Canadian mining companies operate in over 100 countries, extracting oil, gold, diamonds and iron ore that are worth billions of dollars. Of the world’s extractive corporations, 75% are Canadian mining companies.
Mining operations are big businesses. There are Canadian companies with budgets bigger than the entire budget of the countries they operate in, creating a power imbalance.
Coupled with weak environmental regulations and labour laws that would hold these companies accountable, local residents are the ones who suffer from this power imbalance.
We need to help fix that imbalance and create space for people to hold these Canadian mining companies accountable.
If the approval of a mine meant you would be kicked off your land, would you want a chance to reject the project?
And if it the mega project was approved, would you expect your family to be fairly compensated?
If your drinking water source was poisoned or dried up, would you hold someone accountable; demand that the water be cleaned up?
If this were happening to you and your neighbourhood, you would know the answers.
But people who defend their environment against Canadian mining companies are less powerful than the companies they face and are often targeted with threats and violence.
Take for example, (photo insert) residents of four local municipalities in Guatemala who were confronted by security forces for protesting a gold and silver mine operated by a Canadian company. It is a common occurrence for Canadian mining companies to operate and conduct business as usual while committing environmental and human rights abuses with little to no accountability.
Canadian companies need to be held accountable when they are doing wrong overseas. That’s why Steelworkers are part of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA) campaign called Open for Justice.
People who are harmed by the actions of Canadian companies need ways in Canada to right the wrongs. They deserve to have their say in Canadian courts, or through a human rights ombudsperson for Canada’s international extractive sector.
As it stands now, there are only two existing mechanisms for people who have been wronged by Canadian mining companies: a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Counsellor and the OECD National Contact Point (NCP). But neither are working.
These existing “mechanisms” are voluntary, non-transparent and have proven to be ineffective, because they don’t address the problems that harm communities.
A Canadian human rights ombudsperson can make a big difference.
An ombudsperson must be independent, have the power to investigate, to make public reports, to make recommendations that will right the wrongs and to recommend the withdrawal of Canadian government support to companies.
Now is the time to press this issue. Take a moment to take action. Send a message to Justin Trudeau, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne and your local MP.