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BADLY-INFORMED Diplomats! This is the only word – compound word I could find to describe ho w I felt when I read the press statement issued by the two Canadian High Commissioners in Kenya and Tanzania respectively.
The press release was issued to counter the article that appeared on the East African, 1st to 7th March 2010 issue. The article in question addressed a number of issues that have been reported in the past with relations to Canadian extractive industry operating abroad.
Diplomatic ignorance on issues
Titled, “Canadian firms dominate mining activities in Africa – and have a bad human rights record” and quoting issues on the ground in British Columbia, Zambia, DRC, Kenya and Tanzania highlighting the escalating levels of gross human rights violations.
The critics of this excellent article said, “We feel that the article drew some erroneous conclusions based on false or partial information. We would like to make it clear that Canada’s commercial priority is to attract investors into the country through a number of fiscal measures.
There is, however, no specific policy that encourages Canadian mining companies to invest abroad as the article insinuated. Further, the Canadian government supports transparency and welcomes independent investigations of mining companies’ activities.”
Focusing on the highlights of some of the atrocities that have been named after the Canadian Extractive Industry abroad particularly in East and Central Africa; I would add my voice on the same on even more serious cases in Papua New Guinea, Honduras, Guatemala and other countries which I will not mention to save the space!
Canada have for decades now been spitting right on the face of local communities under the same old facade of “Canadian mining activities in Africa (are) a force for good.”
This statement in itself shows how misinformed the two diplomats sent to the East African countries are to the specific social, economic and environmental needs of community members where multinational investments in the mining sector from Canada are hosted in African countries.
The ‘force for good’ being talked about here does not take into consideration the containers belonging to Barrick Gold Corporation that were held for days at the Mwanza Airport – Tanzania after being found to carry illegal weapons being transported to the embattled North Mara Mines. This dies a forced death as usual and I do not fear speculating that the same tactics that have stalled the discussions on the new mining legislation in the parliament were used.
In their statement they stated in ‘crystal’ letters that, “As a country founded on the strength of its natural resources, we are proud to see Canadian expertise, technology and investment dollars at work in communities around the world.
Should Canadian companies decide to invest abroad, the government encourages them to work in a positive manner that will help all stakeholders prosper from the projects.
In Africa, you can find many examples of Canada’s extractive sector playing a positive role: They are creating employment for local people, sharing and transferring Canadian expertise, respecting local law and regulations and helping communities develop natural resources in their own backyards.”
This leaves a lot of communication and understanding gap as to whether the blood of the innocent in rural communities in Tanzania (where Canadian Barrick Gold) has five mining sites with a trail of gross human rights violations, economic and environmental injustices, DRC, Kenya, Zambia, Papua New Guinea, Honduras and Guatemala is anything to stand tall on and declare pride?
This is a sorry state in the standings of two diplomats and evidences how arrogant and insensitive Canadian envoys to Kenya and Tanzania are.
Canadian Government & Transparency
It is an irony for the two diplomats to concur and put in black and white that,“The Canadian government also strongly supports the International Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
Our government will continue to support efforts of Canadian companies to make a positive difference in the communities in which they operate and encourage all governments to be transparent in their management of the extractive sector.”
A community in Bulyanhulu where a ‘planned’ massacre was reported in 1996 where 72 souls were reported lost. To me this was going to be a landmark to the Canadian facelift on how transparent they are. The relatives of the ‘alleged’ deaths are still haggling to get justice. The calls for an independent inquiry into the matter has fell on the deaf ears and I believe that the diplomats went through a series of trainings on how to give a totally deaf ears to these pending issues that are deemed as ‘tarnishing the reputation of Canada.’
Manipulations from Canada
Early February the world’s top personalities gathered in Cape Town in South Africa for the African Mining Indaba which was followed by the high profile gathering at the Southern Cape Hotel for the ministers of Mines, Chamber of mines from different African countries and of course a few representatives from the civil society camp.
One of the most interesting this is the fact that a number of representatives from the Mines ministries in over 35 African states unanimously state that, “human rights abuses reported in the extractive industry have not received a good handling while the participation of communities around the mines and equity in general were in books only.”
The African Mining Partnership (AMP) meeting was seasoned with a mixture of people, some who were pro-mining while the majority were cautiously tackling the issues that has taken the economies of their countries in the ‘drains’ with respect to the mining sectors in their respective countries. It also came out clearly that “Canada dominates extractive activities in Africa with a reputation which does not befits a country that boasts of constructive engagement in transparency and accountability.”
When all these criticism was on the floor, a senior international Policy advisor, at Natural Resources Canada, Andre Bourassa ‘forced’ his way to address the gathering and complained bitterly of the “bad reports that has been posted on one of UN’s webpage concerning the trend of the mining/Extractive Industry.
“All reports that I have read on the UN’s webpage about mining in Africa is all negative. Mining in Africa is not all bad and these kinds of reports only make the UN to see a state of emergency and may stop its engagement in the mining sector even though in the recent past they have been gradually getting some interest.”
Bourassa went ahead to put forward a solemn plea to the minister to “produce positive reports on the progress made in the mining industry in Africa!”
This is something that threw a number of stakeholders off board and many asked, “if there is no good coming from the mining industry in Africa where are we going to get the good to write?”
This is the overbearing attitude which must stop. There has been far too much interference with all the interventions that African governments have introduced to make the most out of the natural wealth within individual countries’ borders.
New strategies announced
Messrs Ross Hynes and Roert Orr state in their statement that, “ Earlier this year, we (Canada) announced a new strategy that will help Canadian companies abroad go even further to meet and exceed their corporate social responsibility goals.”
If I am not mistaken this refers to the recent establishment of the office of the corporate social responsibility counsellor. This is being headed by the former Munk Centre’s Director, Dr. Marketa Evans who is the new counsellor of the extractive sector’s CSR.
Canada has over the years realised a backlog of unresolved disputes from the host countries where foreign direct investment in the mining sector/extractive industry from Canada has had adverse effects in the social, economic and environmental areas.
“The mandate of the Counsellor will relate exclusively to the activities of Canadian extractive sector companies operating abroad. The Counsellor will:
The Counsellor will only undertake reviews with the consent of the involved parties. The five stages of the review process are: initial assessment; informal mediation; fact-finding; access to formal mediation; and, reporting.
Requests for review may originate from an individual, group or community that reasonably believes that it is being or may be adversely affected by the activities of a Canadian extractive sector company in its operations outside Canada. A request could also originate from a Canadian extractive sector company that believes it is the subject of unfounded allegations concerning its corporate conduct outside Canada in relation to the endorsed CSR performance guidelines.”
But with all that said on foreign affairs and international trade Canada website; a number of questions still linger in the minds of key players and those who follow closely on how far reaching and effective the office of the CSR counsellor will be? Does this office have the teeth to bite the Peter Munk’s of the Canadian Mining Empire? …and how is this office prepared to deal with the unresolved disputes in Tanzania, Zambia, DRC, PNG, Guatemala, Honduras and other parts of the world where Canadian Extractive industry operates abroad?