Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries, in principle.
The issue of social and environmental responsibility for Canadian companies abroad, particularly Canadian mining companies, has long been a concern for the Bloc Québécois. Canada is a world leader in the mining industry. It has a huge presence in Africa, where most companies are Canadian or American and are incorporated in Canada or listed on Canadian stock exchanges.
For some years now, a number of Canadian mining companies have been directly or indirectly associated with forced population displacements, significant environmental damage, support to repressive regimes, serious human rights violations and sometimes even assassinations.
That is why the Bloc Québécois has always defended the need to impose social responsibility standards on companies operating abroad. But the federal government has always defended the laissez-faire principle, preferring a voluntary approach.
We have always supported the recommendations in the report of the advisory group to the National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries. These recommendations were unanimously supported by civil society and the extractive industry.
While Bill C-300 is a step in the right direction, we believe it has flaws in terms of what the national roundtables advisory group recommended. For example, Bill C-300 does not provide any clear, independent and transparent mechanisms to ensure accountability or to monitor Canadian companies' compliance with accountability standards.
In Noir Canada: Pillage, corruption et criminalité en Afrique, a book about Canada's involvement in plundering, corruption and crime in Africa published by Les Éditions Écosociété in 2008, Delphine Abadie, Alain Deneault and William Sacher provided the following analysis of Bill C-300.
First, the bill does not take the Canadian International Development Agency's policies and activities into account.
Second, it does not take Export Development Canada's lack of transparency into account.
Third, it does not take into account instances of political interference attributed, in some cases, to Canadian diplomacy in southern countries on behalf of Canadian mining interests.
Fourth, it does not take into account the harmful role of the Toronto Stock Exchange in the appreciation of mining claims often obtained under suspicious circumstances in southern countries.
Fifth, it does not say whether and under what conditions Canadian companies can or could be prosecuted civilly or criminally in Canada for injurious actions attributed to them abroad.
Sixth, it does not provide for an independent body to receive complaints from foreign nationals, leaving it rather to the minister.
Seventh, it does not provide a process to evaluate the damages to populations outside Canada and consider implementing redress programs.
Eighth, it totally ignores the numerous cases of abuse by Canadian companies already recorded in many credible documents. I am thinking of expert reports from the United Nations, parliamentary reports, conferences held in parliamentary precincts, reports from independent organizations like Amnesty International and Global Witness, comprehensive investigative reporting, compelling documentaries and assessments by recognized experts.
Here are some representative cases cited in Noir Canada with respect to Canadian mining companies' detrimental activities in Africa. The first example is from Bulyanhulu, Tanzania. In the summer of 1996, bulldozers and the national police force were used to expropriate several hundred small-scale miners and clear the way for Canada's Sutton Mining to exploit the area.
Fifty-two people were buried alive in that operation. Sutton Mining was then bought by another Canadian company, Barrick Gold. Canada's diplomatic service was actively involved in the affair; allegations of interference are well founded. The Government of Norway, the Lawyer's Environmental Action Team, Friends of the Earth, Rights & Democracy, Mining Watch and master's student Dennis Tessier have all stated publicly that these allegations are credible and alarming.
The second example is Banro, a company that helped kindle the bloody conflict in the African Great Lakes region in eastern Congo between 1997 and 2002. Millions died in that conflict, and untold distress was inflicted on the people in the form of systematic rape, recruitment of child soldiers and destruction of villages.
The third example has to do with Diama-Manantali and Sadiola. CIDA steadfastly supported dam construction projects that profited Canadian engineering firms. These dams, which have had a catastrophic impact on the people—think of floods, loss of arable land, ecosystem destruction, disease, social tension and so on—allowed IamGold to turn a 38% profit on operating an open pit mine in Sadiola, another project with a disastrous impact on the people.
The fourth example is the Talisman corporation, which had to leave Sudan after, according to several sources, it apparently ordered the Sudanese army to violently remove any civilian presence in the vicinity of its development site. This passage from Noir Canada shows that Talisman was pressured to leave Sudan because it was listed on the New York stock exchange, not just the Toronto exchange.
Another book that has been written on this topic is Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond by Don Cheadle and John Prendergast, published by Hyperion in 2007. On page 62 is a paragraph that reads:
The Sudanese regime, supported by Canadian, Malaysian and Chinese oil companies, was able to wipe out whole populations in south-central Sudan, leaving the way clear for the oil companies to start pumping the oil.
This information is supported by a memo from the International Crisis Group, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. The book I quoted from has an introduction written by none other than Barack Obama, who was then a U.S. senator, and a preface by Elie Wiesel.
Bill C-300 is a step in the right direction. But to put an end to injustices by Canadian and foreign mining, gas and oil companies, we must make sure that they fully respect human rights and environmental rights, without exception.
This bill seeks to ensure that Canadian extractive corporations act responsibly and comply with international human rights and environmental standards.
How can anyone be opposed to that?
The Department of Foreign Affairs is responsible for preparing guidelines on best practices. These standards are based on recognized documents, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It is in this spirit that the Bloc Québécois is supporting Bill C-300, and I sincerely hope that all of the members in the House will support it. It is definitely humanistic and targets real issues concerning crooked mining companies that do not respect human rights.