Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I want to thank you and your colleagues for your warm welcome today. We're delighted to be able to be here. We look forward to having a chance to have an exchange with the committee.
As you mentioned, my name is Perrin Beatty. I am president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. With me this morning is Susanna Cluff-Clyburne, our director of parliamentary affairs.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is the organization that is the most representative of Canadian business. Thanks to our network of 325 local Chambers of Commerce, we speak for 175,000 Canadian businesses, of all sizes and in all parts of the country.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce includes many oil and gas and mining companies among its members.
Our members are very aware of the principles of socially responsible behavior and of the commercial value of sustainable operations. This includes taking account of the economic, social and environmental impact of their operations. They also understand that a single bad apple can spoil the reputation of all Canadian businesses anywhere.
Mr. Chairman, businesses and governments worldwide have been working to meet the increasing social and environmental expectations of their operations at home and abroad. The result has been the establishment of internationally accepted norms, of which committee members are all very well aware.
In support of our members' efforts, the Canadian Chamber has provided considerable input into the Business and Industry Advisory Committee's contribution to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the International Chamber of Commerce's work with the United Nations Global Compact, and the United Nations Special Representative John Ruggie's investigation into human rights and transnational corporations. The Canadian Chamber has also been an active player in Canada's contribution to the development of the ISO 26000 guidance standard for social responsibility.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce's long-standing policy on responsible business conduct has been that socially responsible behaviour should continue to be promoted and supported by government. A process of working with companies before they run into problems, then continuing to work with them to solve any issues that arise, ensures that Canada and Canadian companies are seen as world leaders. To be seen to comply with the highest possible standards is a business benefit to us, Mr. Chairman, which the Canadian business community recognizes.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has been expressing our members' concerns with Bill to members of Parliament in writing or in person since it was tabled in February. So I am certain that the members of the committee are familiar with our position.
Building the Canadian Advantage is consistent with the view of the Canadian Chamber and its members in the extractive industries sector that Canada leads best by working with companies to give them the tools to prevent themselves from being drawn into difficulties in developing countries. And if they are, it is even more important to continue working with them to help remedy the situation and preserve Canada's reputation. Simply cutting and running is not the answer.
The government's strategy acknowledges the critical role of host regimes in developing countries and commits to providing additional resources to them through CIDA, Natural Resources Canada, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and international bodies such as the extractive industries transparency initiative.
Mr. Chairman, as a former Secretary of State for External Affairs, I believe this is the right approach. For exactly the same reason we would object to foreign interference within Canada, sovereign nations would not appreciate Canadian officials conducting investigations into projects in their territories or having our laws dictate which companies shall and shall not operate in their countries. Bill , if passed, will negatively affect Canadian foreign policy.
The newly appointed CSR counsellor strikes a balance among stakeholders while maintaining the primacy of DFAIT's national contact point in promoting the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Some have argued that the counsellor will be able to conduct investigations only with the agreement of all parties. But we know that credible investigations would be impossible without the cooperation of not only the company in question, but, equally importantly, of the host government. It is our understanding that any lack of cooperation by any party would be included in the counsellor's annual report to Parliament and would rightly be criticized. It would hold any party refusing to collaborate up to public attention. This provision is an important incentive to assist in the investigation.
The role of the CSR counsellor significantly differs from the independent ombudsman recommended in the round tables' report and from what is proposed in Bill only in that the office does not have the power to recommend that government resources be withdrawn from companies found to be behaving deficiently. Again, this is the right approach. Our goal should not be to punish. It should be to ensure that all companies adhere to the highest possible standards. Our goal is to set standards that lead the world, to encourage people to comply with them, and to work with companies to ensure that this is achieved. By doing that, we can have the most significant benefit for everybody involved.
One of the unfortunate aspects of Bill --which will haunt any government forced to implement it--is that it poses an unreasonable risk for the finances and the reputation of extracting companies. This is a very capital-intensive industry which operates on a very long-term basis and is generally active in some regions that are located very far from developed and developing countries. Each project might be challenged, even if the company is acting in a very responsible manner. Those who believe that any type of extracting activity is unacceptable will challenge practically all types of operations. This is the case here in Canada and we have also seen it in other countries. Let me add that their policies are often contrary to those of the communities that benefit from those projects.
Bill would provide an avenue, based on a piece of legislation, to those organizations the survival of which depends upon their capacity to make allegations against extracting companies. Complaints based on ideology rather than performance would entail huge costs for taxpayers as well as companies.
Mr. Chairman, the auditing function proposed for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in Bill would tie up dollars and people that the department desperately needs for other purposes. One can only imagine the fallout resulting from one partner in a joint venture losing its Export Development Canada financing. Lawyers would be the only ones to get more wealthy as a result.
Will Canadian companies ever be able to satisfy critics who are opposed to their activities in principle? Likely not. It's hard to see how they could. Yet they'll face the spectre of having to constantly look over their shoulders to see who is, or who possibly could be, launching an attack via the mechanism that Bill would institutionalize. Does this represent a competitive disadvantage for Canadian businesses? It definitely does. Will any ministerial investigation satisfy the party that submitted the complaint? Probably not. As a former cabinet minister, I have to say that the loosely defined investigation process outlined in Bill concerns me. On the other hand, the government's strategy outlines a well-defined five-stage process that includes initial assessment, informal mediation, fact-finding, access to formal mediation, and reporting.
Mr. Chairman, in criminal law we're scrupulous in adhering to the principle that people are innocent until proven guilty, and we take considerable care to ensure that their good names are not recklessly damaged. However, under Bill the damage to the company accused is done as soon as a complaint is submitted and publicized. For those who wish to prevent Canadian companies from being able to do business abroad--including and most importantly our foreign competitors--there's a powerful incentive to make allegations. The publishing of a finding in the Canada Gazette, several months after the fact, that a complaint was frivolous and/or vexatious will be too late for the company's reputation and possibly for the financial viability of the project in question.
Such a finding will definitely not receive the publicity in Canada, let alone in a developing country, that the original accusation did. And the company may face years of unnecessary reputation rebuilding. In the meantime, their foreign competition will be doing the business. Talisman Energy is an example of the impact that Bill would have. Its name is still associated with unfounded allegations of appalling human rights abuses in Sudan, several years and tens of millions of dollars in legal costs after it has been exonerated by the courts. And perhaps most tragically for the Sudanese citizens involved, all agree their circumstances did not improve when this highly regarded responsible Canadian company sold its stake in the project.
The fact is that the vast majority of Canadian extractive companies behave responsibly and are considered global corporate socially responsible leaders. Earlier this year, Talisman Energy was named by Maclean's magazine and Jantzi Research as one of Canada's 50 most socially responsible corporations. Another Canadian extractive sector company, Barrick Gold, was named to the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index in 2009 for the second consecutive year. The index, which is one of the world's foremost indices of corporate sustainability practices, tracks the long-term economic, environmental, and social performance of 2,500 leading companies worldwide, using objective benchmarks to identify the top 10% of performers. It provides a very important touchdown resource.
It's important to acknowledge the sustainable benefits that extractive companies bring to communities. Just as they do here in Canada, these companies create economic and social opportunities for the citizens in the countries in which they operate. They also significantly contribute to the host countries' gross domestic products, infrastructure, tax revenue, training and skills pool, as well as sustainable economic development. The positive economic impacts that these activities and investments have are often overlooked.
You've heard from Export Development Canada how Bill would affect its ability to enter into financing agreements with Canadian extractive companies. You've also heard how government interference in the investment decisions of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board would affect its mandate to operate at arm's length from government to maximize earnings for those Canadian employers and employees who contribute to it. It would also require amendments to CPPIB's governing legislation.
Some have asked how serious being cut off from EDC financing and/or Canada Pension Plan investment could be. After all, extractive companies are large, with significant financial resources. EDC financing and institutional investments like the Canada Pension Plan are essential financial resources to Canadian businesses, extractive and otherwise. The sanctions proposed in this bill could be very serious and potentially devastating for the companies and their Canadian and foreign employees, as well as for the projects in developing countries involved in the allegations. To be cut off from EDC financing and political risk insurance, as well as being blacklisted for Canada Pension Plan investment, would mean the cancelling of projects and the cutting of jobs. Faced with the uncertainty of being measured against undefined guidelines, many Canadian companies would simply not take the risk of pursuing new ventures in developing countries.
Bill would affect not only the large extractive companies, but also the dozens of smaller firms that serve them.
One of the greatest ironies is that while we all express concerns about the takeover of Canadian companies and say that we would instead like to see our businesses buy foreign companies, by discriminating against Canadian businesses, this legislation would do exactly the opposite. Bill would deter Canadian companies from acquiring firms operating inappropriately in developing countries and bringing their operations up to international standards. Why would they do so with the prospect of penalties and reputation damage lying before them? And yet those who would lose most would be the citizens of the developing countries who would have to settle for companies from countries with lower standards.
Canada's extractive sector companies are experiencing the economic downturn head-on. Their challenges have been exacerbated by having to live with uncertainty in the years since the release of the round tables' report and concerns with the government's response. Bill adds to the interminable uncertainty under which these companies have been working. Even after passage, there would more uncertainty while guidelines are being completed. This is a sector that plans in decades and requires as much certainty, consistency, and clarity in policy and regulations as possible.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce believes that any Canadian company operating abroad must comply with high standards of social responsibility. Our message to parliamentarians is that the government should work with companies and with governments in developing countries before problems arise to ensure that Canada and Canadian companies are seen as world leaders. It is in all of our interests to see this as part of the Canadian brand.
Bill could result in an environment of minimal compliance rather than one in which competition motivates companies to attain best practices. For companies that get into trouble because of a lack of experience or circumstances beyond their control, being cut off from government resources when they are alleged to have behaved badly leaves the situation unresolved, the allegedly injured parties no better, and potentially worse, and the company in no better position to take measures to make things right, if that's proven to be necessary. It also leaves in tatters the reputation of Canada, the Canadian government, and one of our most important industries and economic contributors.
I don't quarrel for a moment with the motivation of the bill's authors or of its supporters. The author of the bill, like the rest of us, would like Canada and Canadian businesses to have the reputation of following the highest ethical standards in the world. And, like us, he would like to see Canadian companies succeed in the global economy. And yet, ironically, Bill would push us in exactly the opposite direction by encouraging reckless and untrue allegations and by giving competitors with lower standards a weapon to use against Canadian companies.
Canadian businesses need support from the government in good times and bad. They do not need more bureaucratic burdens, disincentives to invest, and encouragement to move their operations elsewhere.
The government's CSR strategy is barely seven months old and it needs time to be fully implemented before it's judged to be deficient. Once it's had a fair chance to make itself felt, by all means, let's review it and decide whether we should make changes. If improvements should be made then, let's make those changes based on experience. But let's at least give it that chance before we start tinkering with it.
On the face of it, Bill is good politics. However, upon closer examination, Bill C-300 cannot live up to its intentions as it lacks some important context that could do more damage to the extractive sector than it intends. That's why, Mr. Chairman, we urge the members of the committee to vote against the bill.
I thank the committee for its courtesy in hearing us today, and I would be delighted to answer your questions.
The logic that was provided at this committee by those who represent industry--they weren't just umbrella groups, they were people who were actually in the business--was that they were very concerned that there would be a perceived bias if it were housed internally; in other words, in government or in connection to government.
I find it surprising that the chamber would have an issue with that. As was mentioned, a counsellor is a counsellor, right? I say that with all due respect. They wanted to have a space created that would be separate from influence so that all of the issues of concern that you've brought forward would be able to be arbitrated in a fair manner. So I just find that surprising.
I want to come back to a couple of points that were made earlier.
Mr. Beatty, you said that this could.... I'll stay away from the “sky is falling” thesis that one of my colleagues over there mentioned. I'm sorry, but I just don't see it; we didn't have EDC or CPP saying they'd have to pull all their investments from the stock exchange.
What we'd like to see, I think all of us, is fair rules. When you see the litigation happening right now to Canadian companies--it's ramping up, it's not going away--I don't understand how this bill would do anything but improve Canada's reputation and brand.
You know, Talisman has changed their ways. I was referencing CEMA the other day. You would have some experience with CEMA. It was used to ensure that Canadian companies wouldn't continue to invest in Burma. And that wasn't happening before CEMA was invoked; when we were dealing with South Africa and apartheid, that was a dilemma. It was actually a Conservative government that created CEMA.
Some of us might take issue with this bill as being anything but an evolving of what we've seen. I recall very well the debates around South Africa, that we couldn't divest ourselves, that we shouldn't do anything, that we had to just let business go along. Eventually, though, we had a debate in this country, and things changed. I think a smart thing happened with the creation of CEMA as a tool for cabinet to use.
That said, we're still evolving. We don't stand still.
I haven't seen anything in your presentation here, when I look at the bill, that matches your.... I see a lot of modifiers--coulds, ifs, and maybes--but with the bill, there is an opportunity to consult with business and look at regulations, and also a period of time to look into an issue.
I guess what I'm trying to say, Mr. Beatty, is can't you see that there would be many who would argue with you on your premise that this will cause divestment to happen or will tarnish the brand? Some would say that it will actually shine up Canada's brand because we will have a process. When we are litigated against, we can show that we did due diligence.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and panel.
Good morning. Thank you for the invitation to speak today about this very important private member's bill.
My name is Stephen Hunt. I'm the elected leader of the United Steelworkers, District 3, which is all of western Canada, from the Manitoba border west to the Pacific Ocean and the it involves primarily the extractive industries.
We represent many, many miners, forest workers, and people who work in the oil and gas industry. Many of those people I've just identified would be affected directly by Bill .
Before I begin, I want to tell you where I came from. I joined the steelworkers union as a very young man and worked at Utah mines, an open-pit copper mine at the north end of Vancouver Island. I also worked at Afton mine, a mine owned by Teck Corporation, outside of Kamloops, British Columbia.
I have been closely linked to the mining sector for about 30 years, primarily in health and safety practices in the mining industry. I've travelled extensively offshore to visit Canadian mining operations. I've worked in Peru to help miners fight the new disease of silicosis in Peru. It's something that we eradicated in Canada years ago, but it's now developing in Canadian-owned mines in Peru. I've travelled to Chile to work with miners at Canadian-owned companies who are exposed to high altitudes and suffer terribly from high-altitude diseases.
Also, I'm acquainted with a Canadian mining company in this connection: I was an expert witness in the Westray inquiry. I testified and gave evidence as to why the explosion happened at the Westray coal mine in Stellarton, Nova Scotia, where 26 miners died instantly. Eleven miners are still trapped underground. Their bodies were never recovered. A Canadian mining company....
As you know, the Westray inquiry led to rank-and-file lobbying by the steelworkers to make changes to the Criminal Code of Canada to strengthen it and incorporate corporate responsibility with respect to health and safety when it comes to workplace injury and death.
Now that you know who I am, it will come as no surprise to you that I support Bill and I support mining, because we represent workers in the mining industry. By definition, that's who pays my bills.
We often refer to ourselves as Canada's mining union. We care about the industry. We care about how well our employers uphold our rights. That's why we have collective bargaining in the first place and why we care about how those same employers uphold rights of workers in communities in developing countries.
But just as we don't think companies should operate here without the balance of collective bargaining to protect rights, nor do we think companies should operate in other countries without formal checks and balances on their treatment of workers, communities, and the environment. We believe that workers' rights are human rights, and that's the context of our support of Bill .
I have one more note about myself. I have been certified by the DeGroote School of Business as a chartered director. I'm qualified to sit on corporate boards in the United States and Canada. The role of these boards has expanded in the 21st century to include not only the interests of shareholders, but those of stakeholders as well. That means workers, communities, and defenders of the environment must be included in the sphere of corporate decision-making.
The steelworkers did not suddenly wake up and discover that there was a Bill . The steelworkers union participated in the national round tables on corporate social responsibility that were carried out in 2006. We anticipated that the Government of Canada would take the consensus report of 27 recommendations and establish a stronger regulatory framework to hold Canadian companies accountable for human rights, labour rights, and environmental protections in their operations in developing countries.
It was not to be. It took almost two years and the government response was as if the round tables had never happened.
The so-called corporate social responsibility, or CSR, strategy was a slide backwards to voluntary corporate self-regulation by corporations, and it suggested that weak host governments in developing countries, not corporate behaviour, are at the root of the problems in the extractive sector.
Mining and oil and gas companies are the face of Canada abroad. They gain further credibility and identity as part of official Canadian policy through the co-financing they enjoy from the Export Development Corporation and the support they receive from Team Canada missions and local Canadian embassy facilities.
Yet, when steelworker members employed in the mining and mineral processing carry out labour exchanges in countries such as Argentina, Chile, Peru, South Africa, and Guatemala, we find a huge disparity between the corporate behaviour of these companies at home and their corporate behaviour abroad.
Our union has negotiated long and hard to establish decent wages and pensions, safe workplaces through joint health and safety initiatives, and environmental measures to protect surrounding communities. The companies claim to take these best practices with them when they go to developing countries, but our experience on the ground shows differently.
Our members employed by Teck, for example, have worked for several years with union members from Teck-owned mines in Chile and Peru. These miners work at operations typically located at 4,000 metres above sea level. Despite an abundance of readily available research studies on the long-term effects of working at altitude and the constant lobbying by worker representatives in both Chile and Peru, Teck refuses to recognize the long-term exposure to high altitude as an industrial disease. Practical solutions are ignored or they are declared too expensive. These conditions mean workers suffer from headaches, loss of appetite, and an inability to sleep. Exposure leads to significantly increased risk of heart attack and pulmonary and cerebral edema. There is no compensation for workers unable to work to retirement, leaving them unable to provide support for their families. We oftentimes call that “economic blackmail” or “economic heroin”, where workers work because they have to work and they have no choice.
While Canadian companies continue to resist protection for high-altitude workers, Export Development Canada has supported the Antamina mine in Peru with $650 million in political risk insurance.
Earlier this year, in Argentina, the United Steelworkers received a request for solidarity action in response to the unjust dismissal by Barrick Gold Corporation of Jose Vicente Leiva, a labour leader at Barrick's Veladero mine. It received $75 million in project financing from Export Development Canada in 2004 and $125 million political risk insurance. Veladero is another high-altitude operation, where workers live in tents without winter gear, while temperatures can reach minus 20 degrees Celsius. Rock slides are a regular occurrence, and two workers were killed in 2006.
Mr. Leiva travelled down 4,600 metres to meet Barrick management with a list of proposals to improve safety practices, and he was told to come back in a week for an answer. He returned, only to be met by management, reinforced by Argentinian officials, with no willingness to address the issues.
Backed by an Argentinian law allowing free association, Mr. Leiva and the other Barrick workers set out to form a new independent union and sought affiliation with the Argentine workers centre, the CTA. Even before the application for recognition was fully processed, Mr. Leiva received notice from Barrick that he was terminated without cause. The cause was that Mr. Leiva and his members had exercised their rights and contested unfair practices at the Barrick mine. Mr. Leiva was recently reinstated, not through any sudden epiphany on the part of Barrick, but because national and international pressure was brought to bear.
The story of Jose Leiva and his members once again proves the adage that we have turned to time and time again as we have fought for dignity and safety in Canadian mines: a mining company is only as good as its opposition. Without a tool like Bill , there are no checks, no balances, and only a fiduciary mandate.
The fact that our mining companies have gone abroad has prompted us to go global as a union. We have followed our managers to countries like South Africa, Chile, and Nicaragua. We are building global networks with workers who share common transnational employers.
The knowledge we have gained of corporate practices and labour conditions in other countries is helping us as we deal with the new challenges brought by foreign ownership in mines in Canada. Yesterday’s mining giants, like Inco, Falconbridge, and Noranda are now replaced by companies like Vale Inco and Xstrata. Three of Vale’s four nickel operations in Canada have been on strike for more than three months, fighting back as this company tries to introduce two-tier wages and a much weaker pension plan.
Bill is neither punitive nor restrictive for extractive companies. It simply provides a transparent framework for accountability and can only be invoked when violations become apparent. It refers to internationally recognized standards and ensures that financial and diplomatic assistance is contingent on good corporate behaviour. It is a social contract that allows companies to prosper and thrive, but not with an absolute lack of scrutiny by Canadian taxpayers, who are facilitating their offshore activities.
I want to thank you for the opportunity this morning, and I obviously would really like to answer your questions.
Thank you. Mr. Chair and members of this committee, good morning.
KAIROS, Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, unites 11 faith-based organizations and seven denominations. It works for social justice here in Canada and overseas.
One of the key areas of our work is supporting partners in the global south to increase their capacity to defend and promote human rights. Basically, as coordinator of the Asia-Pacific program of the global partnerships, I was in countries in Asia, where I visited partners and consulted with communities. One of the things they wanted me to bring to your attention is their resounding support for Bill .
I understand that some of our partners wrote letters to this committee expressing their support for the passing of the bill. I can mention JATAM, the mining advocacy network in Indonesia, who wrote a letter signed by 50 organizations representing human rights defenders, civil society groups that are faith based, and also environmentalists. Also, in the Philippines, the Cordillera Peoples Alliance wrote a letter expressing their support for the bill. This letter was signed by 198 organizations that are more or less impacted by mining activities in their region.
I also would like to mention the support of the Center for Environmental Concerns in the Philippines on the passing of the bill. And I would like to mention the presence of our partners from the south, from Marinduque in the Philippines, which was affected by Placer Dome, and also from Papua New Guinea.
What I would like to speak about is the concerns and the stories of partners who are impacted by the activities of Canadian mining companies in their region. Many of these communities suffered or experienced human rights abuses at the hands of the military, who are protecting the interests of these mining companies. Many of these communities were displaced and their livelihoods destroyed because of the mining operations.
In the Philippines, for example, the Cordilleras just recently experienced a devastating calamity under Typhoon Pepeng, but it was not really the typhoon that brought that calamity. It was the subsidence of the soil caused by mining. I have here a briefing note from the Cordillera Peoples Alliance mentioning the different Canadian mining companies operating in the region and more or less causing this destruction.
The partners that KAIROS supports in the global south are not anti-mining organizations. They are human rights organizations. They are sectoral organizations of people who just want to live a simple life and be able to stay in their communities and develop sustainable communities. But because of the mining that comes to their place and the irresponsible behaviour of the mining companies, they want their voices heard at this table. They want to register their concern.
If I may remind the committee, it was this very same committee that made the recommendation in 2005--after hearing the case of the Subanons from Mindanao and the case of TVI--to the government that a parliamentary investigation be conducted on the alleged human rights violations committed by the military in complicity with the mining companies and to look into those allegations. Round table consultations on corporate responsibility were conducted in 2006, and many partners from the south came to participate in those round tables, to express their concern, to register their stories, on behalf of what was created by this operation. Up to this point they are waiting for this committee, for this government, to provide leadership in ensuring that Canadian mining companies are behaving responsibly, that the lives of the communities are respected, and that their ability to say yes or no to the mines is respected as well.
My colleague will talk about the overall KAIROS recommendation. As the person who has just come from visiting the partners and talking with communities, this is what I would like to bring to this committee. These communities overseas are supporting the passing of Bill .
Thank you, Mr. Chair. My name is Ian Thomson. I coordinate our work on ecological justice and corporate accountability.
I think Connie has conveyed to you what motivates Canadian churches for their work in this area. It is a response to a call from the south that we hear repeatedly day in and day out from not only human rights organizations and community organizations but also from our church counterparts in the south--bishops from the Philippines, an interfaith commission from Tanzania. These are where the calls are originating for Canada to take responsibility, for action to happen here at home. They are doing what they can to bring about change within their own context, within their own countries.
But it's incumbent upon us. And this is where I think the bill that's before us today is a chance for Canada to rise to that challenge. Church leaders are speaking out on this issue. Churches participated in the national round tables on corporate social responsibility. This is one of the most pressing ethical questions Canada faces on the foreign policy agenda, and it's one of coherence.
Will we, on the one hand, be promoting human rights and trying to do peace building and addressing the problems in conflict zones, while on the other hand some other Canadian actors may be working at cross-purposes and may be receiving support from our own government in some of these activities? This is not to say that all industry players are problematic--far from it. And we've heard that in the testimony earlier today.
Bill has the full support of KAIROS and all of our members from eight Christian denominations, as Connie mentioned. The bill addresses some of the shortcomings in the CSR strategy, which was announced earlier this year. Actually, it was announced after Bill C-300 was tabled, I'll remind you.
But I think the two can work well together. If we look back to the standing committee report of 2005, there was an explicit call for using financial and diplomatic assistance from the Canadian government as an incentive, as a tool to drive corporate responsibility. Bill makes this possible by creating a linkage between performance and government assistance.
You'll also find support for the bill in the work of Professor John Ruggie, the UN special representative on human rights. He's a UN diplomat. And he was very diplomatic in his report to the Human Rights Council last year. You had to hunt hard to find a concrete recommendation directed at states.
He does identify export credit agencies as one area, as arms of the state that could actually help states fulfill their obligation to protect and promote human rights. He does say that export credit agencies should be requiring clients to do due diligence around human rights. And he goes on to say that in his informal discussions with several export credit agencies around the world, many said they were looking to their government overseers for specific authority to move in this area. Bill grants EDC that room.
Now, this isn't unprecedented terrain for parliamentarians. When an environmental review directive was added to the Export Development Act, EDC complied and developed an environmental review process, and it's in effect today. I think when Canadians look back on the standing committee report from 2005 and the deliberations of this committee over the past few months, they will draw parallels here with the introduction of the environmental standards, the environmental assessments that industry now takes as standard practice.
We are moving into a new field here, which is giving EDC, the Canada Pension Plan, and our foreign missions abroad an explicit mandate to build up their capacity and their policy in the area of human rights and social responsibility. This is, in effect, what the bill can achieve. That is why I would urge all members of this committee to support the bill, to bring about these changes, to find that target that the round table consensus brought us to, as a member of this committee alluded to earlier, which is not where the current CSR strategy that the government introduced earlier this year has brought us. I know it's new, but I think we know, looking at it, that it doesn't address the problems that were raised in the round tables. They will persist under this current strategy.
To hearken back to the national contact point, if there was consensus at the round tables, it was that the current mechanisms are not working and we need new mechanisms. There was consensus around that.
So I urge you to support the bill. I think it does introduce those new mechanisms that will lead us in the direction that Canada is inevitably headed, and can make Canadians proud that our export credit agency, our pension fund, and our embassies abroad are promoting responsible business practices everywhere in the world.
Thank you very much.