Canadian churches launch national campaign
to reform the Export Development Corporation
(Oct. 4, 2000 – OTTAWA) Members of the Canadian Ecumenical Jubilee Initiative (CEJI) concerned about the negative impact that EDC-supported projects have had on people and the environment, launched a campaign today to reform the Export Development Act, the statute governing the Export Development Corporation (EDC).
The campaign was launched at a press conference co-hosted with the NGO Working Group on the Export Development Corporation, a working group of the Halifax Initiative, after which both organizations brought their concerns to MPs at a meeting on Parliament Hill.
“The EDC financed a mine near my village. Improper dumping of tailings into our bay have killed the fish and led to severe health problems for our children. We are pleading with them to clean-up the mine site so we can once again live in a clean environment”, said Vilma Piguerra, a teacher and member of the Calancan Bay Fisherfolks Association in Marinduque, Philippines at a press conference organized by CEJI to launch the campaign. Ms. Piguerra is speaking of the Marcopper mine, co-owned and operated by Canada’s Placer Dome until 1997, to which the EDC lent US $1.36 million.
Church awareness of problems with the Export Development Corporation increased with the EDC investment of US $18.2 million in the Urra hydro-electric project in Colombia. The dam was challenged in court because failure to consult with Embera Katio communities who live upriver prior to construction violated the Colombian constitution and international treaties to which Canada is a signatory. Violence has been used as recently as last week to quell opposition to the development.
“The EDC helped to create this human and ecological disaster by providing financing to the dam. We’re concerned that unless there are changes to the legislation under which the EDC operates, similar disasters will continue to occur, causing untold suffering,” says Kathy Price, of the Inter-Church Committee for Human Rights in Latin America, who recently returned from filming a documentary in Colombia about the impact of the EDC-supported Urra Dam.
The Export Development Act has been under legislative review for two years. The current Liberal government again tabled key issues for further study on May 18, 2000. Neither the Liberals nor other parties have made a commitment to ensure that the Export Development Act will be amended to protect people and the environment when Canadian corporations operate abroad with the assistance of the public agency.
“Seattle, Washington and more recently, Prague are evidence of growing frustration with decision-makers’ approach to globalization. The Export Development Corporation is a secretive public agency operating in a virtual policy vacuum. The Liberals and the opposition parties must address this gap in foreign policy and regulate the Export Development Corporation,” commented Pamela Foster, Coordinator of the NGO Working Group on the Export Development Corporation, at the CEJI press conference.
The Canadian Ecumenical Jubilee Initiative, a coalition of over 30 churches and ecumenical organizations, together with the NGO Working Group on the Export Development Corporation call on the government at minimum, for legislative amendments requiring the EDC to conduct internationally-recognized social and environmental impact assessments prior to the approval of any project. The organizations also urge the government to change the Export Development Act so as to require the EDC to meet transparency requirements under the Access to Information Act and ensure their investments do not undermine or violate Canada’s commitments as a signatory to international human rights and indigenous rights agreements.
For more information contact:
Kathy Price, Inter-Church Committee on Human Rights in Latin America: 416-921-0801, ext. 23
Pam Foster, NGO Working Group on the Export Development Corporation: 613-789-4447
Press Release - Wednesday, October 4, 2000