Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 10, 2007
Calgary mining firm wrecks havoc in the Philippines
Philippine bishops' description a stark contrast with TVI's glowing website
A Shepherd Speaks
By BISHOP FRED HENRY
There are numerous instances of cultural discrimination and human rights violations.
In an unusual move, on May 23, Bishop Manguiran of Dipolog, the Philippines, wrote on behalf of the five bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Ozamiz to the Canadian Conference of Bishops.
His letter was prompted by the negative impact of mining operations of Toronto Ventures Incorporated (TVI) based in Calgary. The bishops' position stands in stark contrast to the glowing picture of corporate responsibility in the areas of environmental management and protection, and the bringing of compassion to the community presented on TVI's website (www.tvipacific.com/main/?home).
There are more than 84 million people in the Philippines and the land mass is less that half the size of Alberta. After years of complaints, investigative reports and company responses, the bishops continue to insist that TVI's large-scale mining operations are wrecking havoc upon the land and its people. Among the disruptions, they cite the following:
The bishops conclude their letter by asking for prayers, assistance in explaining their cause and the discouragement of investment in TVI.
Rehabilitation of the plundered mountains, forest and rivers is already impossible.
Of course, people who invest their money in stocks become part owners of the company in which they invest even though they may entrust the running of the company to others. As such, investors must cooperate in shaping policies of those companies through dialogue with management, through votes at corporate meetings, through the introduction of resolutions and through participation in investment decision.
Solidarity also needs government involvement. It is significant that in Canada, after examining the overseas operations of some of Canadian mining companies, including TVI's, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade recommended in June 2005 that the Canadian government:
"Put in place stronger incentives to encourage Canadian mining companies to conduct their activities outside Canada in a socially and environmentally responsible manner and in conformity with international human rights standards.
"Measures in this area must include making Canadian government support - such as export and project financing and services offered by government missions abroad - conditional on companies meeting clearly defined corporate and social responsibility and human rights standards, particularly through the mechanism of human rights impact assessments."
This could include, for example, allowing tax benefits to accrue to the shareholders of only those Canadian mining companies whose practices verifiably give full effect to Canada's democratic values. Tools like the consistent use of human rights impact assessments, complaints processes and reporting systems would also level the playing field.
Very often, proposals like these are criticized as unwarranted intrusions into the sovereignty of the host country. Each state, this line of reasoning holds, should have the exclusive right to make deals with mining companies in its own way, disposing of its natural resources on its own terms. This argument is deficient, because no state has the authority to abrogate human dignity.
Sound economics cannot be separated from the demands of justice. We have a right to make human use of the goods of this earth, but we are accountable to God and to others for how we use them. Ownership always involves responsibility. The two cannot be separated.
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