Canada must lead in min­ing

Ottawa Citizen - - EDITORIAL -

One of the world’s big­gest min­ing in­dus­try con­ven­tion takes place in Toronto ev­ery year at this time. This year, the Prospectors and De­vel­op­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada con­ven­tion, which draws tens of thou­sands of del­e­gates and a hand­ful of politi­cians, among oth­ers, co­in­cides with a court case that many in the min­ing in­dus­try are watch­ing closely.

The min­ing in­dus­try should wel­come the fact that the case is be­ing heard in Canada. So should government of­fi­cials.

The case in­volves al­le­ga­tions of hu­man rights abuses, gang rape and mur­der against se­cu­rity at a mine site in Guatemala owned by a former lo­cal sub­sidiary of the Cana­dian min­ing com­pany Hudbay Min­er­als. It is the first time hu­man rights al­le­ga­tions against a Cana­dian min­ing com­pany have been heard in a Cana­dian court. Un­til re­cently, lawyers for the com­pany had ar­gued that Canada was not the place to hear the case. That le­gal ar­gu­ment has now been dropped, although Hudbay says it in­tends to fight the al­le­ga­tions. A lawyer rep­re­sent­ing al­leged vic­tims of vi­o­lence and abuse by se­cu­rity guards at the mine has called it his­toric that the case will go ahead in Canada.

A Cana­dian court is the right place for this case, not only be­cause Guatemala’s jus­tice sys­tem, in the words of Hu­man Rights Watch, is “weak and cor­rupt” but also be­cause min­ing is so im­por­tant to Canada, as the PDAC con­ven­tion il­lus­trates. What­ever the out­come of the case, it is im­por­tant that it be heard in Canada where it will get a fair hear­ing.

While the ma­jor­ity of Cana­dian com­pa­nies op­er­at­ing overseas do so within the law, and pro­vide jobs and rev­enue to coun­tries where they op­er­ate, it is cru­cial that those that don’t are called to ac­count. In ex­treme cases, that should be done in Cana­dian court­rooms.

Canada has many rea­sons to take a lead role in ad­dress­ing un­eth­i­cal and il­le­gal be­hav­iour of min­ing com­pa­nies around the world. A com­pelling one is that Canada is a ma­jor player on the world stage and com­pa­nies that get into trou­ble are, there­fore, fre­quently Cana­dian.

And, although the min­ing in­dus­try and the fed­eral government have both been be­hind a ma­jor push to en­cour­age cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity, the fed­eral government must do more, es­pe­cially now that the gi­ant min­ing in­dus­try is also at the cen­tre of a shift in Cana­dian for­eign aid to­ward more part­ner­ships with pri­vate com­pa­nies op­er­at­ing overseas.

With so much rid­ing on our min­ing in­dus­try, Canada must move to re­move the shadow that bad cor­po­rate ci­ti­zens cast on it.

With so much rid­ing on our min­ing in­dus­try, Canada must move to re­move the shadow that bad cor­po­rate ci­ti­zens cast on it.

One way Canada can hold such com­pa­nies to ac­count is to re­new the pro­vi­sion in de­feated pri­vate mem­bers Bill C-300, which, among other things, called for Ex­port Devel­op­ment Canada and Cana­dian em­bassies to stop sup­port­ing com­pa­nies that break hu­man rights and en­vi­ron­men­tal leg­is­la­tion. Canada is a world leader in min­ing. It must show the world it is also a world leader in accountability when it comes to that in­dus­try.

NORM BETTS/BLOOMBERG

Nat­u­ral re­sources min­is­ter Joe Oliver waits to speak at the Prospectors and De­vel­op­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada con­ven­tion in Toronto on March 4, 2012. Canada is a leader in min­ing and must also be a leader in so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity.

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