Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bill C-300 fails, Canada fails to take responsibility

Bill C-300, An Act Respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas Corporations in Developing countries, was narrowly defeated in the House of Commons yesterday. The Private Members bill was sponsored by Liberal John McKay, who represents the riding of Scarborough Guildwood in Toronto.

The Bill called upon the government to create guidelines for responsible behavior for Canadian mining, oil and gas companies operating overseas, and to establish a system whereby individuals could file complaints against companies, alleging environmental or social wrongdoing. The legislation was characterized by Human Rights Watch as '...a modest, sensible piece of legislation that would be a small step to help improve human rights and the reputation of Canadian companies around the world.' Nonetheless, it received significant attention from the mining industry which launched an all out lobbying effort to have the bill defeated. Ultimately, they were helped along by 13 Liberals who managed to skip yesterday's vote, notably Michael Ignatieff and Gerard Kennedy.

While Socially Responsible Investors use engagement as a tool to push companies to improve their behavior, we recognize that public policy and regulation also have a significant role to play. Ken Neumann, National Director for Canada of the United Steelworkers, commented "Through our long term international connections, we have witnessed the negligence and abuse that some Canadian mining companies use to exploit workers and communities and degrade the environment in developing countries. The Liberal party, and especially Michael Ignatieff, displayed an astonishing lack of commitment to one of their own member's efforts to do the right thing with this bill."

See how your MP voted.

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