Min­ing of­fice has ben­e­fits

Ottawa Citizen - - LET­TERS -

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

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