What does home mean to you? Does it include a source of clean water? Perhaps a patch of grass or access to parkland? Does it include safety and security – it will be there day after day to help keep you safe and secure from the elements? Does it mean connection to larger community or neighbourhood? Does it include a source of livelihood? As people of faith we have affirmed that we live with respect IN creation, that “we cherish and respect the diversity of life and celebrate the beauty of the Earth. For us as members of one family, love and caring are the basis of our relationships with one another and with nature.” (Our Vision, One Earth Community 34th General Council 1992).
With projects in over 100 countries, Canada is home to half of the world’s mining companies. Canadian companies are often viewed as representatives of Canada abroad; however, United Church partners in the Global South continue to report human rights abuses, environmental damage, and violations of basic labour rights. Although affected communities advocate for stronger laws in their own countries, enforcement is often weak and violations occur with impunity.
A recently released report by the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project (JCAP), a legal-aid group run out of Osgoode Hall Law School, found that more than four hundred people were harmed in violence linked to Canadian mining projects in Latin America in the last fifteen years.
In 2015, General Council passed a resolution that encouraged church members to lobby the Canadian government to create a comprehensive corporate accountability framework that:
- requires Canadian mining companies operating abroad to respect human rights including the rights of indigenous peoples, labour rights and the right to a healthy environment; and
- creates mechanisms in Canada where those affected by Canadian corporate activity abroad can access justice.
We now have an opportunity to advance mining justice and corporate accountability in Canada. But it will only be successful if a significant number of Canadians from across the country take action to hold the government to its promises.
On November 2nd, the Canadian Network for Corporate Accountability (CNCA), a United Church partner that brings together faith, labour, and civil society organizations, will launch draft legislation for an extractive sector ombudsperson as part of its Open for Justice Campaign. This independent ombudsperson will have, among other things, the power to investigate complaints and publically make recommendations, including suspending or ending Canadian government support to companies that do not respect international standards.
Help protect the right of the voices of those most affected by development projects to be heard and taken into account. Write to your MP and ask them to them to speak to the Minister of International Trade, Chrystia Freeland, to ask her to champion the CNCA’s model ombudsperson legislation.