Civil Society Statement on CSR Counsellor

Government’s new Toothless Review Mechanism Underlines why Responsible Mining Bill C-300 is Necessary

Ottawa, October 26, 2010 – One day before the third and final vote in the House of Commons on Bill C-300, the government has launched its Review Process, a dispute resolution mechanism whereby the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor proposes to mediate between aggrieved communities and Canadian mining, oil, and gas companies.

Significant deficiencies render this mechanism inadequate to resolve serious community grievances: the dispute mechanism is voluntary in nature, lacks a transparent fact-finding function and will lead to neither recommendations to government nor to sanctions. Consequently, Bill C-300 remains an important piece of legislation.

The CNCA believes that a voluntary dispute resolution mechanism, such as that proposed by the government, may be useful in some less serious cases, but is inadequate to effectively address most complaints received regarding Canadian extractive companies’ alleged misbehaviour. Among the most common complaints received by our network are allegations of serious environmental pollution, collaboration with paramilitary networks and deliberate attempts to corrupt government and the judiciary of the host country where the Canadian company establishes its operations. Companies are unlikely to voluntarily participate in a process to examine such serious charges, limiting application of the Review mechanism to less serious cases.
The CSR Counsellor mechanism lacks an investigative function to clarify disputed facts. It’s unclear how the Counsellor will resolve disputes without determining whether allegations are well founded.

Moreover, the Counsellor will not apply sanctions to discourage corporate wrongdoing. The CNCA takes note of recent comments by John Ruggie, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Business and Human Rights, on non-judicial grievance mechanisms. Ruggie commented that the withdrawal of public advantages to companies responsible for the most egregious violations must remain an option for states, as “by implicitly rewarding companies that do the wrong thing, it disadvantages those that play by the rules.”

The Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA) was created in 2005, after the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade recommended that Canadian mining, oil, and gas companies be made accountable to Ottawa for their overseas operations. Since then, the CNCA has called for the Government of Canada to move beyond corporate social responsibility measures that are strictly voluntary. The CNCA has also urged the government to require that Canadian companies operating internationally meet defined corporate social responsibility, human rights and environmental standards as a precondition for both financial and political assistance.

Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability

Africa-Canada Forum
Americas Policy Group
Amnesty International Canada
Asia Pacific Working Group
Canada Tibet Committee
Canadian Council for International Co-operation
Canadian Labour Congress
Development and Peace
Entraide Missionnaire
Friends of the Earth (Canada)
GlobalAware Canada
Halifax Initiative Coalition
Inter Pares
KAIROS - Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
Mennonite Central Committee Canada
MiningWatch Canada
North-South Institute
Publish What You Pay Canada
Social Justice Committee
Steelworkers Humanity Fund
United Church of Canada