Vote on Bill C-300 Signals Strong Momentum Towards Regulation of Canadian Mining Industry Overseas

Jamie Kneen

National Program Co-Lead

Catherine Coumans debates Jim Peterson of Fasken Martineau on BNN, October 27, 2010.

Ottawa - The narrow defeat in the House of Commons of Bill C-300, The Responsible Mining Act, marks a significant turning point for the country. In spite of an unprecedented and sustained year-long lobbying effort by the mining industry aimed at defeating the Bill, the close vote reflects the degree to which legislators have come to understand the need to regulate the activities of Canadian mining companies operating internationally.

Put forward by Liberal MP John McKay, Bill C-300 would have set international human rights and environmental standards for the activities carried out by Canadian extractive companies in developing countries and would have led to increased accountability by making our government's financial and political support for their operations contingent on compliance. The bill was defeated by just 6 votes.

"A significant number of parliamentarians understand that too often the activities of Canadian mining companies operating overseas are causing serious harm to local people and environments," says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada. "There is finally awareness that we can and should ensure that government support is restricted to those that meet international standards."

A report obtained by MiningWatch Canada that had been commissioned by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada looked at community conflicts, environmental damage and unethical behaviour by mining companies around the globe. The study found that "statistics demonstrate that Canadian companies have been the most significant group involved in unfortunate incidents in the developing world."

In the course of Bill C-300's review in Parliament, thousands of Canadians wrote to support it; it was well received by ministers and former ministers in countries where Canadian mining companies operate; it was praised by Canadian and international legal professionals, human rights advocates, faith-based groups, and trade unions; and it was welcomed by a United Nations special rapporteur, as well as villagers and organizations from hundreds of communities affected by Canadian mining companies in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

"The high profile industry drive to stop Bill C-300 was fuelled by profits from global mining operations and tax payer dollars," says Coumans. "It was a campaign based on fear mongering and in defence of continuing impunity in weak governance zones around the world," she adds. "Those who fought Bill C-300 are on the wrong side of history and will not ultimately be able to stop the push to secure greater justice for those who suffer from unconscionable mining practices."

For more information contact: Catherine Coumans by e-mail or phone at 613-569-3439