Continued Industry Opposition to CSR Bill C-300 in Canada

Clear lines in the sand about CSR Bill C-300 targeting Canadian extractive companies operating abroad: mining advocacy NGOs are in favor and industry  is opposed. But what are administrative implications in terms of possible case load emerging from adoption of this Bill?

A look at IFC/MIGA’s Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) office and European Bank's Independent Recourse Mechanism (IRM) could be useful. The Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) describes itself as the independent recourse mechanism for the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). The CAO responds to complaints from project-affected communities with the goal of enhancing social and environmental outcomes on the ground. Since being set up in 2000, the CAO received a total of 110 new complaints, of which almost 40% were deemed to be ineligible. The lion share of over 60% of (eligible?) complaints related to the extractive Oil, Gas, Mining, and Chemicals sector. Interestingly, that sector only accounts for less that 7% of IFC’s investments in FY 2009. During the same period, the COA had an administrative budget of over $3.3 million and employed 11 staff members (excluding additional consultants involved reviewing and mediating CAO’s case load and contributing to its advisory notes). Procedural changes adopted by CAO after reviewing lessons learned include limiting the time available for dispute resolution to 120 days (unless participating parties agree to an extension) before a complaint/case is passed on to a compliance review (audit).

The European Bank (EBRD) established its Independent Recourse Mechanism (IRM) in 2003. A recent review suggested that EBRD’s IRM Rules of Procedures are considered by many to be less than “user friendly” and are also not well known (either within or outside of the EBRD). After four years of operation of the IRM, EBRD recorded only 5 eligible complaints. (This is why EBRD's board decided to transition the IRM to a Project Complaint Mechanism - more on that later.) 

What does the experience with CAO and IRM mean in terms of Bill C-300? The dministrative processes would need to balance frivolous misuse with reasonable access. With that balnce, an initial case load of a dozen or two per year could perhaps be expected. Also, a substantial budget allocation may be required for DFAIT to handle the additional workload. How many annual complaints would you be expecting?

You may also be interested in reviewing my related blog post: CSR Bill C-300 is A Storm in the Tea Cup?