Tuesday, November 16, 1999
Canadian NGOs Launch Campaign to Make EDC Responsible to People and the Environment
Ottawa – Today, as the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade considers amendments to the law governing the Export Development Corporation (EDC), Canadian NGOs launched a new campaign to make EDC more responsible to people and the environment.
The EDC Eorking Group will urge Parliament to ensure that EDC adheres to international accepted standards regarding labour and human rights, environment and sustainable human development.
“As a publicly supported agency, EDC should be required to address environmental and social concerns in its project financing,” says Pamela Foster, Coordinator of the Halifax Initiative, a coalition for economic democracy. “Without stringent standards, the environment, local communities and Canada’s image abroad has been and will continue to be damaged.”
There have been a number of projects with serious social and environmental impacts involving Canaidan firms financed by the EDC. In Colombia, for example, EDC provided a $28 million loan to the Urra hydro-electric project. The dam has virtually destroyed the local source of food of the Embera-Katio indigenous people. According to Amnesty International, six protesters against the project have been killed by local paramilitary forces, and several others have been abducted.
“We’ve identified more than 100 negative impacts on our people and on the environment on which we depend since the dam went up and it will only get worse when operations begin and our land is flooded to fill the reservoir,” stated Kimy Pernia Domico, an indigenous leader from the area. “This project has already caused many deaths, including the assassination of Embera leaders who have challenged the dam.”
“Canada should not employ a double standard on human rights when it supports investment abroad”, said Warren Allmand, President of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development. “If a particular project violates domestic standards and practices, how can we support it in other countries? Public funding should be accountable to Canada’s international commitments on human rights.”
Typically, the public only learns of an EDC-supported project when it has become a well-publicized disaster. EDC does not fall within the purview of the Access to Information Act, and has no other public disclosure obligations regarding its projects.
“The EDC’s record of secrecy is unacceptable for a public financial institution”, say Foster.
The coalition will testify between 9:30 and noon today in Room 701, 151 Sparks Street, and will host a subsequent news conference where they will release their policy paper, titled “Race to the Top: How to Make the Export Development Corporation Responsible to People and the Environment”. Other background materials are also available in both English and French.
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For more information, contact: Pamela Foster, Halifax Initiative Coordinator