Thank you, Mr. Chair, and my thanks to the members of this committee for providing us this opportunity to speak to you today.
In 2008, John Ruggie, the United Nations special representative on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, concluded his first two-year mandate by stating, and I am quoting:
||The root cause of the business and human rights predicament today lies in the governance gaps created by globalization—between the scope and the impact of economic forces and actors and the capacity of societies to manage their adverse consequences.
These governance gaps provide the permissive environment for wrongful acts by companies of all kinds, without adequate sanctioning or reparation. How to narrow and ultimately bridge the gaps in relation to human rights is our fundamental challenge.
While the high-profile work of Special Representative Ruggie is garnering a lot of international attention, it is appropriate in this context to remember that Ruggie's conclusions of 2008 had already been recognized in the groundbreaking and unanimously endorsed 14th report of this committee in 2005. I am now quoting from this committee's report of 2005:
||These hearings have underlined the fact that mining activities in some developing countries have had adverse effects on local host communities, especially where regulations governing the mining sector and its impacts on the economic and social well-being of employees and local residents, as well as on the environment, are weak or non-existent, or where they are not enforced.
That was the SCIFAIT report of 2005, which is now being echoed by John Ruggie, special representative, in 2008.
I had the privilege of testifying before the subcommittee in 2005, and I am encouraged to see some familiar faces of members of Parliament from that committee around this table today.
I would like to start my presentation by putting a human face on the problem that Ruggie identifies and then to explain why MiningWatch Canada believes that Bill is an appropriate response.
I was first confronted with the environmental devastation and the human rights and health consequences that can result from irresponsible mining practices when I arrived on the small Philippine island of Marinduque in 1988 to start my Ph.D. fieldwork in religious anthropology. I had never seen a mine or spent one day of my life thinking about the potential consequences of mining.
It was sheer coincidence that a huge copper mine in the central hills of this small island province was owned and operated by a Canadian company, but this fact did not immediately persuade me that I had any role to play in the struggle that was taking place on this small island to protect a critical marine environment, the food security of 12 fishing villages that relied on coral reefs for their food, and the health of local children who were exposed to metals in mine waste being dumped into Calancan Bay.
I lived in one of those fishing villages for over a year and came to understand, as I carried on with my research project, the devastating impact the mine was having on the lives of the people of Calancan Bay. It wasn't until years later that a health study conducted by the Philippine department of health confirmed that the children that I had been surrounded with during my fieldwork had unacceptable levels of lead, cadmium, copper, and zinc in their blood. The Philippine government declared a state of emergency in Calancan Bay for health reasons. This was in 1997.
In 1993, the same year that I completed my Ph.D. in Canada, an earthen dam burst at the same mine site and tons of highly acidic and metal-rich mine waste flooded down the Mogpog River. Villages were inundated with mine waste. Houses and livestock were swept away and two young children of Marites Tagle died. They were smothered by the mine waste.
The Canadian managers of the mine said that the mine bore no legal responsibility for the disaster as it was an act of God, brought on by a typhoon. Mrs. Tagle reportedly received, for compassionate reasons, 1,000 pesos from the mine for each of her two dead children, which in Canadian dollars is about $23.
The Mogpog River has never recovered. It is heavily silted by mine waste that flows through the dam. Studies have shown that it is acidic and laden with toxic metals.
This past April I was back in Marinduque after 20 years. I helped villagers fill rice bags with waste from the river in an attempt to lower the level of the river and stop the regular flooding of nearby villages with contaminated water.
In 1996 I was at Cornell University doing post-doctoral research when yet another mine waste impoundment in the hills of Marinduque burst. Another river, this time the Boac River, filled with mine tailings from the mountains to the sea.
This third disaster on this small Philippine island finally closed down the mine. But now, more than 10 years later, the tailings are still piled in sandbags along the banks of the Boac River. Canadian engineers Klohn Crippen have warned that further disasters are likely as the dams and structures of the deserted and unrehabilitated mine site in the mountains crumble away.
I've told you this story because it contains elements of many of the stories regarding Canadian mining companies operating overseas that we are dealing with daily at MiningWatch Canada.
MiningWatch started in 1999, so I've now worked at MiningWatch for 10 years. When I first started at MiningWatch, I did not expect, as an employee of that organization--I was the original employee--that I would see cases as bad as the one that set me on this path in my life. But in fact we are dealing with these same situations literally all the time, from all over the world--irresponsible mine practices, environmental degradation, human rights abuses, health impacts, and the complicity of corrupt, inept, or even dictatorial governments.
Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos turned out, when he was deposed, to have been a secret partner in that Marinduque mine that was run and owned by a Canadian company. He had a 50% share in that mine.
The other aspect of this story that is common to others that we deal with at MiningWatch Canada is the lack of recourse for the people who have been damaged--the lack of, as Ruggie put it, sanctioning or reparation.
In this case, a lawsuit was launched by the Province of Marinduque in 2005 against Placer Dome, which was the mining company, now taken over by Barrick Gold. This lawsuit is slowly making its way through the courts. It is a potentially precedent-setting case, because the court it is making its way through is in the United States. Just last week a U.S. judge ruled in favour of the province's suit, and sent it to Nevada state court to proceed.
Three similar suits against the company in the Philippines, one dating back to 1996 when the final spill happened, continue to languish and are going nowhere.
Before turning to the merits of Bill , I want to quickly touch on just a few of the mining cases we are engaged in at MiningWatch Canada.
My final submission to this committee on this brief will provide further detail and references for these cases. I only heard that I was presenting for you on Monday, so I haven't had a chance to finalize my brief. I will just run quickly through this, in the interest of time, to give you a sense of how broad this is.
We are engaged in a number of cases right now. The first is in Ecuador. In March of this year, Toronto-based law firm Klippensteins filed another potentially precedent-setting case against the Canadian junior called Copper Mesa Mining Corporation and against the Toronto Stock Exchange on behalf of Ecuadorian villagers who allege that the company's paramilitary agents have resorted to physical assaults, death threats, and other human rights abuses to break opposition to the company's operations.
This committee in fact heard from one of those villagers, Carlos Zorrilla, from the community of Intag, I think a year or two ago.
The second case is in Tanzania. An independent scientific report released just this week supports reports that we have been receiving from communities near the North Mara gold mine regarding serious human health impacts, and even deaths, related to acid mine drainage and heavy metal and cyanide leakage from the mine into the surrounding environment, and particularly into the nearby rivers.
I won't quote from the report, but I have a copy with me. I can do that later.
The third is in Papua New Guinea. This year Norway's government pension fund announced that it has dropped its shares in Canada's Barrick Gold as a result of the Porgera Joint Venture's mine waste disposal into an 800-kilometre-long Strickland River system.
This is a mine that literally dumps its tailings and its waste directly into a huge tropical river system, one of the largest in the world. That waste goes all the way down, 800 kilometres, to the sea.
At the same mine there have been allegations of killings of civilians by the Porgera mine security guards, and these allegations became the subject of a Papua New Guinea government inquiry in 2005 and 2006, but the final report of that inquiry was never released. In 2005 the then-owner of the mine, Placer Dome, did admit in a newspaper article to eight deaths at the hands of its security guards.
Honduras. Tests carried out by an organization in the United Kingdom and Development and Peace here in Canada have shown evidence of dangerous levels of arsenic, cyanide, and other heavy metals in water sources flowing close to or from within the mine boundary. In 2007 the Honduras Secretariat of Natural Resources and Environment fined Goldcorp, a Canadian company, one million lempiras, equivalent in value to about $26,000 Canadian at the time, for pollution and damage to the environment.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and members of Parliament.
It's an honour to participate in these deliberations with you on a matter of considerable importance.
With your permission, I would like to begin by acknowledging the work done on this report by my friend and colleague, Charles Gonthier, retired Justice of the Supreme Court. Sadly, Charles has now passed away, but I want you to know that when I asked him to collaborate on the report we have prepared for your committee he firmly committed to doing so, even though he was already in hospital. He wanted to be involved as this work goes to the heart of one of his most cherished principles. He believed that, in addition to the freedom to access markets and the need to ensure equality between all members, a sense of fraternity is also required. Our responsibility to others was Charles Gonthier's pet subject. He saw corporate social responsibility as an example of this sense of fraternity. I would therefore like to dedicate this report to the memory of Charles Gonthier.
The report you have received was prepared for the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, which is a group of 20 NGOs that cuts across faith-based groups, human rights groups, and unions. It represents a cross-section of civil society. The work we did, though, was independent, and it was conducted through the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law, for which I am a researcher. I want to underscore that although I am the signatory on the report, it was work that was done with a number of jurists, and the findings we came to unequivocally were considered after a period of some long deliberation.
We were asked to look at what we were told were the most serious concerns being raised from both a legal standpoint and from the point of view of fundamental policy concerns about the bill. We were able to conclude, with no equivocation, that the bill was sound and that it addressed, in a measured way, all the dimensions of the national round tables on CSR strategy that remain to be implemented.
I would like only to underscore four elements of the report. And I welcome your questions about specific further features of it. I think that these are the four ideas that have been most critical to your deliberations on Bill .
First, the question can be put as follows: is there undue prejudice to Canadian companies from this measure that will subject them uniquely to a process of oversight that other companies don't share, either in Canada or abroad? The answer we came to on that question is straightforward. Far from there being prejudice to Canadian companies, we believe there is a very close connection between helping to build the reputation of Canadian companies abroad with respect to their human rights and environmental practices and in fact giving them competitive advantage. I must say that this is something about which I feel quite strongly, because it is the result of some years of research that led to a book I co-authored with Michael Kerr and Chip Pitts on corporate social responsibility.
The drivers of corporate social responsibility are not simply the NGO groups, like those represented by Catherine, that seek to hold corporations accountable. It's also the fact that all the dimensions of Bill are risk factors for corporations that affect their own picture as investment vehicles. So the ability of this legislation to provide something like distant early warning of risks Canadian companies face is a way of building a reputation for Canadian companies abroad and their competitive advantage.
The second main question that has been raised is related to the first one, and that is whether Canadian companies will face high transaction costs. Will they face an awful lot of trouble associated with the complaints procedure? Will they be subject to tiresome and costly attacks on their reputations? Indeed, will that lead them to perhaps leave the country rather than stay in the country if they are facing such transaction costs? Will they pick up their stakes and move elsewhere? The answer we came to on that question was equally clear but somewhat nuanced, and it is as follows: no, that should not be the result of this legislation. In fact, if anything, the legislation will provide a context within which credible and legitimate airing of public concerns can take place, bearing in mind that Canadian mining companies are already subject to precisely this kind of scrutiny from abroad.
There is such a thing as a court of public opinion internationally. As you know, that court of public opinion internationally has translated into, for example, the Norwegian pension fund withdrawing its investments from Barrick Gold. If there's a credible, transparent, and legitimate process that allows Canadian companies to address concerns, if anything it should allow them to cut their costs and diminish the possible negative impacts of the assessments that are taking place in any event. However, and this is the nuance, it is possible that some companies are unwilling to invest in the process of addressing public concerns. They may indeed seek to escape from scrutiny by moving to other jurisdictions. The question, I suppose, for members of Parliament is, should legislation be framed to address the worst performers? That's the group that would be an issue.
I'll touch briefly upon two final questions. One is extraterritoriality and the other is the problem of sanction.
In simple terms, this is not extraterritorial legislation. It is legislation that applies to the instrumentalities of the Canadian government. It's a matter of keeping the Canadian government itself accountable for the use of public moneys through the Export Development Corporation and the Canada Pension Plan. Yes, there is the ability to gather information abroad, but that is something the Canadian government does all the time through its embassies and consulates. We see no dimension of this that extends past the point of international law. It's something we can get into in greater detail.
Finally, on the question of sanctions, is this punitive legislation? Is this legislation that would subject Canadian companies to the stick rather than the carrot and as a consequence face them with an inability to improve their performance? The answer to that is no. This legislation has to be seen in the context of all the measures that are being taken by the Canadian government, including, of course, the measures now announced with respect to the counsellor. We have the carrot in place.
The national round table made clear--and my colleague, Mr. Peeling, who will be speaking later, signed off on that document--that we also needed a way of ensuring that Canadian moneys were being spent responsibly and accountably when Canadian companies were failing to act upon the principles and issues. This is not a sanction; this is a matter of finding by ministers, who then turn it over to the Export Development Corporation and the Canada Pension Plan and ask them to implement their standards.
In conclusion, I'm proud as a Canadian citizen that Parliament is considering this legislation. We have an opportunity here to make a real contribution to international discussion. Following this discussion, I was contacted yesterday by a group from Argentina who have been following this debate. I know that groups from around the world are following this debate. The eyes of the world, in a manner of speaking, are on this committee. I very much hope that you will see your way clear to making this legislation a reality.
I have just a couple of questions.
Let me first of all say to both Dr. Coumans and Mr. Janda how much I appreciate the detail of the briefs and the great care and attention that has gone into them to answer I think some of the concerns that certainly have been raised. After 10 o'clock, we'll hear from those who are raising even more and other concerns.
The one question I had that I wanted to give you a chance to respond to is this. There are countries where the rule of law does not apply, where there is a serious gap in terms of regulatory capacity. There are others where that's not the case.
We talk about Argentina, we talk about Chile, and we talk about many countries in Latin America where there are extensive mining activities under way, and where there's an extensive amount of exploration under way and a lot of activity. I think those countries would rather deeply resent the notion that there's a huge governance gap in Chile, say, which is a functioning democracy with a social democratic government that takes some pride in what it's been able to achieve. It doesn't regard itself as a failing state or an area where there's no governance or jurisdiction.
The question I have is with respect to the issue of territoriality. Let's take a company that is doing business in Chile, which has environmental laws, licences, and a whole governmental practice and process. As I understand the legislation as it's proposed, it basically says that's okay, but we don't care about that, and the Canadian minister has an obligation to hear complaints, make a finding, and, upon making a finding, pass on that finding to the Export Development Corporation and the Canada Pension Plan.
Is there a concern that a Canadian company would say, look, we do business in these countries, we have a reasonable record, and they are satisfied with the record, so what more should we be concerned about? Or is the answer that this is not necessarily about whether they comply with Colombian law, Chilean law, or Argentinian law? Is it a question of whether they meet the standard that we have decided, as Canadians, we want to set for our companies and that is independent of anything the country where the activity is taking place might conclude?
The companies have argued that this is a kind of double jeopardy. Do you agree with that? What would be your response to that?
I'm Gordon Peeling, president of the Mining Association of Canada. I do represent the national organization of the mining industry, which represents the major producers of base metals, precious metals, diamonds, iron ore, steel-making coal, uranium, and oil sands, and also the integrated smelting and refining of metals. As well, we represent another 50 suppliers of engineering and environmental technology, service providers, and financial and small companies in the pre-production phase of development.
As an organization, we have a mandatory CSR program for our producing members, called “Towards Sustainable Mining”, which is mandatory for domestic operations. It's still voluntary for international operations. I'll come back to the strength of that a little later.
I'll also mention that I was a member of the advisory group for the CSR round table process. As noted by the earlier witnesses, yes, we did sign off. I personally signed off on it.
I want to talk about the round table and its process for a minute just to remind or inform those who didn't take part in this process about what transpired. When we started, there was obviously considerable mistrust and quite different starting points on the nature of finding a solution and making progress.
For many elements in civil society--and forgive me for generalizing--there was an immediate call for sanctions and remedy through extraterritorial application of Canadian law. For industry, there was a sense that improvements were required but that what was needed was an enabling environment that would help industry deal with very complex on-the-ground situations and help improve performance.
Out of those two end points over the course of the round tables, and in hearing from many experts like Mr. Janda, came some remarkable common ground. The advisory group report of recommendations to the government may have dragged all of us beyond our comfort zones at the end, or beyond where we thought we would end up, but that probably indicates that we were pretty much getting to the right point.
Let me turn now to a couple of those key outcomes, because they do bear on our views on Bill . The round table recommendations did not embrace extraterritorial application of Canadian law or a legislative solution. The approach was a policy framework that was enabling for improved performance of industry and for assistance in capacity building for developing countries' governments, a key point for industry.
The “ombuds” type of function was housed within this policy framework, not within a legislative construct. It was at arm's length from government, and there were very specific reasons for doing that: because they didn't raise some of the issues that members have pointed to around this table.
From our perspective, capacity building was key to treating the disease as opposed to band-aiding the symptoms. If governments had the capacity to enforce environmental regulations, protect their citizens, live up to their international obligations on human rights and indigenous rights, and collect and redistribute taxes, including investing in social and institutional infrastructure, we would probably have nothing to talk about today.
Hence, for us, the most important part of the government response is the commitment to the extractive industry's transparency initiative and the voluntary principles on human rights and security, and a commitment to multilateral and bilateral processes to improve governance and capacity in developing countries as they struggle to manage the resource development process. That was all part of the round table recommendations, which we did sign off on.
Turning more directly to the government response, this may be where we have some differences of opinion amongst the advisory group in our process, but our expectations were not of the kind that thought we would get everything recommended in the report. Very few reports of this kind--indeed, even royal commissions--get everything they recommend.
In our view, the government response is directionally correct. And it is a starting point. We always have to start with those first steps, build upon them, learn from them, and make improvements as we go along. This we see as a first step, not an end point.
The Mining Association of Canada is committed to work in good faith with government and other interested partners to see this successfully implemented. It does put Canada in a leadership position. The path of progress starts with that first step, as I noted, and this, in our view, is an important first step. The government's recent announcement on the counsellor position, in just the last few days, adds further substance to that commitment.
Now let me talk a bit about Bill . From my perspective, Bill takes us back to the divisive beginning of the round table, something I thought was behind us. From our perspective, the bill is not in keeping with the spirit or intent of the round table report. Also, at its very core, Bill is based on creating a legislative and punitive approach to corporate accountability that ignores the need for an enabling environment to improve performance.
By creating legislation, the bill also introduces many issues such as, in one sense, in our view, not demonstrating any sensitivity to intruding into the sovereign right of other governments to manage resource development to meet their national needs. MAC member companies remain committed to respecting sovereign right of governments as best placed to make the difficult choices in responding to their societal needs while managing the development of their resources.
There is also the confusion arising as it relates to standards out of Bill , which, in our view, does not bring clarity to the question of standards but serves to add a new and possibly confusing perspective from Canada. MAC supports the federal government's commitment to the extractive industries transparency initiative, the EITI; the voluntary principles on human rights and security; and a commitment to multilateral and bilateral processes to improve governance capacity in developing countries.
Canadian companies need to operate on a level playing field with their competitors, and there are a wide range of international guidelines and standards that provide appropriate reference points for the CSR-related processes and issues.
The IFC is referenced, but the IFC already applies to us, as it does to everyone else. That in essence is a level playing field, but the IFC standards, you have to understand, weren't meant to be the equivalent of a regulatory requirement. That's an important point that maybe we can discuss further in the question and answer time.
On human rights, the Secretary-General of the UN has charged his special representative, John Ruggie, to interpret state obligations of international conventions on human rights for application at the corporate level. He has completed the first part of his work in three years and is in the midst of a further two-year assignment to bring down that detail into the corporate sphere of how a corporation should act to respect human rights that have been written on a state-to-state international convention basis.
That is why, even in the round table process, we did create space, because we all agreed that it was a gap that was, with the intention of Ruggie's work from the UN level, to be filled and to provide some guidance to companies as to how best to respect human rights in that regard. But that indicates that we're not at an end point in this process. Industry is still digesting the first part of Ruggie's report. It is trying to improve its complaint mechanisms itself and is waiting for the next stage in Ruggie's report.
In our view, Bill misses this dynamic. The bill makes no distinction between trivial and substantive compliance issues. They both presumably result in CPP selling off whatever shares it may have with those corporations and the loss of EDC financing.
The bill creates a huge disincentive to acquiring foreign assets by Canadian resource companies, because if there are problems they are inheriting as a result of past actions of the previous owner, they may well have no time to bring that performance up to standard should a complaint be launched and within eight months of some determination that results in sanctions.
So we see here damage without a lot of balancing aspects to the bill, and the reputational damage can be serious. Yet there are no appeal mechanisms in the bill, and we're not even sure what the evidentiary rules will be.
I want to turn to EDC for a moment. EDC support flows through to Canadian service providers. In other words, when Canadian mining companies engage EDC for a loan action, loan agreements, etc., often that money is a direct flow-through to the purchase of Canadian engineering services, service providers of technology, etc. What then does the EDC decision result in? A breach of all those contracts? Once that litigation starts, what company then would, in the future, seek EDC support? How could the supplier rely on it? Who knows whether that breach of the company might be trivial or substantive?
Now just let me talk about Canadian direct investment abroad in the minerals and metals area. Statistics Canada indicated that, at the end of 2008, $66.7 billion had been invested as Canadian direct investment abroad from this sector since 1990, and that was an $11 billion increase from 2007. These numbers are huge relative to official aid flows from Canada and they do much good. They create jobs. They lead to business development, local training, health services improvements, education, improvements in local areas. In our view, this bill puts certainly some of that at risk. So we do have very specific concerns about Bill .
I want to tell you about CSR. We do recognize the voluntary challenges there, absolutely. We have not been idle in the field of CSR, and we have had a program in place for quite some time, albeit mainly with a domestic focus. We have always had the international aspect in mind, but it was getting our own house in order first and then turning attention to some of the international issues. At the end of the day, industry does recognize that you can't have one operating ethic in Canada and a different operating ethic outside of Canada.
TSM is a condition of membership. I'll just say what other people say about TSM. Five Winds is a major international organization that specializes in sustainable development processes. It initially did a contract for the Canadian government to look at a number of CSR processes across the retail council, forest products, etc. We were not included in that, so we asked them to include us. Our results are that we exceed best practice and we're consistent with best practice in all areas. In other words, we have no elements that are below best practice.
The Canadian Business for Social Responsibility recently profiled 11 different frameworks, ranging from the global compact to the OECD guidelines to the global reporting initiative to the IFC performance standards. CBSR--and this was done without our knowledge--ranked TSM the highest, as “more prescriptive, more guidance and stricter compliance provisions”. We are committed to continued evolution of this program with our members, just as we are committed to work with governments, the NGO community and others, to improve performance in all these areas, particularly environmental and human rights, social matters related to benefits to local communities, etc.
At the end of the day, though, we do respect the sovereign right of governments as the best place to make the difficult choices in responding to societal needs while managing the development of resources. We endorse the development of a policy framework that would enable improved industry performance and provide a capacity building for developing countries. We endorse a policy approach that is directed towards finding solutions through mediation, discussion, fact-finding, and problem solving. This was described in the CSR round table report, in which we think the counsellor position takes us some way along that line, as did the national contact point, in its first work.
Yes, I have some comments, and I'll start with the round table recommendation.
It was for an arm's-length position that had an advisory body of industry and NGOs to it, but you have to understand that function was placed within the context of fact-finding, and it had a mediative process, where it tried to bring people and find ways to move forward and make progress and bring companies into compliance--and for the sake of argument over detail, let's just say IFC standard is the primary body of that--and in its findings it would work with the company and other parties to identify gaps in areas for performance improvement. Companies would be given additional time to bring their processes to meet those requirements. There would be another review 12 months down the road, and the company would report on its progress. It may not have all the elements in place, but if it was getting close, then it would be given more time. Only at the end, if you had companies and no progress was being made, if you had companies that just simply did not wish to make progress or address these realities, then, yes, there were consequences. But it was a very balanced process.
Now, the ombudsman's office or the complaints office administration within the IFC standards looks at it from their process. The IFC standards are written, very generally, to be applied in a hundred different countries, and the environmental aspects are to be applied in everything from desert conditions, water shortage, to tropical rainforest situations. So they have a level of generality, and when you take them to the concept of a regulatory requirement, black and white, CSR, Bill C-300, you're either in full compliance or you're not, trivial or otherwise, and that's a very difficult process to do.
I don't think the bill recognizes just how difficult this is going to be to turn this into a quasi-regulatory requirement, which is why we really wanted to bring that process of working together with companies to get the performance in place.
In regard to the current counsellor position, yes, the government didn't respond, obviously, in its entirety. But even the Mining Association of Canada—take away the fact that I was part of the advisory group and I put my name on the report—when it supported the round table report did note this, because there was the offer and recognition within the round table report that clearly the parties would have to get together in some ongoing dialogue to work out the details of how that office would function, and the devil is in the details, as to whether it's balanced and is perceived to be fair by all parties and the access is appropriate, etc.
Again, that had a process to make sure the details would work out and appropriately recognize the concerns of all parties. In our view, this process in Bill C-300 did not have that type of engagement.
Well, the path to hell is paved with good intentions.
What I see here is a multiplication of dispute resolution functions. My colleague, Mr. Rae, mentioned that we would be in the Federal Court looking at this. There's a national contact point for the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises. We have a CSR counsellor for extractive industries. The sovereign country itself would use these guidelines as a possible reference point in litigation in the sovereign country.
Furthermore, a litigious quagmire.... You mentioned, Mr. Peeling, that there are no evidentiary rules in this bill. There would be an unfair advantage to any competitor that brought frivolous complaints. There are no repercussions for frivolous complainants, just as in the human rights code, under section 13, we see people able to bring frivolous complaints without any repercussions for them.
With all of that confusion in the background, I look at what we have. This government is committed, in its foreign policy, to democracy, accountability, human rights, and the rule of law. You mention NGOs. I chaired Canadian Food for the Hungry International, and I was in the Congo, like , not too long ago, and I see the problems there. Certainly, Canadians, generally, want to help the most vulnerable people in Canada and elsewhere.
I'd like you to just comment on what we are doing independent of this bill. We have this counsellor who's been recently appointed by the government, this new Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor. We've announced a new centre of excellence, a one-stop shop to provide information for companies and NGOs on this type of issue. We continue CIDA assistance to governments to help them manage their extractive sector. We're promoting internationally recognized voluntary CSR performance and export guidelines. So that provides a gold standard for companies that want to voluntarily comply and attract investors.
Can you comment on what this government is doing apart from the proposed bill?