CSR

Corporate Accountability: Political action to stop human rights abuses by Canadian mining, oil and gas companies.

It is about time!  Finally, the government of Canada is seeing the light and is attempting to mandate the corporate social responsibility of the Canadian mining, gas and oil extraction industries necessary to stop their involvement in major human rights violations around the world. This bill, if enacted, would help to ensure that corporations engaged in mining, oil or gas activities who often receive significant financial and political  support from the Government of Canada act in a manner consistent with international environmental best practices and with Canada’s commitments to international human rights standards. The Act gives the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of International Trade the responsibility of holding corporations accountable for their practices by submitting annual reports to the House of Commons and the Senate for review and allowing for a formal complaints procedure for those who have been wronged. Essentially, it is enabling a process to help catch Canadians committing crimes around the world and to prevent human rights abuses from occurring by the hand of certain Canadian corporations.

Sadly, this bill almost didn’t make it to the third reading with 137 votes for and 133 against in Parliament… only one Conservative party member voted for this bill while almost all of the rest of the Conservative party (132 of the 137 “Nays”) voted against it.

Profits should not come before people and companies should be held liable if they are committing abuses around the world to make their profits. We have laws against these types of abuses here in Canada and have signed countless international covenants against them, so why should some be allowed to get away with them just because they happen on foreign soil or because they bring in massive profits in tax dollars? Why should the government of Canada support companies if they are helping to commit crimes around the world? This makes us all guilty!

WHY ARE WE CHOOSING ECONOMIC SECURITY OVER THE RIGHTS OF HUMAN BEINGS? THAT IS CRIMINAL!

Why do some stand against this bill? Well, one position is that it will “diminish the international competitiveness of the Canadian mining industry” and possibly “drive Canadian companies to seriously consider relocating their head offices and listing outside of Canada”. Frankly, if companies are not willing to be socially responsible enough to ensure that they are not committing major human rights abuses– then I say– GOOD RIDDANCE to them!

I do not want one cent of my tax dollars going to help support their abuses. It is disgusting to me that we live in a world that gives us little choice but to use human rights abusing products to be part of our society, mostly without our knowledge and I would be thrilled if allowed the choice to choose those that are human rights abuse free.

And as for the claim that it will diminish the international competitiveness of the industry– I say being free of human right abuses gives them a new competitive edge and added marketing capability. How upset are people to learn that their products are made in sweat shops? The mining, oil and gas industries are responsible for much more far reaching and atrocious abuses. Imagine the marketing potential if the government supported the ones who made the effort with a seal of “free of human rights abuses”?  It also will make Canadian industries the new standard for the world and a shining example of what is possible; that the industry does not have to be human rights abusing and that we can buy products such as metals without having to feel guilty.

Do we really want an industry that has a hand in committing awful crimes around the world to continue that practice? Does the profit to be had really mean more than the lives of those who are being wronged? Well, according to at least 133 members of our government (because I would also tend to include those who abstain), it does.

Please take the time to review this issue and write to your politicians about it. You can read about some of the human rights abuses associated with the mining, oil and gas industries here.

If you want to write to the government (and I’m hoping you will!), here are some people to try writing to:

John McKay, MP. Liberal Party of Canada, MckayJ@parl.gc.ca– responsible for bringing the bill to Parliament.

Kevin Sorenson, Chair, Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, SorenK@parl.gc.ca
Angela Crandall, Clerk, Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, faae@parl.gc.ca

or Write to:

House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario  K1A 0A6
Canada

The Prime Minister – pm@pm.gc.ca

The Foreign Affairs Minister- cannon.L@parl.gc.ca

The Leader of the Opposition- Ignatieff.M@parl.gc.ca

Other party leaders in Parliament-  Layton.J@parl.gc.ca; duceppe.G@parl.gc.ca

Find your Member of Parliament here.

And find your MPP here.

Here are some sample letters for you to use:

If your MP voted for, or abstained on the Bill:

Date:

Dear

Re: Support for Bill C-300 on Corporate Accountability

I am writing to let you know that I strongly support Bill C-300, an Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries.

I am appalled by regular reports that Canadian mining, oil and gas companies are involved in human rights, labour, and environmental violations around the world and by the fact that these companies often receive financial and political support from the Canadian Government. The current government’s response to these concerns is its “Building the Canadian Advantage” strategy. This voluntary approach is completely inadequate.

Bill C-300 responds to the urgent need for a stronger regulatory framework to hold Canadian mining, oil and gas companies accountable, in Canada, for human rights, labour, and environmental violations overseas. Bill C-300 has garnered support across the country and internationally. It is supported by the Canadian Network for Corporate Accountability (CNCA), an organization which includes Amnesty International Canada, the United Church of Canada, the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, Friends of the Earth, the Steelworkers Humanity Fund, the Canadian Labour Congress, KAIROS – Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, MiningWatch Canada and many other organizations. Bill C-300 has my support as well.

I urge Members of Parliament and the members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development to support Bill C-300, recognizing that Bill C-300 reflects and responds to the recommendations that were made to the Government of Canada by the earlier Standing Committee of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in 2005.

Yours truly,

(your name and address)

If your MP voted against, you can try this:

Dear Mr.,

I am writing to let you know that I strongly support Bill C-300, an Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries. I am absolutely appalled and disgusted to learn that you voted against this bill. How can you vote against protecting the human rights of people? How can you choose economic security over human rights? Against what we as Canadians stand for? You do not represent your constituency by this vote, instead, you do us all a disservice as Canadians. This will not diminish the international competitiveness of the mining industry– it will give us a competitive edge and added marketing potential and set us as a standard for the world.

We should not be supporting, either financially or politically, companies that are responsible for major human right abuses around the world. We should not leave this to voluntary cooperation– because it is NOT enough to stop the abuses from happening. If it is illegal to commit these crimes on Canadian soil, then these companies should not be permitted (and even encouraged through our support) to do so on foreign soils. This is absolutely appalling and I am deeply disturbed that you have voted it down in Parliament. I am disgusted at your lack of compassion for the violated and lack of responsibility in this issue.

Bill C-300 responds to the urgent need for a stronger regulatory framework to hold Canadian mining, oil and gas companies accountable, in Canada, for human rights, labour, and environmental violations overseas. Bill C-300 has garnered support across the country and internationally. It is supported by the Canadian Network for Corporate Accountability (CNCA), an organization which includes Amnesty International Canada, the United Church of Canada, the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, Friends of the Earth, the Steelworkers Humanity Fund, the Canadian Labour Congress, KAIROS – Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, MiningWatch Canada and many other organizations. Bill C-300 has my support as well.

I urge Members of Parliament and the members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development to support Bill C-300, recognizing that Bill C-300 reflects and responds to the recommendations that were made to the Government of Canada by the earlier Standing Committee of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in 2005.

Yours truly,

(your name and address)


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Toshiba

Toshiba has been a brand much like HP, that makes it difficult for me to discount their claims outright. They seem to actually care, and have some structures in place (a corporate social responsibility framework) to be able to make a change and seem to be willing to discuss (to some extent) their policies. They are also one of the leaders (along with HP) in their overall environmental and social record. After a great deal of searching and prodding I think I have found the person at their company who can really start to give me some answers into the depths of these policies.

The first round of questioning went as expected. I inquired about their ethical purchasing and was sent the stock information on their corporate social responsibilty (CSR) policy which did not answer my questions and which I had already mostly read online before.

The information sent to me talked about their request to the component suppliers to take action against human rights abuses, but not the details of how far this actually goes and whether it is enforced or not in any great detail. It also mentioned that an independent audit was performed by a third party and that suppliers had been monitored, but no word on what the results had been of the monitoring and what actions had changed as a result of the overall policy. It also didn’t mention if this monitoring extended past manufacturers into raw material suppliers, which I am guessing it does not based on its wording.

The woman I had been dealing with eventually got back to me after a couple of weeks, apologizing for the late reply and sent me a link to their Procurement Policy (which I had already read thoroughly), and specified that they cannot disclose details of their suppliers for confidentiality reasons. Along with that she sent me this statement:

“Just for your information, upon our recent investigation/inquiry with
our suppliers(*) of PC components(*), we have been informed that they do not procure/use tantalum (Coltan) sourced from the DR Congo.”

but no evidence or link to where this information could be found or which level of suppliers was contacted and what they are actually doing to ensure this. There was also no mention in her email what the asterixes were implying.

I sent back a letter describing to her that most ore passes through at least 10 hands before it ever gets to the supplier stage and that much of the ore claimed to have come from neighbouring countries is actually sourced in the DR Congo war zones because of inadequate structures in place.

I also inquired why she had included (*) in her statements, because I didn’t read any fine print or addendum to the email that would explain their purpose.

I discussed the competition argument in light of HP’s (mostly) open supplier list and their ability to still remain competitive. I stated that I would like to continue the dialogue to receive more information about what their policy really meant.

This letter was sent 8 days ago and I am still waiting on a further response from Toshiba, which if past actions are an indicator, should be about another week out.

I am sick and tired of hearing claim after claim from these companies with no proof or backing for the claims. Most of the time they don’t even directly answer my questions (like in this email), they skirt the issue with other claims. Transparency is key. You can reveal your suppliers and still be competitive. You can open your company to scruitiny and still be competitive. In fact, I would be more likely to purchase your product if you allowed scruitiny into your product line, EVEN if it was possible that human rights abuses were still happening. The reasoning for this– you are at least making an effort and want the people to actually know what you are doing and not just using another marketing ploy to fool people into buying into your brand.


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