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Presentation to roundtable on social responsibility

National Roundtable on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Sector in Developing Countries – Toronto, Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A presentation by

Archbishop Andrew S. Hutchison, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada

I speak on behalf of the Anglican Church of Canada.  First, I express our appreciation to the Government of Canada for these hearings across the land, in search of an actionable strategy that will affirm that Canadian values are upheld by Canadian companies operating in the extractive sector anywhere in the world.

The Anglican Church of Canada holds the firm conviction that human beings hold a special trust from the Creator as stewards of the planet that sustains our life. It further affirms the dignity of every human being, and strives to bring justice both to human relationships and to our relationship with the environment.  Time does not permit a recitation of the actions of this Church in advocacy on behalf of aboriginal peoples over many decades of history, particularly through the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, and frequently in collaboration with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).  Suffice it to say that our appearance today is consistent with and rooted in a long tradition of conviction and action.

The Anglican Church is present in 164 countries in the world, many of which are developing countries in the global South.  We have long standing partnerships with churches and agencies in the global South working in communities affected by Canadian extractive companies.  We are therefore aware that despite the best efforts of the Government of Canada to enjoin upon such countries voluntary compliance with generally accepted human rights, and sustainable development standards, those efforts have been less than successful.  We are aware of the implication of Canadian companies in such countries as Sudan, Ghana, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela and the Philippines in toxic dumping, destruction of protected areas, forcible displacement of indigenous people, threats and intimidation of local communities.  As socially responsible investors, the Church expects companies to respect human rights and environmental standards wherever they operate, and we have been prepared to intervene directly with such companies when they fall short of such standards.  As a global front-runner, Canada should be a leader in promoting accountability and best practices, and we hope that these roundtables are but a step in the exercise of that leadership.

The Government of Canada, quite appropriately, gives both political and financial support to Canadian companies establishing their operations abroad. Yet the Government has no mechanism for enforcing international human rights and environmental standards established by the United Nations – standards to which Canada is a signatory – beyond that of moral suasion. The voluntary self-regulation approach clearly does not work.

We therefore make the following recommendations.

  • We urge the Government of Canada to require companies to meet corporate accountability, human rights and environmental standards as preconditions for financial and/or political assistance
  • We urge the Government to establish legislation to hold Canadian companies accountable in Canada when found complicit in human rights abuses and environmental destruction abroad.
  • We urge the Government to establish robust Canadian-based monitoring, verification and compliance mechanisms to ensure that Canadian companies meet the standards above.
  • We urge the Government of Canada to promote the inclusion of human rights standards in the policies of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

These are not new ideas, but are entirely consistent with the report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Development presented to the 38th Parliament.  That report expresses concern “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 people” and affirms that “more must be done”. The Anglican Church of Canada gives its full support to the recommendations of the report that follow that statement.

In support of our appeal we would cite also the Convention (169) concerning Indigenous and Tribal People in Independent Countries adopted by the General Conference of the International Labour Organization in l989, and issued by the High Commissioner for Human Rights to enter into force on September 5,1991.

The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights was drafted at McGill University in Montreal in 1948, and generally Canada is held in high regard for its advocacy of human rights in the world. It is therefore essential to the maintenance of that honour that it be seen to act swiftly and decisively in the face of disregard of such standards by Canadian companies abroad.


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