a conduit for information about what is going on in the field in these developing countries, a conduit for information not only to the government and to Canadian citizens at large, but to mining executives in Canada who would no doubt use that information to take appropriate action.
The mining ombudsperson would be mandated to ensure Canadian mining companies conduct their international resource extraction operations while adhering to standards of corporate social responsibility by, one, receiving and investigating complaints regarding potential violations of social or environmental standards by Canadian companies working abroad; two, quickly making recommendations to correct these violations; and three, releasing publicly the results of its investigations and recommendations for actions or sanctions.
For example, the ombudsman might recommend that the government withdraw services to an offending company such as by denying financial backing from Export Development Canada, discontinuing diplomatic support the company receives from Canadian consulates in developing countries, or disallowing Canadian tax deductions for tax paid to foreign governments.
The advisory group also recommends that the mining ombudsman play an advisory role, as I mentioned before, to focus the companies on situations on the ground, perhaps even to the point of helping to prevent conflicts in these countries and those regions of the country where the mining company is operating, before those conflicts begin.
Canada has made numerous contributions in the past to the progress of humankind through its foreign policy. We think, for example, of the treaty to ban antipersonnel landmines, which was a Canadian initiative. We think also of the doctrine of the responsibility to protect, the doctrine that was developed by former Liberal member of Parliament and minister in Liberal governments, the hon. Lloyd Axworthy, an idea that was taken up by Paul Martin before and when he was prime minister, an idea that has been discussed and probed further by the current leader of the Liberal Party.
Canada has also been active through Liberal senators like Senator Dallaire, in terms of helping to address the problems in Sudan, namely in the Darfur region. We have another Canadian, Maude Barlow, who has made great efforts to raise awareness of water as an international environmental issue, an international human issue, and who is now special adviser on water to the president of the United Nations General Assembly.
We have a history as a nation of acting to promote humanitarian progress internationally. This is no different. This is an issue on which we can make a contribution, not least of all because Canada is a mining giant. Half of all mining projects in the world are associated with Canadian companies. We understand this industry, we understand how it operates, we have knowledge and experience, and we should use that knowledge and experience to reduce the hardships that many miners and communities that surround mines have endured for various reasons.
It is even part of our culture to understand that mining has many associated hardships. Of course, just about every province has a mining industry. The likes of Hugh MacLennan have written on the hardships of mining communities, and so on.
It is part of our culture and it is part of economic history, and we should use that to make the world a better place.