Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
May 14, 2001
Church reps confront Talisman
Calgary oil company confronted for role in Sudan's civil war
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
OTTAWA— A coalition of Church-based shareholders took Talisman Energy Inc. to task at its annual meeting for what the groups say is the oil company's ongoing complicity with human rights violations in Sudan.
The churches, through the Toronto-based Taskforce on the Churches and Corporate Responsibility, challenged company president Jim Buckee to take responsibility for the impact of oil development on the civil war in southern Sudan, said TCCR representative Joy Kennedy in an interview following the raucous annual meeting May 1.
"We felt like voices in the wilderness at times," said Kennedy, noting that many of the 1,700 people at the meeting booed the Church representatives. "We all felt it was an uphill struggle."
During the meeting Buckee defended the company's involvement in war-torn Sudan and told reporters later that withdrawing from the African country would not help solve the long-standing conflict that has claimed two million lives.
Kennedy agreed that Buckee put on a strong defence but said he faltered when asked about the responsibility Talisman has in determining where the $300 million paid in oil revenues to Khartoum this year is being spent.
"It was a simple question," she said. "He went on at length but then wavered at the end. He said we basically don't have any responsibility for that $300 million we gave the government of Sudan."
The Sudanese government has admitted that the money from oil revenues is being used to fight the war against rebels in the South, Kennedy noted.
Gary Kenny, director of the Inter-Church Coalition on Africa (ICCAF), spoke at the meeting about the findings of a delegation of Canadian Church leaders who visited Sudan in early April.
The group called on Canada and the international community to declare a moratorium on oil development in Sudan and to condemn human rights violations by all parties in the conflict.
Catholic Bishop Donald Theriault, a member of the delegation, said at a news conference in Ottawa April 11, that the Church representatives "saw flagrant abuses of human rights at every turn."
He added, "The constant refrain that we heard time and time again was in the form of the question, 'Has the world forgotten us?'"
The Catholic bishops in Sudan and the two Sudanese councils of churches want Talisman to halt oil exploration in Sudan until a peace settlement is reached.
In a recent report, Talisman claimed it is initiating acceptable corporate responsibility practice. But the Church-based shareholders said the information didn't help concerned shareholders despite a signed verification statement from PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Kennedy said the report left out several concerns including the impact of oil operations on the wider Sudanese community and on those people in the South most affected by the oil operations.
She said the mandate of PricewaterhouseCoopers did not allow for a full range of views that would include those people displaced by the war.
More than 200 protesters opposed to Talisman's involvement in Sudan demonstrated outside the meeting.
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister John Manley says there is strong evidence the Sudanese regime is using oil revenues from Talisman operations to help pay for its war against rebels.
Manley told the House of Commons foreign affairs committee May 3 that it would be difficult to conceive of the Calgary-based oil company not fueling the conflict "since we know that revenue does flow to the government of Sudan from these activities," the National Post reported.
However, no legislation is planned by Ottawa to force Talisman to leave Sudan, said Manley, arguing that such a move might prompt the company to abandon Canada, the newspaper said.
Manley made the remarks on questioning by NDP Foreign Affairs critic Svend Robinson who said, "We are talking about genocide and the murder of tens of thousands of people."
Robinson wondered why Manley is not prepared to take "strong action " to stop the flow of the revenues.WCR again honoured for overall excellence