Friday, May 29, 2009

Vue Weekly: BILL C-300: A step forward on CSR

From Edmonton's Vue Weekly, an article from Marie-Claude Poirer of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, in support of Bill C-300.  Here's an excerpt: 

Despite a series of consultations with industry and civil society in 2006, the Canadian government only recently responded to the National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Development Countries. These roundtables were tasked with identifying opportunities to address the growing number of environmental and social conflicts created by Canadian oil, gas and mineral companies operating overseas, but the Canadian government's latest CSR strategy does nothing more than endorse current CSR standards and create administrative mechanisms, rather than legal ones, within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and at Canadian offices abroad.

With none of the original 27 recommendations from the multistakeholder roundtables being implemented, Canadians have begun sounding the alarm. Grassroots campaigns were held nationwide as sympathizers began to mobilize for the cause, and hundreds of thousands of Canadians have signed petitions calling for change.

The members of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) are among the forerunners in issuing this call. On May 12, 2009, CCODP delivered 38 boxes filled with postcards addressed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Signed by more than 140 000 supporters, this petition called on the Canadian government to hold Canadian mining companies accountable through legal mechanisms. The total number of cards and letters they have delivered to the prime minister in the last three years is now well over half a million.

And members of the CCODP haven't stopped there. They are throwing their support behind Bill C-300, an Act on Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries. Tabled by Liberal MP for Scarborough-Guildwood Hon. John McKay, the private member's bill imposes tighter controls on the provision of government support to the Canadian extractive companies. It limits eligibility for this support to those complying with environmental, social and human rights standards, such as services provided by Export Development Canada and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and not unlike the Norwegian Council on Ethics, the investments made by the Canada Pension Plan in Canadian mining companies.

Regrettably, Bill C-300 doesn't include provisions for an ombudsperson and independent investigation into complaints from overseas, since private member's bills cannot require the support of a budget. As an alternative, complaints would be directed to the Minister of International Trade and Foreign Affairs, and an investigation into whether or not a violation of CSR standards occurred would follow. The results of these investigations could mean bad PR for Canadian mining giants caught violating international human rights standards. While not perfect, the bill 
is an important step forward on social responsibility for Canadian companies.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

New AI campaign: Demand Dignity

Great new anti-poverty campaign from Amnesty International:
Poverty is not inevitable. The billions of people who live in poverty are shut out, ignored and denied security by the actions and failures of the powerful. This is a human rights crisis.
2008 was marked by a global financial crisis and the numbers of people living in poverty and subjected to human rights abuse are likely to grow. Whatever plan is pursued, whatever projects are prioritized, whatever aid package is agreed, any solution to poverty without human rights at its core will fail to have a long-term impact. 

Protecting the rights of those living poverty, the right to health, the right to education, the right to housing and the right to live to live without fear of persecution, repression and discrimination, is not just an option – it is an essential piece of any solution.

Global poverty – exacerbated by the financial crisis – has created a burning platform for human rights change. Amnesty International is launching a new campaign in 2009. Under the banner of "Demand Dignity", we will mobilize people to seek accountability  for human rights abuses that drive and deepen poverty. 

We will challenge discriminatory laws, policies and practices, and demand concrete measures to overcome the factors that impoverish and keep people poor. 

Add your voice and call on governments and corporations around the world to respect and promote the right of the most vulnerable women, children and men to live free from want and free from fear. Visit

Discussion for MPs and the Public on Corporate Accountability in the Extractive Sector

Media Advisory

Discussion for Members of Parliament and the Public
Corporate Accountability in Canada's Extractive Industries

A panel discussion will take place on June 1st 2009, on corporate accountability and Canada's extractive industries in developing countries. Media are invited to attend.

The event will be co-hosted by:
-       the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability;
-       Johanne Deschamps, MP Laurentides-Labelle;
-       Paul Dewar, MP Ottawa Centre;
-       Bob Rae, MP Toronto Centre.
The participation of a Conservative MP is still uncertain.

Who is expected to attend:  MPs, federal government officials, civil society and industry representatives, media

When:  June 1st, 10:30 AM - 1:30 PM (10:30 to clear security for an 11:00 o'clock start)

Where: 131 Queen Street, room 752

The panel will be moderated by Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada.  Speakers will include the Members of Parliaments, Michael Casey, Executive Director, Development and Peace, for the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, and Gordon Peeling, President and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada.  The floor will be open for questions and discussion following the panel.

Simultaneous interpretation will be available.
A light lunch will be served following the discussion.

Purpose of the panel: The panel will take stock of policy and legislative initiatives related to the international corporate accountability of Canada's extractive industries.  It will take place against the backdrop of the Government of Canada's March 26th announcement of a new policy entitled Building the Canadian Advantage: A Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Strategy for the Canadian International Extractive Sector, and Private Member's Bill C-300, entitled Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries.  Bill C-300 passed second reading in the House of Commons on April 22nd and is now being considered by SCFAID.  This will be an opportunity to engage MPs, industry and civil society actors on recent advances and remaining challenges.

Note: Participants who do not have House of Commons passes must pre-register to clear Security at 131 Queen Street.

RSVP by noon on Thursday, May 28, to Jean Christie:

CBC: Blood diamonds in Zimbabwe

From CBC:

Zimbabwe, a country beset by poverty, cholera and political violence, also possesses great mineral wealth, and lately there have been allegations of government involvement in the theft of mined diamonds and killings of local panners, CBC News has learned.

Under military control since late last year, the Marange diamond fields in Chiadzwa — potentially one of the richest diamond deposits in Africa — were seized by the government from a private mining company called African Consolidated Resources in 2006.

It is an alluvial field, meaning many of the stones just sit on the ground, ready to be scooped.

Tens of thousands of people — doctors, teachers, lawyers — impoverished by President Robert Mugabe's decades-long regime, had descended on the area, which lies near the border with Mozambique.

The fields are off limits to the media, but a CBC crew recently got in by joining the convoy of a local MP. They toured through the heavily guarded villages that surround the fields to meet with people who said they witnessed the killings, and their aftermath, first-hand last year.

Lovemore, a former telecom worker-turned diamond panner, said he saw soldiers shoot some of his fellow panners. "Yes, some were killed because of this diamond," he told the CBC's Adrienne Arsenault.

A cemetery worker near Chiadzwa showed Arsenault a mass grave that he said contained the bodies of 68 people who were allegedly slaughtered in that campaign. He produced dozens of burial orders filled in December — names unknown.

A local mortician also said he saw those bodies. "They were found in the field, beaten by soldiers, beaten by police," he said, adding he also observed gunshot wounds.

The Zimbabwe government vehemently denied the allegations.

"Only three people died as a result of infighting among the diamond panners, and the culprits have been arrested and they are actually going through our court of law now," said Obert Mpofu, the country's minister of mines.

He dismissed the idea of a mass grave. "It is totally fantasy. It is totally false. I don't know what people want to achieve by doing this."

The government also denied that military and other officials were benefiting directly from illegal panning in the fields.

"We are on top of the situation, and there is not even a single illegal diamond activity now because of the measures we are taking," Mpofu said.

However, a former military officer, who used to work in Chiadzwa, and was able to produce some industrial and gem-quality diamonds fresh from the fields with just a few hours notice, refuted that assertion.

"That's a lie.… It's only those with connections who are now able to dig and profit," he said. "It is the soldiers and police who are manning the area who allow you to go and dig, and when you dig, you show them what you have. Sometimes they take the diamonds and go sell them for their own profit."

His story was consistent with what other panners told the CBC.

The former officer also said that at night he had seen soldiers digging and then handing over their finds to powerful people.

"They come during the night, take the diamonds, and share them with senior government officials," he said.

Diamond profits unshared

The government is vague when queried about how much is mined and where the money goes. Some people, like the local MP, believe diamond profits could help to solve many of the nation's problems — if only they could be shared.

After uncontrolled inflation, Zimbabwe's once thriving economy has collapsed. About one-quarter of its population has fled, with most of those who remain depending on food handouts. Poverty and AIDS have taken a toll, slashing life expectancy to 37 years for men and just 34 years for women.

The MP is trying to set up a trust for villagers to receive some of the mining proceeds and is also pushing for immediate short-term relief — to help build a proper medical clinic for example.

The existing clinic, which serves 8,000 people, is little more than a ramshackle two-room shed with a caved-in roof, few medications and two exhausted nurses.

And yet it stands on land that may be rich enough to offer hope of a cure for much of what ails Zimbabwe.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Urgent action -- Ecuador

Urgent Action - Current Action
Welcome to the Urgent Action Network!

Letters from around the world have stopped torture, protected prisoners and saved lives.The power is in your pen - or keyboard!

Your letters are needed NOW. Take action on the case below.

To join the Urgent Action network, send your name and mailing address to We will send you tips to get started and one action each month. Try it out for just 3 months!

Persons of Concern:
Human rights defenders Joel Vicente Zhunio Samaniego, Wilmar Fernando Mejia Reinoso and Etelvina de Jesus Misacango Chuñir

Human Rights Concerns: Death threats
Country of Concern: ECUADOR
Posted: May 26, 2009
A government official has threatened to kill human rights defenders Joel Vicente Zhunio Samaniego and Wilmar Fernando Mejia Reinoso. Human rights defender Etelvina de Jesus Misacango Chuñir has been threatened and assaulted because of her work. All three are in grave danger.

They are members of organizations that are part of the National Coordinating Body for the Defense of Life and Sovereignty (Coordinadora Nacional por la Defensa de la Vida y la Soberania, CNDVS), based in the south-east of the country. On 9 May, Joel Vicente Zhunio Samaniego and Wilmar Fernando Mejia Reinoso took part in a demonstration organized by a CNDVS member organization, in the town of San Miguel de Conchay, in Morona Santiago province. They were protesting against a meeting being held between the province's representative of the national government (Teniente Politico), some local farmers, and representatives of a Canadian mining corporation which, according to the CNDVS, is operating in the area with a license that has expired.

When demonstrators arrived outside the meeting, the Teniente Politico started shouting at Wilmar Fernando Mejia Reinoso and Joel Vicente Zhunio Samaniego: "You, get out of here, clear off to Gualaquiza [a nearby town], you have no business in my town, you are not from here, I am running my meeting". Then he pointed at Joel Vicente Zhunio Samanieg, and said, "You are a dead man." Policemen intervened to calm him down. Joel Vicente Zhunio Samaniego and Wilmar Fernando Mejia Reinoso reported the threat to the provincial Ombudsman on 12 May, but no investigation is known to have been opened into the behaviour of the Teniente Politico.

On 22 April, Etelvina de Jesus Misacango Chuñir was attacked by four men who lived near her in the town of Molleturo, Canton Cuenca, in Azuay province. She nearly reached her home when the four started shouting at her, "Lazy, you are making trouble because you are lazy … you are against the mines because you are lazy." Then they knocked her to the ground, hitting and kicking her. She managed to get into her house, but they followed her in, and started attacking her again. They also attacked her son, who tried to defend her. The attackers stopped only after neighbours intervened, when they saw Etelvina de Jesus Misacango Chuñir being dragged out of the house by her hair.

Etelvina de Jesus Misacango Chuñir filed a complaint with the Prosecutor’s office on 23 April. No investigation is known to have been opened into the attack. The attack is believed to have been carried out in reprisal for her opposition to mining in the area. Etelvina de Jesus Misacango Chuñir is known in the community for campaigning against a Canadian gold mining company.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please create an appeal in your own words [click here for a brief guide to help you write your letter]:

expressing concern for the safety of Joel Vicente Zhunio Samaniego and Wilmar Fernando Mejia Reinoso, who received threats on 9 May, and Etelvina de Jesus Misacango Chuñir, who was attacked on 22 April;
urging the authorities to do everything possible to guarantee their safety, and that of all members of the Coordinating Body for the Defense of Life and Sovereignty;
calling on them to order a prompt and impartial investigation into the threats against Joel Vicente Zhunio Samaniego and Wilmar Fernando Mejia Reinoso and the attack against Etelvina de Jesus Misacango Chuñir, and bring those responsible to justice.
Please send your APPEAL TO:

Minister of Justice and Human Rights:

Ab. Néstor Arbito Chica
Ministerio de Justicia y Derechos Humanos
Edificio Anexo al Ministerio de Educación
Av. Amazonas 4545 y Atahualpa
Quito - Ecuador
Fax: 011 593 2 246 4914
Salutation: Dear Minister / Señor Ministro
Please send a COPY TO:

His Excellency Franklin Gustavo Chavez Pareja
Ambassador for Ecuador
50 O'Connor Street, Suite 316
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 6L2
Fax: (613) 235-5776


Several activists working to protect the rights of communities affected by mining projects, including members of the CNDVS, have been threatened. None of the threats have been properly investigated and to Amnesty International’s knowledge, no one has been brought to justice.
Members of local NGOs that are part of CNDVS, and others who have opposed mining projects and the government’s policy on mining, have been charged with offences including terrorism. In January Amnesty International sent a letter to the authorities expressing concern that Joel Vicente Zhunio Samaniego and others may have been victims of arbitrary detention and excessive use of force. At least 20 people were detained in January, after they took part in demonstrations against the approval of a new mining law.

UA 132/09
If you would like updates on this case in future, send an email to with "Keep me updated on UA 132/09 Ecuador" in the subject line. Thank you.

Business & human rights: weekly update -- May 27, 2009

Weekly Update: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre - 27 May 2009

CLICK THIS LINK FOR ALL TOP STORIES added past 7 days / Principales noticias / Articles de premier plan:

Español: ver abajo  -  Français : voir ci-dessous

* Environmental NGOs say ArcelorMittal "continues" to destroy environment, risk people's lives and displace communities in seven countries
- ArcelorMittal response

* UN Special Representative John Ruggie: Preliminary research template for project on corporate law in 40 jurisdictions - examining its implications for human rights

* "Alaska: A case of global proportions" - Al Jazeera film on lawsuit against oil firms over climate change

* Traxys says it will stop buying minerals from eastern Dem. Rep. of Congo, following pressure from UN & human rights groups

* Amazon Watch & Save America's Forests report urges ConocoPhillips to withdraw from Peruvian Amazon concession, citing human rights, environmental concerns
- ConocoPhillips response

* Sri Lanka: GlaxoSmithKline partners with NGO to empower people with disabilities

* UNIFEM & UN Global Compact: Call for comments on "Guiding Principles for Business to Advance Women" - deadline 15 June

* Bangladesh: National Labor Committee appeals to Metro Group not to "cut and run" from supplier RL Denim following allegations of labor abuses
- Metro Group has indicated they will respond following completion of its investigation

* Saro-Wiwa lawsuit in New York against Shell over 1995 execution of Nigerian activists postponed until next week

* "Natural Resource Charter" launched in Oslo - principles for using opportunities created by natural resources to reduce poverty

* "Mining for Disclosure" - Sea Change radio interviews Bennett Freeman of Calvert, Arvind Ganesan of Human Rights Watch on the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative

* "The Copenhagen Call": Business leaders call for global climate treaty that sets bold targets for carbon emissions

* Saudi women press govt. for greater equality in business

* Nepali sailors contracted by Singapore labour contractor Beverly Agency say they were severely abused & denied food at sea
- Beverly Agency denies claims

* 8 power firms in US, Canada & India partner with Google in energy-saving initiative

* USA: Investigation into Colgan Air crash, which killed 50, points to pilot fatigue & inadequate crew training
- Colgan Air statement provided

* NGO says European gas companies investing in Equatorial Guinea are taking "huge reputational risk"

* Ecuadorian indigenous lawsuit against Chevron over health & environment: - Economist article: "Justice or extortion?"
- letter to Economist editor by Prof Joan Martinez-Alier
- Financial Times: "Chevron expected to come under fire over lawsuit in Ecuador" at its annual meeting
- interview with Chevron's general counsel about human rights, environmental concerns

* UK: 1st female president-nominee of Confederation of British Industry says boardroom diversity can combat "groupthink" that contributed to economic downturn - commentary says diversity not enough
- report on need for training women to make them "board-ready"

* No. America: Mining Mini-grants Program to support communities' efforts to assure that mining does not adversely affect their "human, cultural, ecological health" - next deadlines 1 Jun, 1 Oct

* Invitation: Reception with Prof John Ruggie, UN Special Representative on business & human rights (London, 3 Jun)

* Panel discussion: "What Not to Wear: Cotton and child slavery" (Amnesty UK, London, 9 Jun)

* Job announcement: Executive Director, Global Network Initiative (deadline 31 Jul)

* Español: Colombia: Orgs. demandarán a Drummond por haber pagado "protección" a paramilitares que asesinaron a más de 220 personas

* Español: Guatemala: Marchan contra Montana Exploradora por supuestos daños a la salud y el medio ambiente
- Representante de empresas niega las alegaciones

* Español: Panamá: Campesinos exigen cierre de minera Petaquilla Gold por "devastar" ríos y aire y "transgredir" derechos de comunidades
- Presidente de Minera Panamá afirma que su empresa es responsable

* Español: Colombia: Cemex pagará arrendamiento de casas para 70 familias desalojadas por alud en sector donde realiza excavaciones

* Español: Pacto Mundial de la ONU & UNIFEM: "El avance de la mujer: principios básicos para el Sector Corporativo"
- Incluye información (disponible solo en inglés) sobre la consulta global; fecha límite el 15 de junio

* Español: Chile: G4S despide a guardias involucrados en golpiza a mendigo en un centro comercial

* Español: Foro internacional sobre petróleo, salud, justicia ambiental y derechos humanos (17-18 junio, Ecuador)

* Español: España: Grupo Antena 3 exigirá a sus proveedores no incurrir en condiciones laborales precarias ni discriminatorias

* Français : * Français : Pacte Mondiale et UNIFEM : « Faire progresser la place des femmes : Recommandations pour les entreprises »
- Aussi disponible: Des informations (seulement en anglais) sur une consultation globale - date limite 15 juin

* Français : Afrique de l'ouest : Coalition d'ONG demande la mise en œuvre de la directive de la Cedeao sur les politiques minières pour promouvoir la transparence

* Français : Nouvelle étude de Harvard revoit le rôle des Centres de distribution manuelle de Coca-Cola dans le développement

ARCHIVE of past Weekly Updates / ARCHIVO de actualizaciones pasadas / ARCHIVE des Actualités hebdomadaires précédentes:

Monday, May 25, 2009 San Miguel Ixtahuacan is Waking Up

While we were protesting outside Goldcorp's AGM in Vancouver on Friday, photojournalist James Rodriguez was covering a related protest in Guatemala City.  Here it is, unedited:  

Guatemala City, Guatemala.
May 22nd, 2009.
Issue: Mining / Land Tenure / Indigenous Rights

Canadian mining giant Goldcorp held its annual shareholder’s meeting on Friday, May 22nd, in Vancouver’s financial district. Simultaneously, hundreds of community members from San Miguel Ixtahuacan, where Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine operates, marched through the streets of Guatemala City so as to protest the corporation’s activities in the Guatemalan highlands.

(For background information on the Marlin Mine and the conflictive relationship with the communities of Sipakapa and San Miguel Ixtahuacan in San Marcos, Guatemala, please follow this link).

The march’s gathering point was the Obelisco, a traffic circle located in the heart of Guatemala City’s financial district. From here, the first stop would be the Euro Plaza Building in Zone 14 where the headquarters for Goldcorp’s local subsidiary, Montana Exploradora, are located.

The day before the march, a press conference was held where “community leaders accused Montana Exploradora of carrying out a fear campaign in their local villages using threats and land usurpation so as to coerce local residents to sell their lands.” (1)

“We are rural peasants, not criminals!”

“The movement, made up almost in its entirety by indigenous local Mam Mayans, reiterated their intention to pursue a peaceful dialogue so as to bring to a close Montana’s mining activities in the region. As of now, three people have died due to the toxic contamination in the local water sources and other natural resources.” (2)

“Water should not be sold, but rather protected!”

“Local leaders assured that during its initial operations, the mining company undervalued local property, created local divisions, and took away the home of approximately 600 families in San Miguel Ixtahuacan. Currently, the company continues its strategy of usurpation, coercion, and community fragmentation, which is why it is indispensable that relevant authorities become involved.” (3)

“We share the people’s future and present. Montana Exploradora of Guatemala, a Goldcorp Inc. company. Development is what's valuable.”

“We demand justice and condemnation for Montana/Goldcorp”

“No to Mining. What will be of my future?”

“Drop by drop, water dries up!”

Once at the luxurious Euro Plaza building, leaders from San Miguel Ixtahuacan weren’t able to dialogue with representatives from Montana Exploradora. Nevertheless, they were able to present a document to members of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which also holds its office in the same building.

“We do not want mining! Montana out now!”

Gregoria Crisanta Perez, one of the 8 women accused by Goldcorp of sabotaging their electric supply (read more about the case here), declares: “We demand our rights because we do not want to be killed by the mining company. We ask the government to please listen to our demands, as we are the legitimate owners of the territories. We are indigenous people, we were born there, and we should die there. But our death should be decided by God, not by the mining company.”

“No to Mining. Yes to Life. San Miguel Ixt.”

Patrocinia Mejia Perez (right), another local leader, is also accused by Goldcorp of sabotage.

“National Day Dignifying the Victims of Open-Pit Mining. Yes to Life!”

After protesting for over an hour in front of the Euro Plaza building as well as marching through Guatemala City’s financial and restaurant district, the demonstrators arrived to the Canadian Embassy.

The Canadian Embassy welcomed a four-person delegation in order to hear the protestors’ demands. Javier de Leon (right) from the Association for the Integral Development of San Miguel (ADISMI) led the delegation. Afterwards, he commented: “Ambassador Leann McKechnie’s discourse is inconsistent as she promises that Canadian companies will respect human rights. However, the mining industry, by nature, violates such rights.”

A few meters down the road from the Canadian Embassy, one of the many Goldcorp billboards that can be found in Guatemala City read: “We invest in the dreams of a developing country.”

Some residents of San Miguel Ixtahuacan identified the billboard and felt it was inappropriate due to the damage they have suffered from the mine’s presence in their communities. Gradually, protestors began tearing little pieces as an expression of discontent with the mining company that has incited grave social conflicts.

Dozens of people suddenly charged the billboard euphorically in a festive mood. As can be seen in the image, Police patrols observed the entire sequence, which was carried out in utmost respect for nearby cars and other private property next to Goldcorp’s billboard.

After a few minutes, the crowd managed to tear down the billboard completely. This was later taken to San Miguel Ixtahuacan so as to show other community members. The final plan was to burn the torn billboard near the mine.

The march ended with visits to the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office, Congress, and the Presidential Palace.

Gregoria Crisanta Perez declares: “We are here because today, in Canada, Goldcorp shareholders are dividing up their earnings. Meanwhile, here in Guatemala, the people from San Miguel remain in poverty. But now, finally, San Miguel Ixtahuacan is waking up.”

For more information:
Spanish: Javier de León (ADISMI):

Versión en 
español aquí.

1 CERIGUA. “Montana Exploradora inicia con estrategia de coacción y usurpación de tierras”. Jueves 21 de Mayo, 2009. Guatemala.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.