By Probe International

Bill C-300: Putting the mining companies in check

(October 18, 2010) Probe International’s Executive Director, Patricia Adams, discusses the upcoming third reading of Bill C-300, which would hold Canadian mining companies accountable for their environmental and human rights abuses.

On October 26, a very important bill will come before the House of Commons for third reading. If Bill C-300 [PDFver here] is voted into law, it will, for the first time, hold Canadian mining companies accountable for the environmental and human rights abuses caused by their mines in developing countries. The law would apply when Canadian taxpayers support mining companies through agencies such as Export Development Canada (EDC), which subsidizes the mining industry to the tune of $18-billion a year!

Here is how the law would work. If a Canadian mining project in a Third World country appears to be violating international environmental or human rights standards, the citizens of that country, or Canadian citizens, could submit a written complaint to Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs or Minister of International Trade. The minister would then be obliged to launch an investigation and, if the accusations proved true, the firm would lose any funding it receives from various federal bodies.

For the first time ever, citizens of Canada could have effective control over the destructive businesses that we are forced to subsidize. Over the years we have told you about the litany of bad projects that EDC has supported with our tax dollars – from the Three Gorges dam in China to the Omai gold mine in Guyana that spilled 3.2 billion litres of cyanide-laced mining effluent into the country’s major waterway. Without such a law, all we could do was voice our disapproval while EDC continued to expand its business. Now, Bill C-300 would give us the right to know what these companies are doing in our name and to stop subsidizing environmental and human rights wrongdoing.

EDC claims that it already takes the environment into account, making Bill C-300 unnecessary. This is false. EDC is legally empowered to ignore all environmental dangers caused by its projects. To add insult to injury, the Access to Information Act protects EDC from having to disclose any document containing details of its deals.

Canadian citizens need to have laws with teeth. Bill C-300 would give us that.

EDC complains [PDFver here] that it will lose business and that harmful mining projects would still proceed but with funding from others, saying the law “would only hurt Canadian companies and take them out of the game.”  Mining companies add that Third World development will suffer, and urge MPs to stop this bill.

Third World development will be affected – but for the better. Rapacious mining projects whose environmental effects destroy the livelihoods of fishing communities or poison the water of downstream communities do nothing for long-term development. While those who suffer get little or no compensation, those in charge – typically mining executives working with often corrupt officials – reap the rewards.

If you would like to help right this wrong, please support Bill C-300, a private members bill that parliamentarians from all parties should want to support.

Time is very short. Please let your MP know you want him or her to vote “Yes” in favour of Bill C-300 when it comes up for debate on October 26.

And if you can, please support our work to hold our corporations and our government accountable with a generous donation.

Yours sincerely,

Patricia Adams
Executive Director

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