Ottawa should make mining companies more accountable (Toronto Star Editorial – August 21, 2016)

The Trudeau government should re-introduce — and strengthen — a bill to make Canadian mining companies act more responsibly.

Canada likes to think of itself as a principled middle power, projecting a moral voice in the world. But in the rugged fields of international mining, oil and gas, it is a muscular giant whose power is not always wielded in an ethical way.

That’s why Father Melo, a Honduran Jesuit priest who is under death threats for defending environmental rights, travelled to Toronto last week to plead for help from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He wants the prime minister to make Canadian mining companies accountable for respecting human rights and environmental standards, including a halt to displacement of local indigenous communities.

The focus on Canada is not random. More than half of the world’s publicly listed exploration and mining companies working in 100 countries reportedly had headquarters here in 2013. And the reputation of those companies has been tarnished by allegations of complicity in forced land clearances, environmental destruction, toxic pollution and persecution of activists who protest mining activities.

In Honduras, the Canadian footprint is huge. According to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, 90 per cent of its foreign mining interests are Canadian. It is also one of the world’s deadliest places for environmental defenders.

That’s just one reason why the government should make it a priority to re-introduce — and strengthen — a private member’s bill that was narrowly defeated in 2010.

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