CSR Bill C-300 – A Storm in the Tea Cup?

Are some of the heated discussions around the Canadian Bill C-300 designed to regulate the CSR performance of Canadian extractive companies operating abroad a storm in the tea cup?

As summarized on a UBC blog by Sheila Ballantyne “Bill C-300 was introduced to the Canadian House of Commons in February of 2009 by Liberal Member of Parliament, John McKay. The bill is intended to regulate Canadian mining companies operating in developing countries by creating a guideline for accountability to which companies must comply. The bill will also create a system by which complaints against companies can be filed and brought to the attention of Canada’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, this proposed bill has been supported by some NGO/advocacy groups, such as Mining Watch Canada, and opposed by major mining companies, such as Barrick, Kinross and Goldcorp – and various mining industry associations and commentators.

I note that Bill C-300 builds on the key standards and guidelines which have recently been adopted/are being promoted by the Canadian government's CSR strategy for Canadian International Extractives, such as IFC Performance Standards, Voluntary Principles on Security & Human Rights, and GRI's sustainability reporting framework.

In terms of the Export Development Canada (EDC), which has already adopted the Equator Principles (based on the IFC Performance Standards, currently being reviewed), poor CSR performance, ranging from environmental damage to human rights abuses, would already create major barriers to EDC’s involvement and/or trigger contractual clauses for divestment if they are already involved in related project finance activities. EDC’s loan, subscription and political risk insurance agreements (at least the more recent ones) should already contain provisions for CSR-related performance reporting, be subject to EDC’s due diligence and include independent engineer reviews to help verify performance.

The need for more effective recourse mechanisms and grievance procedures is a real issue and already high on the agenda of the newly appointed CSR Councellor and there are some good and not so good models out there. So there is perhaps no need to re-invent the wheel again.  But the remaining interesting thing is probably the issue of 'lifting the corporate veil' and allowing individuals/organizations to 'go after' Canadian listed companies for poor  CSR performance of their subsidiaries in other host countries. And this topic is already at the heart of an initiative spearheaded by Professor John Ruggie, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, which is looking at human rights in the context of business enterprises and other actors.

Rights Action, an NGO, has also raised concerns that Bill C-300 is limited in terms of its application only to Canadian government supported extractive projects (= the minority of projects abroad). They also note that, unlike the US Alien Tort Act, the focus of Bill C-300 would be on an administrative process and not a judicial process.

Are some of the discussions around Bill C-300 a storm in the tea cup? Are there perhaps other ways to more effectively address desirable CSR performance improvements and provide for better accountability mechanism of the extractive sector in emerging markets?

Mehrdad Nazari - www.prizmablog.com

4 Comments to CSR Bill C-300 – A Storm in the Tea Cup?

  1. Fran Manns says:

    McKay’s bill C-300 is embarrassing Canada!
    Canadian companies have operated openly, morally, and diligently overseas for a century. Why is C-300 coming up now? The Liberal Party is desperate to link with environmental lobby groups on any and all issues and do not care who they hurt. The Liberals, like the ELGs, apparently hate the poor. Our extractive Companies work thousands of Company-years offshore and have a very positive impact in the developing world. Voters are watching what the Liberal party does, not what extractive industries do. This will embarrass Ignatief in the end.

    The assault on Canadian Mining Companies home and abroad is rooted in 15% of the Canadian population who have graduate degrees in Arts, rent their accommodations, consider themselves underemployed, and live in Canada’s urban centres. They are assisted by ELGs funded through Ducks Unlimited by the Pew Charitable Trust of Philadelphia. NIMBY from rich developed world ‘intellectuals’ hurts the poor.

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  3. Anna Geringer says:

    Who is this Fran Manns? I would never suggest that the reason you Fran might not care about the 5.5 million people who have died as a result of violence produced by resource-based conflict in the DRCongo is because you own a house, are employed and don’t live in an urban centre. Why would you think that renters or urban tenancy constitute only 15% of our Canadian population or that these are indicators of a tendency to care about the human population outside of Canada or the global environment? I would suggest though that if you have money or investments that have grown or benefitted from Canadian mining abroad, or if you live in a non-urban ‘bubble’ where you never have to be exposed to the poverty that manifests in Canadian urban centres or have never traveled to a country where Canada mines to witness the violence that manifests in mining areas controlled by rebel groups (and contracted to do so by mining companies who are absent ‘landords’; if you’ve never seen child soldiers who are initiated into violence by being forced to rape and/or kill family members, or children recruited to dig for coltan all day only to have it taken from them by warlords and rebels…then it could/might be because you have chosen to see through the world and its people through a lens that divides us into groups of deserving and undeserving; liberal and conservative, dumbed down and dumber. This is a kind of divisiveness in thinking that has led to the divisions of humanity that encourages violence and accepts that there are inferior and superior humans. Please reconsider your assumptions for the sake of all of the people of this world, for future generations who need clean water and trees for their survival and imagine that if you and the other 65% of the population ( I absolutely do not agree with your statistical claim for what percentage of the population cares and what percentage does not) would realize you’re not ‘different’ or smarter, or better, or less liberal: you, like everyone on the planet, are all in this together and we’ll all share the victories and the tragedies together, whether you accept or deny that. Denying reality does not change or eradicate that reality. By the way, Ignatief is not anti-mining or overly concerned about human rights violations committed by companies in the Congo. Watch Blood Diamonds. Watch Blood Coltan films and many others which document through drama and documentary approaches the impact of Canadian use of minerals mined in Africa. Google Michael looking for his position historically on mining industry activities and while you’re at it, read about the number of Canada’s prime ministers liberal and conservative who have been on the Boards of Directors for numerous Canadian mining companies operating overseas. You’ll find there’s no demarcation between liberals and conservatives, urbans or non-urbans, in terms of the degree to which they can allow greed and lust for power to dominate their personal and professional lives and careers.
    Time to broaden your horizons and expand your knowing. I don’t know where you live, but you’re definitely in the ‘dark’ on these issues and have succumbed to oversimplifying the factors that play out as they intersect. Good luck with becoming a human who has the capacity to contribute to a future for Canadians and all the ‘OTHERS’.
    Big hug

  4. Hi Anna, Thanks for taking the time to send a response to the previous commentator. Clearly, an emotive subject matter.
    Regards, Mehrdad

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