Letter to Hon. Pierre Pettigrew Re: Mining and Human Rights - September 1, 2005

 Also Available at http://www.kairoscanada.org/e/media/letters/ltrPettigrew050901.asp

1 September 2005

The Hon. Pierre S. Pettigrew, MP
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Foreign Affairs Canada
Lester B. Pearson Building, Tower A, 10th Floor
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0G2

Re: Human rights and environmental impact of Canadian mining companies' activities abroad

Dear Minister Pettigrew,

I am writing on behalf of KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, an organization of 11 Canadian churches and church-based organizations. KAIROS urges your Government to implement the recommendations contained in the Fourteenth Report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, regarding the human rights and environmental impact of Canadian mining companies' activities abroad.

The Standing Committee adopted this report with unanimous, all-party support in June of this year, based on a submission from its Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Development. The Subcommittee is concerned that Canada does not yet have laws to ensure that the activities of Canadian mining companies in developing countries conform to human rights standards, including the rights of workers and of indigenous peoples."

The report argues that more must be done to ensure that Canadian companies' conduct their activities in a socially and environmentally responsible manner and in conformity with international human rights standards." Among other things, the report urges the Government to:

Make Canadian government support conditional on companies meeting "clearly defined corporate social responsibility and human rights standards;"
"Establish clear legal norms in Canada to ensure that Canadian companies and residents are held accountable when there is evidence of environmental and/or human rights violations associated with the activities of Canadian mining companies;"
"Work with like-minded countries to integrate and mainstream international human rights standards in the work of international financial institutions (IFIs) such as the World Bank."

For many years, KAIROS and its member churches have monitored the impact of Canadian mining companies' activities abroad, particularly in countries with weak records on human rights and environmental enforcement, and in countries that are in conflict.

Existing voluntary approaches to encourage Canadian company compliance with international human rights, labour, and environmental standards abroad, have failed. The Government of Canada needs to implement stronger standards, monitoring, and compliance mechanisms in accordance with its international treaty obligations. Public support both financial and political should be conditioned on compliance with clear standards. This should include, but not be limited to, public support in the form of the services of Export Development Canada, embassy support, consular support, and inclusion in trade missions.

KAIROS has also been raising concerns about the mining operations of Calgary-based TVI Pacific Inc. in the Philippines. TVI Pacific owns and operates an open-pit gold mine, the Canatuan Project, which is located on the traditional lands of the Subanon indigenous people. KAIROS is working, along with a number of Canadian and international groups, in solidarity with the Subanon people and local communities affected by this project. Our partner organizations in the Philippines are calling for the complete cessation of large-scale mining activity on the lands of the Siocon Subanon people, including TVI Pacifics' Canatuan Project.

The Standing Committee's report calls on the Government of Canada to "conduct an investigation of any impact of TVI Pacific's Canatuan mining project in Mindanao on the indigenous rights and human rights of people in the area and on the environment, and table a report on this investigation in Parliament within 90 days." In addition, the report calls on the Government to “ensure that it does not promote TVI Pacific Inc. pending the outcome of this investigation. 

We strongly support both of these recommendations and urge the Government to take immediate action in this case. An independent, on-the-ground investigation of TVI Pacifics' Canatuan Project is needed urgently. In our opinion, an investigation by the Canadian embassy in the Philippines would not constitute an independent investigation. The Government should promptly carry out an investigation through consultation with a wide range of concerned and affected authorities, organizations and individuals. Such an investigation could be modelled on the investigation team sent to Sudan by the Hon. Lloyd Axworthy, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, to investigate Talisman Energy's operations. In that case, the investigation team was composed of three human rights lawyers, an expert on militarism, and field researchers.

The Government of Canada has a duty to promote corporate social responsibility with Canadian companies, and to ensure they are operating abroad in compliance with international human rights standards.

KAIROS asks how you, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, will take steps to ensure the Government adopts and implements the recommendations of the Standing Committee report. We look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,


Mary Corkery
Executive Director

cc. Members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade: 

Bernard Patry, MP, Chair
Francine Lalonde, MP, Vice-Chair
Kevin Sorenson, MP, Vice-Chair
Maurizio Bevilacqua, MP
Stockwell Day, MP
Helena Guergis, MP
Lawrence MacAulay, MP
Alexa McDonough, MP
Dan McTeague, MP
Ted Menzies, MP
Pierre A. Paquette, MP
Beth Phinney, MP