Press Release - Monday, February 20, 2001

NGO Coalition accuses Government of having a double standard on trade, human rights and environment


Monday, February 20, 2001


Ottawa – The government must legislate greater accountability of the Export Development Corporation to ensure human rights, labour rights and environment standards are respected, the NGO Working Group on the Export Development Corporation testified tat the Canadian Democracy and Corporate Accountability Commission hearing in Ottawa today. The Commissioners, including former NDP leader Ed Broadbent, are consulting individuals, NGOs and private companies on the scope of corporate accountability.


“The Canadian government cannot ask countries like China to protect human rights when it continues to allow its own financial institutions, the EDC, to ignore the human rights implications of its trade deals”, said Émilie Revil, Coordinator of the NGO Working Group on the Export Development Corporation.


The Export Development Corporation finances around $40 billion dollars in trade a year. It is exempted from the Access to Information Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and it is not required to assess the human rights implications of its deals. The EDC has financed projects that force the relocation of thousands of people and projects that damage the environment, as documented in the report “Reckless Lending: How Canada’s Export Development Corporation puts people and the environment at risk”, March 2000.


The Working Group argued that the Export Development Act, the act governing the Export Development Corporation, should be amended to ensure that the EDC will provide the public with information on any project under consideration that will have known or potential environmental or social impacts. The Working Group also argued the Export Development Act should be amended to require the EDC to uphold Canada’s international human rights, labour rights and environmental commitments. Also, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act should be amended to require the EDC to take into account risks to people and the environment. These changes are essential to ensure that Canadian companies operating in developing countries minimize environmental impacts, respect human and labour rights, and undertake consultations with the affected communities.


“Since Australia and the United States have stronger standards applied to their export credit agencies, Canada cannot claim to be a leader in the area of corporate social responsibility”, said Pamela Foster, Coordinator of the Halifax Initiative Coalition.


These proposed legislative amendments could, according to the Working Group, make the EDC into a leader that could influence the common standards used by private corporations in Canada and improve general accountability measures. The legislative review of the Export Development Act began in 1998. No legislative changes relating to the EDC came forward before the last Parliament was dissolved.


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For more information, please contact Émilie Revil at (613) 789-4447.