MAC: Mines and Communities

UN urges Canada to probe mining abuses abroad

Published by MAC on 2015-07-26
Source: Reuters, Embassy, Globe & Mail (2015-07-24)

The Canadian Foreign Affairs department is quoted as asserting that the revised Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy launched in November 2014, “makes clear the government’s expectation that Canadian extractive sector companies reflect Canadian values in all their activities abroad,including respect for human rights”.

On reading about the "Canadian values" - including "respect for human rights", being rampantly violated within Canada itself in other sectors, we may find it difficult to suppress a ribald laugh (jeer), along with a cry of anger ...

UN urges Canada to probe mining abuses abroad

Committee voices concern about ‘allegations of human rights abuses by Canadian companies operating abroad.’

Stephanie Nebehay


24 July 2015

A United Nations watchdog urged Canada on Thursday to investigate alleged human rights abuses by its mining companies abroad and launch an inquiry into the high number of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

The U.N. Human Rights Committee examined Canada’s record in upholding civil and political freedoms as part of a regular review of seven countries during its four-week session.

The committee of 18 independent experts voiced concern about “allegations of human rights abuses by Canadian companies operating abroad, in particular mining corporations, and about the inaccessibility to remedies by victims of such violations”.

It gave no specific examples, but Canadian companies are active across the globe from Papua New Guinea to Eritrea and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The U.N. body urged Canadian authorities to “consider establishing an independent mechanism with powers to investigate human rights abuses by such corporations abroad”.

“One major concern by the committee was the murdered and missing indigenous females, women and children,” committee vice-chair Anja Seibert-Fohr told a news briefing.

“We have found that these indigenous females are disproportionately affected by violence.”

Activist groups, in a paper submitted to the body, said: “Violence against Aboriginal women and girls in Canada is a problem of massive proportions, and its manifestation in British Columbia is particularly pronounced.”

Between 2005 and 2010, the Native Women’s Association of Canada documented more than 600 cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls throughout Canada over 30 years and more cases have been recorded since, they said. Yet police often dismissed reports of missing native women, some of whom were prostitutes or drug users with transient lifestyles.

“We are still missing information about real investigations and the prosecution,” Seibert-Fohr said.

“Therefore we asked (Canada) to urgently address this issue of these murdered and missing indigenous women and we proposed some measures, for example a national inquiry into this phenomenon but also a review of the relevant legislation.”

The committee voiced concern at reports of native people losing their land rights and the cost of litigation for indigenous peoples. It urged Canada to “resolve land and resources disputes with indigenous peoples and find ways and means to establish their titles over their lands with respect to their treaty rights.”

Scathing UN report a rallying cry for civil society, opposition

UN Human Rights Committee criticizes Canada's record on asylum-seekers, missing and murdered Aboriginal women, mining companies and anti-terrorism legislation.

Marie-Danielle Smith


23 July 2015

Opposition parties vow they’ll do a better job of prioritizing human rights obligations if they come to power after the federal election expected Oct. 19.

Their assertions come after the UN’s Human Rights Committee issued a critical report Thursday after reviewing Canada’s implementation of international human rights commitments.

Major concerns raised by the report include Canada’s failure to conduct a national inquiry on missing and murdered Aboriginal women, a lack of safeguards governing Canada’s security and intelligence agencies, the conduct of Canadian mining companies abroad and the government’s treatment of asylum-seekers. Among more than a dozen recommendations, the committee suggests conducting a national inquiry on missing and murdered indigenous women and considering revising a new anti-terrorism law.

The report follows hearings July 7 and 8 that put Canada’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights under the microscope of 18 human rights experts nominated by countries.

The review is part of the committee’s regular oversight of countries that have ratified the covenant. It's the first substantial chance for the committee to scrutinize the Canadian government under Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party, which won its first federal mandate in 2006.

For the most part, Canada is getting graded poorly.

Renu Mandhane, director of the international human rights program at the University of Toronto’s law school, said she was pleased with the committee’s recommendations and how strongly they were worded.

“I think when you read the whole report it really gives you a flavour of how far we have fallen in terms of human rights protections in this country.”

Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, called the recommendations “incredibly wide-ranging and important and timely.”

His was one of more than two dozen civil society organizations that presented evidence to the UN committee as part of its review.

In its report, the committee acknowledged a “level of apprehension” across Canadian civil society and said Canada should ensure that its implementation of the Income Tax Act “does not result in unnecessary restrictions on the activities of non-governmental organizations defending human rights.” Rules require that no more than 10 per cent of registered charities' activities be non-partisan political work.

Canadian governments haven’t had great track records in implementing UN recommendations, Mr. Neve said. But the election campaign is an opportunity to turn things around.

“We need to hear from Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper and all of the leaders that they recognize how significant this UN review is,” he said.

As of Thursday afternoon, the federal government had not responded to Embassy’s questions about the committee report.

Canadian Heritage spokesman Charles Cardinal told Embassy ahead of the report’s release, however, that the government would be reviewing the recommendations. It would be up to federal departments and provincial and municipal governments to take actions they deemed appropriate to respond to the UN committee’s recommendations, he said.

“Canada is proud of its world leading human rights record,” he added.

Wayne Marston, human rights critic for the NDP, said the human rights lens is important to his party and finding ways to implement the recommendations in the report would be “very high on our leader’s agenda.”

“The last couple of governments in Canada have not done a wonderful job,” he said, in prioritizing international commitments within the UN framework. He mentioned the Liberal and Conservative governments both refused to sign on to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, something the NDP has committed to do.

Regarding Bill C-51, the new Anti-Terrorism Law, Mr. Marston said the NDP would repeal it entirely if the party formed government.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau went on the record in June defending his party’s support of Bill C-51 in the House of Commons but saying a Liberal government, if elected, would move quickly to change the bill and increase oversight for security and intelligence agencies.

The Liberals’ critic for international development and the status of women, Kirsty Duncan, said she’s happy to see the UN calling for action on issues she has raised as critic, including pay equity between men and women and “our national tragedy” of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

“We’ve absolutely committed to having a national public inquiry, so we’ll start there,” she said.

The committee is asking Canada to report back in a year with an update on its implementation of recommendations related to missing and murdered indigenous women, the treatment of refugees and its handling of indigenous lands and titles.

The next full report on Canada's implementation of the covenant is due in 2020.

Here's a summary of several key issues from the UN committee's concluding observations:

Missing and murdered indigenous women:

The committee urges Canada to prioritize the issue and to conduct a national inquiry, something the government has routinely said would be redundant, desp

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