Press Responses : Monday, May 22, 2000

EDC needs more accountability, critics say: Rights, protection issues
PUBLICATION The National Post
DATE Mon 22 May 2000
EDITION National
BYLINE Paul Waldie

The Export Development Corporation should take human rights and environmental protection into account before financing Canadian export projects, a coalition of groups says in an open letter to Pierre Pettigrew, the Trade Minister.
"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," says the letter, signed by a range of activists including former cabinet minister Flora MacDonald, writer June Callwood and four university professors.
The EDC provides financing and risk insurance to Canadian exporters. It has long been criticized for not taking human rights or environmental protection into account when financing projects. For example, last fall the EDC was criticized for its role in helping build a dam in Colombia that environmentalists say will damage a large area and displace 2,800 Indians.
The group wants the corporation to publish key information about the projects it finances, undertake environmental assessments before approving projects and make financing contingent on a human rights assessment for projects that could involve rights issues.
Last week, Mr. Pettigrew released a response to a parliamentary committee that examined the EDC. In it, he said he will consider appointing an EDC ombudsman. Mr. Pettigrew added that the agency will also face regular environmental audits by the auditor-general. He said the EDC also will shoulder some of the financial cost of debt forgiveness to make the agency "more accountable for the consequences of its lending in these countries."