Mining office has benefits
Re: Public funds wasted on mining ‘counsellor,’ Nov. 16.
The tone of this piece does little to advance a thoughtful discussion of these serious issues.
Perhaps it is your writer’s view that the Office is valuable only if it “protects Canada’s reputation” or “betters industry.” While I fully endorse both of those objectives, this assertion misses a critical piece of the puzzle: the Office is valuable and valued for the constructive options and voice it provides to project-affected people. I’m not sure how many project-affected communities your editorial writer spoke to, but in our hundreds of conversations with directly affected people overseas, one thing was repeatedly endorsed: the merit and value in dialogue. Indeed, constructive dialogue is often viewed as the only viable option for dealing with their concerns. Perhaps these concerns are “minor” in the eyes of the Citizen, but they feel substantive to the people on-the-ground who the office is designed to engage with.
What I have heard, time and again in these hundreds of conversations, is that the courts are often a poor mechanism for ordinary people affected by Canadian corporate practice. Not everyone benefits from a legalistic approach. The Office can offer benefits for those interested in building trust and relationships, and fostering win/win options for project-affected communities and Canadian companies. And, it’s free for communities to access.
Naturally, this process is not meant to be the solution to every problem. But similar processes, global and national, have demonstrated real and positive results for communities. And, since many problematic issues may not ever be matters of legal statute, safe spaces for dialogue and constructive problem solving will remain key avenues for dispute resolution no matter what else happens. Just as mediators and the courts coexist in Canada to resolve business or family disputes for instance, non-judicial processes will therefore continue to play a critical role in a robust strategy of positive change. I am not sure why we would want to close off an option for project-affected people that they themselves have repeatedly endorsed. Finally, for the record, the process is one year old.
MARKETA D. EVANS, Toronto Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor