Abstract: Canadian mining interests in countries around the world are valued at tens of billions of dollars. Karyn Keenan looks at efforts by local communities to hold mining companies to account for human rights abuses. ‘The issue of access to remedy for the victims of corporate abuse requires urgent attention,’ she writes.
[From the article:]
Canadian mining investment in Africa has shown remarkable growth in the past decade. The continent currently receives roughly 20 per cent of Canadian overseas mining capital, which in 2009 was valued at over $20-billion. As with other mining regions, Africa is rife with complaints concerning human rights abuse and environmental destruction associated with these investments. Most recently, five people were fatally shot at Barrick Gold’s North Mara mine in Tanzania and allegations have surfaced regarding sexual abuse at this operation. Barrick reports finding ‘credible evidence’ that its security guards and Tanzanian police sexually assaulted local women.
Canadian mining companies seem to enjoy impunity virtually everywhere that they operate overseas. Many governments are unable or unwilling to effectively regulate transnational corporations, and judicial institutions are often compromised by myriad issues. It’s not surprising then, that the victims of Canadian corporate abuse turn their sights on Canada. This is the jurisdiction where many mining companies are granted legal personality through incorporation. Canada is also the world’s greatest source of capital for the sector. The Canadian government proactively partners with the mining industry, funding and insuring overseas operations, both through domestic institutions and the multilateral development banks. Canada provides political support to its companies and is increasingly active in the overseas promotion of ‘corporate social responsibility’. The Canadian government is also an important shareholder in this sector via a public pension fund with assets valued at $148-billion.
Thus far, Canada has abdicated its governance responsibility regarding the overseas activities of the mining sector, refusing to regulate either the companies or the government agencies that support them, or to take legislative action to ensure that non-nationals who are prejudiced by the activities of Canadian companies are able to seek redress in Canada. To view footnotes and read the whole article in Pambazuka News, click here.