MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Canada's Indigenous Rights record slammed, as Norway revises upwards is corporate social responsiblity policy

Published by MAC on 2009-02-10

With the dubious backing of the Philippines, the UK and Zambia, strong criticism has been made by several states of Canada's record on observing Indigenous Peoples' rights.

UK-listed mining companies are the most powerful in the global sector. But few observers doubt that Canadian outfits - not only its numerous "juniors" but also Barrick, the world's biggest gold miner -commit more rights violations than those from any other country, whether at home or abroad.

Among the states delivering judgment on Canada at last week's UN Human Rights Council hearings - (and with more moral authority than most) was Norway.

Last month the Norwegian government not only threw Barrick off its pension fund portfolio, but also issued an updated policy requiring observance of "human rights, decent working conditions, the environment and anti-corruption" around the world.

Canada's Record on Indigenous Rights Questioned at UN Human Rights Council

CNW Telbec

4th February 2009

The international community has sent a strong message that the Government of Canada must do more to uphold the human rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Canada's human rights record was reviewed by the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday, February 3 as part of the new Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process.

Of the 45 states that spoke during the three -hour session, 30 raised concerns about the rights of Indigenous peoples. Some of the strongest recommendations came from states that have traditionally allied with Canada in the promotion of human rights.

The United Kingdom, for example, recommended that Canada give its "highest priority" to addressing "fundamental inequalities" between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people including through "resolution of land claims and reconciliation of governance and self-government."

The governments of Norway and Denmark called on Canada to reconsider its opposition to the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Norwegian representative said, "We believe the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is unique as a universal framework for improving implementation of existing rights of Indigenous peoples in all countries of the world."

The government of Norway also called for "comprehensive reporting and statistical analysis of the scale and character of violence against Indigenous women so that a national strategy can be initiated in consultation with Indigenous representatives to respond to the severity of this issue."

Switzerland expressed concern over the lengthy process for resolving Indigenous land disputes and the concessions demanded by the government as a condition for settling claims. Switzerland urged Canada to "redouble its efforts" to resolve land disputes and to improve the mechanisms for doing so.

Canada was also questioned about the rights of Indigenous peoples by states with close economic ties. The government of the Philippines asked, "Is there specific legislation which covers mining activities in lands claimed by Indigenous communities? What mechanisms are in place to resolve possible disputes between private corporations, local and federal government andIndigenous communities in this regard?"

Twenty-three states did not have a chance to speak because of time constraints. They have submitted questions and recommendations in writing. For example, Zambia recommended Canada "take steps to review its position on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, consistent with the principal of international cooperation and the protection of the international human rights system as a whole."

Canada failed to consult with Indigenous peoples' organizations and domestic human rights groups before submitting its report to the Human Rights Council. Such consultation is recommended by the UPR process. Unfortunately, the failure to hold consultations was not made clear in Canada's report or in yesterday's session, which led some states to congratulate Canada on its consultations.

"The government is working with Aboriginal communities to agree on priorities," John Sims, the Deputy Minister of Justice, told the UN Human Rights Council. "The challenges are enormous. The scale of issues to confront is vast and many of the issues are technically very complex but we're moving ahead on many fronts: education, entrepreneurship, economic development, land claims, safe drinking water and so on."

Indigenous peoples' organizations and human rights groups are calling on Canada to take the recommendations of the UPR seriously and to engage constructively with Indigenous peoples and civil society to ensure their implementation.

The report of the Council's UPR Working Group will be released on Thursday, February 5. The Government of Canada will have until June to respond.

Video recordings of the session and related documents can be found online at: http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/archive.asp?go=090203


Corporate social responsibility abroad

Norwegian government

Press release

23rd January 2009

http://www.regjeringen.no/en/dep/ud/press/News/2009/social_responsibility_abroad.html?id=543620

Today the Government launched its first white paper on corporate social responsibility in a globalised economy. "The responsibility of policy makers and the business sector to ensure decent working conditions does not stop at the Norwegian border," said Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.

The white paper clarifies the responsibility companies have as regards human rights, decent working conditions, the environment and anti-corruption. The Government and the Foreign Service will intensify their efforts by enhancing advisory services, cooperation and dialogue with the business sector.

"The Government will propose amendments to the Accounting Act that extend the duty of Norwegian companies to provide information on what they are doing to implement ethical guidelines. It also intends to strengthen the Norwegian national contact point for the OECD's guidelines for multinational companies, which is tasked with promoting the guidelines and dealing with cases of alleged breaches. A number of other measures will also be continued and strengthened," said Minister of Trade and Industry Sylvia Brustad.

The Government underlines that the Norwegian authorities are themselves responsible for taking ethical concerns into account and behaving responsibly, and that the State must show social responsibility owner, investor, purchaser and administrator of development assistance funds.

"This white paper reflects the active efforts being made by the Government to promote a more binding international framework for corporate social responsibility abroad, human rights, and labour and environmental standards," Minister of the Environment and International Development Erik Solheim pointed out.

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