In March 2005, MiningWatch Canada facilitated the presentation by two of our partners from Zamboanga del Norte in the Philippines before the parliamentary Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Development. As a result of the presentation these community leaders gave on the impacts they are suffering from the operations of TVI Pacific in their municipality of Siocon, the subcommittee conducted further hearings to investigate the mechanisms that the government currently has at its disposal to hold Canadian mining companies to account in Canada for their actions overseas.
In June 2005, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade (SCFAIT) tabled a landmark report, "Mining in Developing Countries and Corporate Social Responsibility".
The report recommends that the Canadian government move away from reliance on a voluntary approach to corporate social responsibility. It calls for policies that condition public assistance for Canadian companies on compliance with international human rights and environmental standards, including core labour rights. The report also identifies the need for legal remedies to hold companies accountable for their actions overseas. Finally, the report asked the government to conduct an investigation of the activities of TVI Pacific in the Philippines.
In its response, tabled October 2005, the government failed to adopt the majority of SCFAIT’s recommendations, but it did commit to hosting a series of national roundtables. These Roundtables are to identify ways for Canadian extractive companies to meet or exceed international corporate social responsibility standards and best practices, including means by which to hold companies accountable if they do not meet the highest possible standards.
The “National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Sector in Developing Countries” are headed up by Foreign Affairs Canada. Other government departments are involved in the roundtables through the government Steering Committee including: Environment Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Industry Canada, Indian and Northern Affairs, Department of Justice, the Privy Council Office, and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
The government also created an Advisory Group made up of five members from civil society, six members from industry, one aboriginal member and one member from the socially responsible investment community. Catherine Coumans from MiningWatch Canada is part of this Advisory Group.
The first of four Roundtable discussions was held in Vancouver on June 14 and 15 and explored the question of which standards Canadian extractive companies should meet when they operate abroad. Subsequent Roundtables will be held in Toronto, Calgary and Montreal. Each roundtable will take place over two days. The first day will provide an opportunity for the public to provide input into the process through participation in a public forum.
There are five themes that run through the Roundtables:
- Corporate social responsibility standards and best practices;
- Positive and negative incentives for compliance with standards;
- Verification/assurance and dispute resolution instruments;
- Host country governance and capacity building; and
- Support for industry implementation of standards and best practices.
Both Foreign Affairs and the civil society groups have set up web sites where further information can be found, as well as ways to get involved or provide input. There is a government web site and a civil society web site (hosted by the Halifax Initiative coalition). Members of the public can also learn more about the Roundtables by contacting Andrea Botto at cnca(at)halifaxinitiative.org or calling (613) 789-9368.
If you care about how our extractive companies behave when they operate in developing countries then let your voice be heard through this process!