Bill C-300

Unsurprisingly, the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada came out strongly in opposition to this Bill, which aims to increase the accountability of the Canadian extractive indutry. They gave out these pins at the mining conference they held in Toronto in March.

Bill C-300 is a bill that’s been trudging through the House of Commons for a while now. It just barely survived an initial vote, (and the prorogation of Parliament) and is now being debated in the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. It appears that the committee is preparing to make a decision on the bill, after which it would go back to the House of Commons for another vote before becoming law.

What is Bill C-300?

Bill C-300 is a private members bill introduced by Liberal MP John McKay. In short, it seeks to:

  • regulate Canadian government agencies with respect to Canadian extractive companies operating in developing countries (the Export Development Canada, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and the Canadian Pension Plan).In order to do this, it will..
  • create eligibility criteria (“guidelines that articulate corporate accountability standards”) for political and financial support that is provided to Canadian extractive companies by Export Development Canada, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and the Canadian Pension Plan. (These criteria include “human rights provisions that ensure corporations operate in a manner that is consistent with international human rights standards; and any other standard consistent with international human rights standards.”)
  • create a complaints mechanism. Complaints are filed with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. If accepted, the complaint will lead to an investigation of a company’s compliance with the guidelines and a public report on findings within eight months of receipt of the complaint. A company may become incompliance with the guidelines.

My take on the Bill

From the get go it is apparent that Bill C-300 is, at best, very limited. The only thing which it actually serves to regulate is the funding and political support the extractive industry receives from the Canadian government. It keeps the entire process of holding Canadian corporations accountable out of our legal system. Personally, I find this an enormous insult to the thousands of citizens of other countries who have suffered unfathomable losses (of life, land, community, etc) and injustices at the hands of Canadian companies.

One aspect of the Bill that I do find promising, is the possibility that it may allow for the Canadian Pension Plan to divest in companies that are deemed non-compliant with the eligibility criteria the bill sets out. The Canadian Pension Plan is a huge investor in Canadian mining companies, and there is no precedent of it making investment decisions based on anything other than purely financial reasons, so this may prove to be the only component of the bill that has any real teeth.

In summary, I think this Bill is only (barely) ok, and that it is arguable whether it is truly a step in the right direction. I have, however, chosen to support it because, at least with this bill, I echo the sentiments expressed by Michael Savage, a Liberal MP:

“We have to keep in mind that we have to present a bill that can actually pass the House. We want to make a difference; we do not just want to make a point. We cannot let perfect be the enemy of better. This bill will make things better.”

How can I show my support for Bill C-300?

Amnesty International Canada has made it exceedingly easy to email the members of the standing committee in support of this bill with this online form.

Please comment on this blog to let me know if you have decided to take the above action (or vice versa).

For more information on Bill C-300, MiningWatch has put together a helpful factsheet.

Rights Action, another group in favour of limiting the impunity of Canadian companies, has nevertheless come out against the bill, arguing that it will perpetuate companies’ immunity from legal recourse in Canada. Their position is explained here.

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3 comments

  1. apeaceofconflict

    I see major problems with this bill and am sad that it hasn’t been more thoroughly developed. It’s almost a sad joke.

    Given the high risk nature and small size of the majority of extractive companies, most do not generally even receive EDC funding or CPP investment, making the sanctions completely meaningless. Canada’s 200 or so mining companies acting overseas could possibly feel the sanctions. However, as the bill is a private member’s bill, it will not likely be receiving the financial resources it needs to adequately make it even remotely function-able in the first place.

    Besides this, who will even know to make a complaint? The bill will not be heavily advertised in the countries capable of making complaints (due to lack of funding), and it is not likely that those who are negatively affected will be well versed in the intricacies of Canadian laws to even know of the Bill’s existence. The bill also calls for all complaints to be in writing, following a specific legal description, when many of those affected by Canadian companies are functionally illiterate. Given this, who will write up such complaints?

    Any investigated claims, should they actually get this far, will be published in the widely un-circulated Canadian Gazette, and if no support by EDC or CPP exists, the company will be allowed to simply continue its practice without punishment.

    How can this bill be strengthened? (just some thoughts)

    – specify the provisions for funding of this bill, including enforcement, investigation and regulatory needs in full detail and secure this funding for the long term
    – allow for greater sanctions of companies proven guilty of committing human rights acts abroad, up to and including criminal prosecution.
    – allow complaints to be made through measures other than solely by written means.
    – compliment the bill with an advertising and awareness campaign about the details of the bill and what it means amongst affected populations.

    Without these and several other changes– this bill will do nothing but give the appearance of change. Companies will still commit human rights abuses overseas without impunity– and Canadians will believe that they are being properly monitored to stop this behaviour. It’s incredibly discouraging.

  2. Pingback: Bill C-300 | Green+Geek
  3. Pingback: Op-Ed: Why Canada Needs Bill C300 « Undermining Guate

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