Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 12, 2000
League says, 'sell Talisman shares'
By GORDON LEGGE
Special to the WCR
Alberta's Catholic Women's League is asking its members to withdraw from any investments that may include Talisman Energy, a Calgary petroleum company involved in a controversial oilfield development in Sudan.
"We are . . . asking members to withdraw from any mutual or other funds which have Talisman as part of the portfolio," said Lucille Partington, provincial CWL president.
The Alberta Mackenzie council executive took the action following the conclusion of its annual convention June 2-4. A letter requesting the action will be mailed to diocesan presidents.
Talisman has been at the centre of a controversy since it became involved in that country in October 1998. Human rights activists say the company's development of an oilfield there is exacerbating a lengthy civil war. Revenue from the development is being used to finance the war and purchase arms, critics say.
Partington cited information provided by the national CWL's communications convenor indicating that Talisman allows its Sudanese airstrip to be used for flights by government military forces to bomb civilian targets such as Catholic schools and hospitals along with other Christian missions such as the Samaritan's Purse medical clinic - claims which Talisman vigorously disputes.
Talisman says it is working with the federal foreign affairs department in seeking to bring about peace.
Talisman investor relations manager Dave Mann said the airstrip belongs to the Sudanese government which has permitted Talisman to use it. Talisman has protested the use of the airstrip for military purposes, Mann said, and the activity has subsequently stopped.
Moreover, the company has met with Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan's Purse, a Christian international relief organization, which has a Canadian office in Calgary. It supports the energy company's efforts in the area, such as a 10,000-person meningitis vaccination campaign, he said.
With respect to the CWL's divestment request, Mann quoted from a Talisman interview with John Harker, an expert on African affairs who at the request of Canada's Foreign Affairs minister, led a fact-finding mission to Sudan at the end of last year.
"We need to put cold water on some of the claims of the divestment campaign and the stories they generate concerning slavery," Harker says.
"They are doing a disservice to the victims of this abhorrent practice by both their exaggeration and their linking slavery to Talisman, and, I am convinced, a disservice to the campaign for corporate responsibility."
"On a micro level, the company is undertaking several initiatives in and around the oilfields to help more everyday people," Mann said.
"On a more macro level, we've passed a resolution at our shareholders meeting to independent monitoring of what Talisman is doing in Sudan and the impact it's having on the population.
Of the 17 companies which have signed the International Code of Ethics for Canadian Business since 1997, Mann said Talisman will be the first company to realistically put it into practice in a difficult situation on the ground and define what it means to be a responsible corporate citizen in a country that's had a civil war raging for 40 years.
"I'd encourage them (the CWL) to come in and talk to us and not rely on people with other vested interests," he said.