(Ottawa) MiningWatch Canada is supporting the filing of a formal complaint by Amsterdam-based OECD Watch against a Canadian government agency that is meant to address human rights and environmental complaints brought against Canadian multinational corporations. The complaint was filed with the OECD Investment Committee.
The complaint against Canada’s National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises maintains that the NCP’s handling of a case brought by Swiss NGO Bruno Manser Fonds (BMF) against Ottawa-based real estate corporation Sakto was unpredictable, inequitable, untransparent, unaccountable and biased. In the complaint, OECD Watch highlights how the NCP’s highly irregular handling of the case has harmed BMF. The complaint also raises concern about pressure by Sakto on the Canadian NCP, and that the NCP’s handling of the case failed to meet OECD standards.
The original complaint alleged that Sakto breached the OECD Guidelines’ disclosure requirements by failing adequately to disclose its sources of funding, beneficial owners, and other financial and governance data.
Among the issues that have caused MiningWatch Canada to engage in the Bruno Manser Fonds vs. Sakto case since 2017 are the following deeply concerning facts:
- After initially assessing the issues raised by BMF to be material and substantiated, in 2016, the NCP inexplicably dismissed the case in 2017;
- After publishing a final statement in 2017 that included statements about: Ottawa-based Sakto “involving a Member of Parliament during the confidential NCP assessment process;” “Sakto’s aggressive challenge of the NCP’s jurisdiction;” and “Sakto’s legal counsel making submissions to the Government of Canada’s Deputy Minister of Justice,” the NCP removed its final statement from its website in 2018, replacing it with a new final statement that does not mention these concerns and says of the initial assessment of the case in 2016, that it “does not reflect the opinion or contain conclusions of the NCP and it is now superseded by this revised final statement.”
- After MiningWatch Canada and OECD Watch published our concerns about the developments in this case, in 2018, the NCP sought to prevent these civil society organisations from fulfilling their rightful monitoring role by requesting the Canadian Department of Justice to send – and itself sending – letters to OECD Watch and MiningWatch demanding they remove from their websites the draft initial assessment that helps expose the concerning about-face in the NCP’s decision-making.
From 2017 on, MiningWatch Canada and OECD Watch have repeatedly met with the Canadian NCP to explain the harm its actions were doing to BMF and to request an explanation and remedial action.
“I even raised this issue in a room full of global NCPs in Paris,” says Coumans, “but we were repeatedly told by the Canadian NCP that they would not address our concerns on this issue.”
The case was also discussed during a 2018 peer review of Canada’s NCP by NCPs from other countries, and during a 2017 country visit by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, without a positive response from the NCP.
The NCP’s handling of this case not only greatly harmed the interests of BMF, but it has also further deepened distrust of Canadian civil society in the NCP and in the Government of Canada’s interest in holding Canadian multinational companies to account in Canada for the harm they do overseas.
MiningWatch Canada has accompanied international partners in bringing seven cases against Canadian mining companies to the NCP since 2005.
“In each of the cases we have brought to the NCP, our partners came away from the process feeling that they had not received fair and equitable treatment by Canada’s NCP,” says MiningWatch Canada spokesperson Catherine Coumans. “They actually felt the process had further harmed them, which is why we have supported the filing of this formal complaint against Canada’s NCP.”
The filing with the OECD Investment Committee demands redress of the harm done to BMF, reform of the Canadian NCP, and a statement by the Investment Committee condemning corporate pressure on NCPs.
Says Coumans, “We hope this filing finally marks a turning point for the Canadian NCP to fundamentally reform itself through an inclusive process closely involving Canadian civil society.”
Note: This release has been revised and replaces the one dated September 23, 2021. The release is intended to focus on OECD’s complaint to the OECD Investment Committee over the Canadian NCP’s handling of a case brought by Bruno Manser Fonds.
For more information: Catherine Coumans, [email protected], 613-256-8331
MiningWatch has assessed the flaws in Canada’s NCP over many years, see for example:
- Canada’s National Contact Point: Long Overdue for an Overhaul (MiningWatch Canada, October 2020)
- Peer Review of the Canadian National Contact Point on the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. (MiningWatch Canada, January 2018)
- ‘Canada is Back.’ But still far behind: An Assessment of Canada’s National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (Above Ground, OECD Watch, MiningWatch Canada, November, 2016)