March 5th, 2020
Mining companies are destroying our nation’s reputation around the world.
Canadians take great pride in the peacekeeping and development work we do, but while Canadian aid organizations are drilling for water, international mining companies are flying the Canadian flag and poisoning the wells.
Two-thirds of the world’s mining firms are currently incorporated in Canada, making our mining industry the largest in the world. But few of these companies are actually Canadian. These multinationals choose Canada for our lax regulation and enforcement.
While these companies fly the Canadian flag, they build operations in countries where the rule of law is weak, democracy is fragile, respect for human rights is tenuous, corruption is rampant, and accountability is non-existent. They are given free rein to operate in ways favourable to their bottom lines while preventing the investigation of the human rights violations they perpetrate.
In 2018, the Liberal government created the Ombudsman for Responsible Enterprise to oversee Canadian mining, oil and gas operations around the world. The Ombudsman was mandated to review alleged human rights abuses arising from Canadian companies’ operations abroad, make recommendations, monitor those recommendations, suggest trade measures for companies that do not co-operate in good faith, and report publicly throughout the process.
But that is not what is happening.
The government promised an independent ombudsman with real powers to investigate abuses and redress the harm caused by companies that fly the Canadian flag abroad. Instead the powers of the ombudsman were watered down, and the promises made by this government were not kept.
I’ve worked in International Development for over 20 years and I have witnessed, first-hand, the profoundly damaging impact that Canadian mining companies have abroad. I’ve seen how vulnerable people are impacted when these mining companies move in, resources are pulled out, and people are threatened and worse.
Independent and respected organizations like Amnesty International and the United Nations have identified widespread abuse by Canadian companies. Those include targeted assassinations, gang rape, violence against unarmed protesters, and the use of slave labour.
When Canadians learn the truth about what these companies are doing, they are shocked. They cannot believe that our government sits idly by, allowing this to happen.
It’s time for this government to keep its promises. Canadians demand an independent ombudsman with the power to investigate companies, compel testimony and documents, and actually represent the interests of our country and our people. This government must empower the Ombudsman with the authority the office needs to investigate and hold these companies accountable. Anything less is a betrayal of Canadian values.