Canadian Council for Refugees
For immediate release
23 August 2019
Canadian companies must be held accountable for contributing to forced displacement
The Canadian Council for Refugees today called on the Government of Canada to better regulate mining companies’ adherence to human rights and environmental standards. The recent withdrawal of civil society organizations from an advisory committee on corporate responsibility highlights the inadequacy of current rules to ensure that Canadian mining companies are not contributing to forced displacement.
“Canadians need to do more to recognize and address our involvement in the root causes of displacement,” said Claire Roque, President. “In Canada and around the world, mining activities often contribute to forced migration. It is increasingly clear that better accountability structures are needed for the Canadian resource extraction industry.”
The CCR welcomed the creation by the Canadian government in 2018 of a Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) and the appointment earlier this year (although long delayed) of a person to fill that office. However, the office lacks the powers necessary to make it effective. The government’s failure to provide those powers led to the resignation in July 2019 of all fourteen civil society and labour union representatives of the government’s Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Body on Responsible Business Conduct Abroad.
The resource-extraction sector, in which Canadian companies play a leading role, contributes to development-induced displacement. Indigenous people are frequently those most affected.
Allegations of human rights abuses tied to Canadian mining companies acting abroad have historically been difficult to pursue because of a lack of legal recourses. However, Canadian courts may be beginning to recognize an obligation to hold companies accountable.
Recently, a settlement was reached in litigation against Tahoe Resources, a Canadian company, for human rights abuses against community protestors in Guatemala. Pan American Silver, which acquired Tahoe in 2019, issued a public apology to a group of Guatemalans who were shot in 2013 while demonstrating outside the mine.
The Supreme Court of Canada is due to decide another case that will clarify whether Canadian courts should hear complaints against Canadian companies about human rights abuses committed in other countries. The Nevsun case concerns allegations of forced labour, slavery, torture, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment and crimes against humanity, at a mine in Eritrea which Nevsun, a Canadian company, indirectly ran, in collaboration with the Eritrean military.
At a time when large numbers of Central Americans are fleeing northwards because of intolerable conditions in their countries of origin, it is more important than ever to seek accountability for the Canadian companies engaged in mining in Guatemala and Honduras. Meanwhile, Eritreans are among the largest displaced populations (approximately half a million refugees) and the acceptance rate for Eritrean refugee claimants in Canada is close to 90%.
The CCR calls on the Government of Canada to:
- Provide effective regulation of the activities of Canadian mining companies with respect to human rights and environmental standards
- Conduct transparent human rights and environmental impact reviews on all its investments (notably through the Export Development Canada).
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Milen Minchev, Communication Coordinator, 514-277-7223, ext.1, 514-602-2098 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org