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Canadian organizations welcome first step toward extractive industry transparency “Further mandatory measures needed for real accountability”, they say.

    June 13, 2013

    Ottawa, June 13, 2013 –  Canadian civil society organizations that have worked together for the adoption of mandatory corporate accountability measures for almost a decade, join together to welcome Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s announcement in London yesterday that Canada will be establishing new mandatory reporting standards for Canadian extractive companies.

    This is the first time the Prime Minister has voiced support for mandatory reporting in Canada on the international operations of Canadian mining, oil and gas companies. Amnesty International, Halifax Initiative, InterPares, KAIROS Canada, MiningWatch Canada and the United Steelworkers are encouraged by this step forward.

    “This is welcome news,” said Fiona Koza, Business and Human Rights Campaigner with Amnesty International. “For years we have been urging the Government of Canada to move beyond mere voluntary measures.”

    These organizations are encouraged by the Prime Minister’s commitment to consult with Indigenous peoples’ organizations and civil society in the development of these mandatory reporting requirements. Consultations with Indigenous peoples’ organizations and civil society in the Global South will also be fundamental to ensuring that the mandatory reporting regime fulfills its intended aims.

    Yesterday’s announcement will be followed by the release later this week of a draft framework for mandatory reporting of payments to governments for Canadian extractive companies, a product of months of dialogue between Canadian civil society and industry representatives.

    Transparency is an important tool, but is not a complete response to the lack of accountability regarding the international operations of Canadian extractive companies.

    “This is a good first step,” said Ken Neumann, United Steelworkers National Director for Canada. “But real accountability means companies must be held to account for labour practices, ecological impacts and respect for human rights. Canada needs a comprehensive corporate accountability framework that includes the standard of free, prior and informed consent to accompany these new reporting requirements.”

    In addition to these new disclosure rules, leaders at the G8 Summit will be proposing tougher action on tax havens. Extractive companies are among the biggest users of tax havens, which can be used to shift profits and avoid taxation.

    “On its own, mandatory reporting of corporate payments just opens the door to transparency,” said Jean Symes, Inter Pares. “To prevent less developed countries from having their resource wealth siphoned away, Canada needs to support the G8 move to make banks in tax havens publish the names of the real owners of their secret accounts.”
     

    Background
    The Resource Revenue Transparency Working Group (comprised of Publish What You Pay Canada, the Revenue Watch Institute, the Mining Association of Canada and the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada) was formed in September 2012. The group aims to develop a framework for the disclosure of payments to governments for Canadian oil and mining companies operating domestically and internationally. Once complete, the working group will make policy recommendations to federal government policymakers and/or provincial security regulators for the Canadian adoption of mandatory disclosure requirements based on the framework. A draft framework will be released to the public later this week. These efforts were no doubt a crucial factor leading to the Prime Minister’s announcement in London.

    Transparency relating to payments made to all levels of governments by the extractive sector is an important measure to ensure accountability. However, it falls far short of a complete response to the urgent need for mandatory corporate accountability measures for the international operations of Canadian extractive companies. Transparency is only one part of an array of wider tools that are required to ensure that resources are developed in a responsible manner: one that protects the environment, human rights and labour standards, provide benefits to local communities and workers, promotes broader economic and social development, and is consistent with local development plans and needs, including the respect of the principle of free, prior and informed consent.

    For media enquiries please contact:

    Jamie Kneen, MiningWatch Canada, at Jamie@miningwatch.ca; office (613) 569-3439; cell (613) 761-2273.

    Fiona Koza, Amnesty International – Business and Human Rights Campaigner, at fkoza@amnesty.ca; cell (778) 239-5547