Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 5, 2007
Bishops calls for crackdown on Canadian resource firms
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay should ensure Canada's overseas mining and oil and gas industries do a better job of respecting human rights, Canada's Catholic bishops say in a letter to McKay.
Current voluntary rules for corporate social responsibility should be complemented by mandatory regulations, said Archbishop Roger Ebacher of Gatineau, Quebec, in the Feb. 12 letter from the bishops' social affairs commission.
"It is, as you know, a foundational principle of international law that human rights are in no sense voluntary; the protection of human rights is in no sense optional," Ebacher wrote.
Canada cannot push for democracy, human rights and the rule of law when, at the same time, it supports business practices overseas that erode those lofty goals, he said.
That support comes through Canadian tax policies and other public benefits as well as through Canada's own regulations for mining and petroleum companies, Ebacher said.
Ebacher suggested allowing tax benefits only to shareholders of companies that have a record of sound practices that respect democratic values while operating outside the country.
The bishops' comments echoed those of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, which made a similar call for stronger regulations last June.
CCODP said Canadian mining and oil and gas firms have been implicated in human rights violations and environmental disasters abroad.
"These violations by Canadian companies include toxic dumping, the destruction of protected areas, forcible displacement of indigenous peoples, and threats and intimidation of local communities."
Canadian firms have been implicated in violations in more than 30 countries, CCODP said.