Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 4, 2007
Canadian mining firms must curb overseas abuses
Church leaders want Ottawa to force companies to respect human rights
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
"It's very important that the government adopt (the Roundtable's) recommendations,"
Corkery and the other religious leaders see implementing the report's recommendations - which fall short of calling for binding regulations - as a first step.
The Roundtables report recommends establishing an ombudsman to handle complaints about overseas mining practices and a compliance review committee to follow up on the ombudsman's findings.
The report recognizes the problems mining companies have operating in countries with corrupt governments and poor environmental and human rights records. It urges Canada to use its clout to help these countries become more democratic, transparent and accountable.
Mining companies presently operate under voluntary corporate social responsibility guidelines.
Anglican Bishop Sue Moxley, suffragan bishop of Halifax, said she was shocked to see the environmental damage in Mexico caused by a Canadian mining company.
"There is no dispute there is a problem overseas," she said, pointing out that is why the mining companies participated in the Roundtable process.
Philippine indigenous rights activist Joan Carling spoke of environmental damage, violation of sacred land and human rights abuses related to Canadian mining in her country.
A past chairperson of the Cordillera People's Alliance (CPA), Carling spoke up for the rights of indigenous peoples to defend their land and resources. She said their right to free prior and informed consent is a matter of social justice.
Carling, who now directs the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Commission, said that mining companies often have the support of the local governments and business groups, leaving communities divided. These governments often represent the elite, and are not representative.
"A lot of communities are actually deceived," she said. They are promised livelihoods, health services, schools. "Who will say 'no' to that?" she asked. People are not informed of the potential downside, nor are indigenous rights respected.
The traditional community "harmony and cohesion" depending on consensus has been disrupted by both government and companies, she said, and the people "end up losing land and resources."
South African environmental activist Thabo Madihlaba said mining activities were displacing people from their lands and polluting water all over Africa.
KAIROS Global Economic Justice Program Coordinator Rusa Jeremic recently met with the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Trade Helena Guergis to ask about the government's response to the Roundtable recommendations.
Jeremic told the news conference Guergis said the recommendations were being examined by the government but she gave no timetable for action.
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