Demands are growing for Canadian mining monopolies to be held to account for their actions in Canada and abroad. These include the world’s largest gold monopoly, Barrick Gold, whose founder Peter Munk is the benefactor and namesake of the Munk Debate on foreign policy held last night. This important issue of Canada’s foreign policy was conspicuously absent from the debate.
The Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA), made up of 30 environmental, human rights, faith and labour organizations is active in this election to demand binding standards for Canadian mining firms abroad. The CNCA points out that Canada “is home to more than half of the world’s mining companies, with active projects in more than 100 countries. Over 40 per cent of the world’s mineral exploration capital is raised on Canadian stock exchanges. Unfortunately environmental damage and human rights violations, including forced displacement and failure to respect the right of Indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent, are associated with many of these projects.”
The organization adds that “Canada lacks effective accountability mechanisms regarding the environmental and human rights impact of Canadian companies’ overseas operations. Those who are harmed often have nowhere to seek effective redress.” The CNCA is contacting all political parties for their views on corporate accountability measures and how to offer redress for victims of Canadian mining monopolies.
A 2005 report from the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs found that “Canada does not yet have laws to ensure that the activities of Canadian mining companies in developing countries conform to human rights standards, including the rights of workers and of indigenous peoples.” Proposals were made to introduce standards and to appoint an ombudsperson to investigate abuses. The Harper government responded with its own report focusing on improving the competitiveness of Canadian monopolies, and appointed a “counsellor,” rather than ombudsperson. The first counsellor was none other than Marketa Evans, the former directory of the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, also named and funded by Barrick Gold’s chairman. Initial grants from the Canadian International Development Agency for “Corporate Social Responsibility” projects alongside Canadian mining operations went to groups sponsored by the Devonshire Initiative, an organization founded by Evans and named after the street on which the Munk Centre is located.
A private member’s bill was proposed in 2009 to implement some standards for Canadian mining monopolies abroad. Barrick Gold worked diligently to defeat the bill, lobbying at least 22 MPs. The bill lost by six votes in 2010. While many Liberal MPs voted in favour of the bill, then-leader of the Liberal Party Michael Ignatieff did not vote on the bill. “In the months before the final vote [Ignatieff] went on the record expressing concern with unspecified aspects of the Bill,” MiningWatch reported. Shortly after his resignation as Liberal leader following the 2011 federal election, Ignatieff was hired by the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.
All three of the party leaders at the Munk Debate on foreign policy are connected to Munk and Barrick Gold in one way or another. Peter Munk’s son Anthony, who sits on the board of Barrick Gold, has donated to Thomas Mulcair’s NDP leadership campaign. Nigel Wright, former chief of staff to Stephen Harper is godfather to Anthony Munk’s son. Former Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird accepted a job with Barrick Gold shortly after his resignation went into effect in March.
MiningWatch Canada and the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) released a study September 21 that links Canadian mining interests to repression and violence against the people. The report, titled In the National Interest? Criminalization of Land and Environment Defenders in the Americas provides evidence from five countries and shows how the Canadian government and mining monopolies have “have twisted the law to protect and promote mining interests by targeting community activists and defenders.”
MiningWatch and the ICLMG note that the Canadian government ” views those who speak out as a threat to the national interest and hence a target for spy agencies, tax audits, funding cuts, and gratuitous policing.
“This is nowhere more explicit than with the adoption of the Anti-Terrorism Act 2015 [Bill C-51], which gives enhanced powers to Canadian intelligence agencies and redefines security to include preventing interference with anything designated as part of the economic or financial stability of Canada, sending a clear signal to Indigenous peoples and environmental groups defending land and the environment,” says Roch Tassé, former National Coordinator of the ICLMG.
(CNCA, MiningWatch, NOW Toronto)
Source: Renewal Update, September 29, 2015 • No. 176 Previous Issues