|3. The purpose of this Act is to ensure that corporations engaged in mining, oil or gas activities and receiving support from the Government of Canada act in a manner consistent with international environmental best practices and with Canada’s commitments to international human rights standards.
Barrick Gold Corporation, the largest Gold Mining Corporation in the world, and Canada’s largest publicly traded company put a lot of heat on the Canadian Government in the last year when Norway’s Ministry of Finance back in January of this year, sold shares of Barrick Gold from Norway’s pension fund for ethical reasons.
Norway’s Council on Ethics conducted a fairly comprehensive investigation spanning four years regarding the use of a natural river system to transport and dispose of mine waste in Papua New Guinea.
The council established “the mining operation at Porgera entail[ed] considerable pollution.” The 2008 report went on to condemn the heavy metals contamination, particularly mercury, produced by the tailings. It concluded that severe and long-term environmental damage is likely to continue, and that it represents a serious health hazard for residents of the mining area and for the indigenous peoples living downstream from the mine.
As Marie-Claude Poirier of CCODP writes, in 2008 Canada was a base for 75% of the world’s exploration and mining companies. And Canadian mining companies accounted for 43% of all global exploration spending.
And at most, the Canadian government promotes mining companies to voluntarily conduct their activities in a socially and environmentally responsible manner that companies have failed to undertake.
The Canadian government does nothing more than endorse current CSR standards and create administrative mechanisms, rather than legal ones, within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and at Canadian offices abroad.
This is where Bill C-300 comes in.
On April 22, 2009 Bill C-300, sponsored by Hon. John McKay PC, MP, passed second reading in the House of Commons with a vote sending it to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development for further study. C-300 passed by a close margin – Yeas: 137; Nays: 133.
Marie-Claude Poirier, notes that Bill C-300 doesn’t include provisions for an ombudsperson and independent investigation into complaints from overseas, since private member’s bills cannot require the support of a budget.
However, what the Bill does do is directly forward complaints to the Minister of International Trade and Foreign Affairs. Investigation ensues as to the alleged violations of the CSR standards. If any evidence of violations is found, then the stick of bad PR for those that are caught. The companies would be required to submit annual reports, which would fall under scrutiny of the House of Commons and Senate for review.
Bill C-300 has baby teeth, but it’s better than no teeth. Even baby teeth are sharp.