House of Commons Hansard #116 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was korea.


Canada-Korea Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the hog moratorium from the provincial NDP did have an impact, too. I will acknowledge that.

Having said that, there could have been more pork sales from Manitoba to Korea, but because countries like the U.S. beat Canada to it, because the Prime Minister made it such a low priority, many of my pork producers and manufacturers in Manitoba have lost out. This is because of the Conservative government and its inability to recognize the important value of having this as a higher priority.

That is the reason I put it into a question to a number of Conservative members who stood up. Before they start patting themselves on the back, they should fire back a reply email to the Prime Minister's Office and ask why they waited. Why did we take so long? How did we allow countries such as Chile and Peru, the European Union and the U.S. to beat us in coming up with a free trade agreement with South Korea? That is important.

What about trade as a whole? We want to talk about falling asleep at the switch in terms of one agreement. Imagine, if members will, a graph. Under that graph, we have Jean Chrétien and the Liberals and Paul Martin and the Liberals for 13 years. We have this graph at zero, where we have a trade surplus on the top of that graph. That is where will find Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin and the Liberal governments during the 1990s and all the way up. That is when we had the trade surpluses.

What do members think happened when the current Prime Minister took office? It is a sad story. It plummeted down. We went below that centre point and we have had a huge trade deficit. The Conservatives took a surplus in trade and turned it into a deficit.

What does that mean for the middle class today in Canada? It means that thousands upon thousands of jobs have been lost because the Conservative government did not understand the file on trade. It might like to talk about trade as if it is the great champion of trade, but if we take a look at the facts, they will clearly demonstrate that there is only one party in the House of Commons that understands international trade, and that is the Liberal Party.

The sooner the Conservatives realize that, the sooner they should be coming over to us and asking for good ideas, and starting to act on our ideas. That will result in more trade.

I will be able to continue tomorrow.

Canada-Korea Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Winnipeg North will have 10 minutes remaining when this matter returns before the House.

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from June 3 consideration of the motion 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.

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

5:30 p.m.

Durham Ontario


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

5:40 p.m.


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

5:50 p.m.


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

6 p.m.

Newmarket—Aurora Ontario


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

6:10 p.m.


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

6:20 p.m.


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

6:25 p.m.


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

6:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members



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

6:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

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

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


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

6:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

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

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


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

6:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

In my opinion, the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, October 1, 2014, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure once again of rising in the House to talk about climate change. As everyone knows, this is the hot topic this week. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Climate Summit 2014 was held last Tuesday in New York.

Barack Obama welcomed all heads of state. In fact, 120 heads of states from around the world were present, except for our Prime Minister. That was truly disappointing.

In the last session of Parliament, I pointed out that for the Conservative government, unfortunately, the environment and job creation are mutually exclusive. I asked the following question: When will the Conservatives take the steps necessary to live up to their Copenhagen commitment?

To make a long story short, I would say that when they withdrew from the Kyoto protocol the Conservatives set a low greenhouse gas reduction target of 17% below the 2005 level by 2020. Under the Conservatives, Canada is the only country in the world that decided to withdraw from the Kyoto protocol and to abandon its commitments under that protocol. People are really disappointed with the government's attitude. Canada gave itself lower targets, minuscule targets.

Everyone is up in arms. The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development and even Environment Canada officials themselves have said in all the reports to the Conservative members over the past few years and this year that we will not reach the feeble targets of 17%. Of course, the Conservatives keep saying that all is well, but that is not the case. Everyone has sounded the alarm. However, the Conservatives are turning a deaf ear. They do not seem to understand what people are telling them.

Had the Prime Minister of Canada gone to New York for the Climate Summit 2014, he would have known that the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate released a report at the UN a few days before the summit. The report said that we must not pit the economy against the environment anymore, because it is a false dichotomy. The independent commission that released the report is co-chaired by former Mexican president Felipe Caldéron, who himself said, “The new climate economy report refutes the idea that we must choose between fighting climate change or growing the world's economy. That is a false dilemma.”

Actually, if we do not deal with climate change, the opposite will be true: we will have to spend billions of dollars to be able to respond to the disasters caused by climate change.

What are the Conservatives waiting for? When will they make regulations for Canada's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the oil and gas industry?

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Newmarket—Aurora Ontario


Lois Brown ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development

Mr. Speaker, our government's record is clear. We have taken decisive action on the environment while protecting our economy. Everyone internationally has to do their fair share, and Canada is doing its part. We are committed to working constructively toward a new global climate change agreement. For Canada, a new agreement must include a commitment to action by all the world's major emitters of greenhouse gases.

Our government takes the challenges of climate change seriously. Our government is implementing an approach to climate change that balances economic growth with environmental protection. This includes concrete initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as measures to help Canadians adapt to a changing climate. Our government continues to implement a sector-by-sector regulatory approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, starting with some of the largest sources of emissions in our country, the transportation and electricity sectors.

Expanding on our record, at events surrounding the September 23 climate summit, I am proud to say that our Minister of the Environment announced further regulatory action on both light- and heavy-duty vehicles. Moreover, we also announced our government's intent to regulate hydrofluorocarbons, HFCs, a group of greenhouse gases which can have warming potentials up to 1,000 to 3,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide. in both cases, the government's measures will be aligned with regulations in the United States to ensure Canadian companies remain competitive within the integrated North American marketplace.

To complement these regulatory efforts, our government has also made significant investments to begin Canada's transition to a clean energy economy. These investments will further drive emission reductions, as well as scale up the clean technology sector of the Canadian economy. Clearly, our government's approach to climate change is achieving concrete results for both the environment and the economy.

Beyond efforts to reduce emissions, our government is also taking steps to help Canadians adapt to a changing climate. Our government has invested in domestic adaptation initiatives to improve our understanding of climate change and help Canadians plan for climate impacts. This includes funding for priority areas such as human health, communities, and the economy. Moving forward, the Government of Canada will continue to look for opportunities to take action in manners that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining job creation and economic growth.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is true that Conservative governments have done a lot of work recently. That is why they took home fossil awards at all of the UN climate conferences. If they were that good, they would not be getting fossil awards—booby prizes. They would be getting congratulations from environmentalists and climate change groups. No, they got booby prizes, but they continue to think that they are doing great.

As for the new announcement that the Conservatives have made in New York, that is a two-year-old announcement that they recycled because they had no new solution to propose, even though that was what Ban Ki-moon had requested. They therefore made the same announcement twice. Announcing something twice does not mean that there is twice as much action. It is the same thing.

The sector-by-sector approach does not work. They were already told that by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, among others. It is time to take action.

When will the government abolish subsidies to the oil and gas companies and truly invest in green and sustainable energies?

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

September 25th, 2014 / 6:40 p.m.


Lois Brown Conservative Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are very proud of our record. We are a founding member of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, which is focused on taking immediate action to address climate change. As a result of collective action by governments, consumers and businesses, Canada's 2020 GHG emissions are projected to be 128 megatonnes lower relative to a scenario with no action.

We are accomplishing all of this without a job-killing carbon tax, which would raise the price of everything.

It is the responsibility of each of us as consumers to make the right choices. As long as we continue to consume, the demand will be there for products to be made. I would encourage my colleague to think about reducing his own consumption by one-third of everything: one-third of the food, one-third of the heat he uses in his house, one-third of the transportation that he does. It is responsible consumers that are going to drive reduction and change the climate.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:41 p.m.)