Letter to Trade Minister Re: EDC - May 19, 2000

May 19, 2000

The Honourable Pierre Pettigrew
Minister for International Trade

Dear Minister Pettigrew:

The federal government is considering whether changes should be made in the way that the Export Development Corporation (EDC) operates, a Canadian taxpayer-supported agency, assists Canadian business interests abroad. The choices that the federal government makes about how EDC operates will have significant social and environmental consequences.

As a Crown corporation, EDC pays no taxes, enjoys limited liability, and its credit is backed by the Canadian government. Yet it operates largely in secret. Unlike other government agencies, EDC is not subject to the Access to Information Act, and it keeps the projects it funds a secret. It has no binding standards requiring its projects to adhere to well-accepted social, environmental, labour or human rights standards.

Social and environmental problems associated with past EDC supported projects should not be repeated in the future. As parliament considers reforming the EDC, measures should be implemented to make the EDC better able to uphold human, labour and environmental rights.

The EDC will be more accountable to its funders, the people of Canada, if it:

    * publishes a list of the projects it finances as well as key information about projects under consideration.
    * does not undermine Canada. s commitments to sustainable development. The EDC should be required to undertake an environmental and social assessment before approving any project. At present, the World Bank has more transparent and less vague social and environmental standards. The World Bank. s standards should be considered as a minimum starting point.
    * makes financing contingent on a human rights assessment for projects with potential significant impacts on human rights. For example, public financing should be withheld if a project would bolster the repressive capacity of a human rights-abusing country or if a project violates any of the four widely recognized \core\ labour standards: freedom of association and prohibitions on child labour, forced labour and discrimination in the workplace.

      We urge you to ensure that EDC operates in a manner that is consistent with protection of the environment and local communities.


      Aboriginal Rights Coalition
      Maude Barlow, Council of Canadians
      Gregory Baum, Professor emeritus (McGill)
      Michael Bradfield, Professor (Dalhousie)
      June Callwood
      Ken Georgetti, Canadian Labour Congress
      Franklyn Griffiths, Professor (U of T)
      Patrick Johnston, Canadian Centre for Philanthropy
      Flora MacDonald
      Elizabeth May, Sierra Club of Canada
      Betty Plewes, Canadian Council for International Cooperation
      Ian Ramsay, Professor (Osgoode Hall Law School)
      David Suzuki, Professor (UBC)