I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 48 of the Standing Committee on International Trade.
Today’s meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of June 23, 2022. Therefore, members are attending in person in the room and remotely using the Zoom application.
Everybody seems happy today. That's terrific. It's the weather. It's inspiring us.
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Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted by the committee on Wednesday, February 2, 2022, the committee is resuming its study of environmental and human rights considerations regarding Canadian mining firms abroad.
With us today as an individual is André Gauthier, a geologist with Eval Minerals. From Global Compact Network Canada, we have Rumina Dhalla, chair of the board. From KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, we have Silvia Vasquez-Olguin, coordinator of Latin America, gender justice and extractivism, by video conference. From the United Steelworkers union, we have Meg Gingrich, assistant to the national director, also by video conference.
Welcome to Ms. Dhalla and Mr. Gauthier, who are here in person, and to the remaining panellists, who are here via Zoom.
Mr. Gauthier, I invite you to make a presentation of up to five minutes, please.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you for giving me the floor for five minutes. It's not much time to talk about the international mining industry, but at least it's enough to introduce the topic.
I am privileged to be here today because I am sure all of my colleagues in the mining industry are very busy working. As you know, the mining industry is very complicated.
The mining industry is a very complex industry, which includes many activities, such as exploration, development, feasibility studies, construction, metallurgical operation planning, the environment, human resources, logistics, supply, ore transportation, as well as social, legal, financial and political considerations. Working in the mining industry means dealing with all of these issues.
When we work internationally in the mining industry, there are usually a number of parameters that must be determined: discovery statistics; exploration, discovery and operation costs; the number of years required to discover deposits and to develop and build mines; and the tax benefits available for exploring, developing and building.
Finally, this is an industry where the risks are immense, especially on the technical side. I won't list them, but we're talking about some twenty technical risks. There are also financial, environmental, social, political, logistical and human resources risks, among others.
I am providing a lot of information, but, to give credibility to my words, I will add that I have over 47 years of experience in the mining industry, particularly in exploration, but also in the development of mining projects. Before working internationally, I had 15 years of experience in Canada. I then worked in over 35 countries. I was first an exploration manager for a company you may know, Cambior. Then I was president of various companies. In that capacity, I did not work from Canada, but from the countries where our activities took place, which set me apart from many of my peers and friends. I would come back to Canada to talk to people in the stock market and financiers.
I was involved in gold and copper discoveries in Canada and in a few other countries. I also participated, as a leader and promoter, in the creation of Lima's venture capital exchange, in Peru. That is a stock exchange for mining prospectors, just like the Vancouver Stock Exchange. Many Canadian companies are listed there. In the countries I was in, I was usually part of local organizations and I always worked with our Canadian authorities—in other words, embassies—which were always very helpful in my case.
For those with a little more grey hair, I am part of the first wave of Canadians who worked abroad. We're talking about 1989, after the big flow-through share boom that had started in 1984. At that time, the environmental, financial and operational rules were not necessarily the same as today. Everything had to be developed. For those who remember, this was before the Bre‑X and Southwestern scandals, which forced the creation of professional associations of geologists in Canada and led to the famous National Instrument 43‑101 on information about mining projects. We Canadians taught all the countries of the world how to do this. Other countries were not used to working with public funding.
With respect to the environment and human rights, it was the same thing. We have been decidedly forward-thinking, from prospecting to operations.
Finally, in terms of education, an unimaginable number of people and an immeasurable number of countries have been trained by Canadian companies. These companies, unlike some of the American, English and South African companies, were generally listed on the stock exchange and had the privilege and the obligation to consider human rights and to train local people. That's the way it is with all Canadian mining operations around the world. The truth is, everyone wants to work for Canadian companies when they are there.
I could go on, but I will stop here. Thank you.
Good afternoon. Thank you, Madam Chair and members of the standing committee, for this opportunity to speak with you.
It is without doubt that mining is an important business for Canada; however, some Canadian mining companies doing business abroad have come under global scrutiny for the way they operate outside Canada.
There are key priorities for the extractive sectors from the UN Global Compact business and human rights navigator program, which aims to guide companies in understanding and addressing the impact of their operations and supply chains on human rights. I would like to highlight a few of them.
One of the critical priorities that need to be addressed from the mining sector relates to indigenous rights violations. The sector has been linked to the use of lethal force or targeted violence of indigenous climate and human rights defenders; the forced displacement of local communities; improper management or disposal of mining waste, including environmental degradation and damage; the indiscriminate use of water required for mining operations, leading to water shortages; and the use of public or private security, leading to increased violence against indigenous communities.
Another key priority is gender equity. Mining is a male-dominated industry, and women account for less than 15% of mining leadership positions globally. Recent studies show that in Canada less than one-quarter of board members in mining companies are women. Women who do work in mining are generally lower paid and occupy less valued roles. In some places there are limited grievance mechanisms in place, or they need to be filed by a male family member.
There are also global concerns relating to children in poverty working in dangerous mining operations, and issues related to workers' health and safety.
All these have reputational and other tangible risks for companies, for the industry and for Canada.
The growing competition and identified challenges present an opportunity to focus on how Canadian mining companies can respond to these challenges and move forward to succeed in this turbulent and hyper-competitive global environment. It is no longer enough to be reactive and enter the crisis in damage control mode. Businesses can no longer expect sustained competitive advantage by focusing on financial performance only.
Canadian mining companies must be proactive in ensuring their ESG strategy is integrated in all their operations across the world. This must be authentic. Anything less will likely signal greenwashing.
Mining companies are no longer able to claim ignorance or say that they are not responsible for the actions of contractors or their supply chains. Parent companies are increasingly being held accountable. Canadian mining companies abroad must pay attention to their global supply chain and conduct due diligence on who they do business with.
There have been reports of under-reporting and an absence of investigations on human rights violations. Disclosure and transparency will increase trust and confidence. Canadian mining companies should be required to report not just on financial and environmental dimensions, but also on human rights and social issues. The Canadian mining industry must operate abroad in the same way and under the same regulatory scrutiny and laws as it does in Canada.
Competition in the global extractive industry has become ferocious. Simultaneously, the scrutiny for human rights violations, action on climate crisis, the rights of indigenous people, diversity, transparency and reporting have become a priority for many investors.
There are tangible consequences for Canadian mining companies abroad that are not able to form strong relationships and collaborations with local communities. There is a growing trend in mining-rich jurisdictions where Canadian mining companies have interests for increases in royalties, taxes and larger ownership stakes in the mines. Global lawsuits for human rights violations are seeking large companies that are perceived to have gotten away with bad behaviour and making them exemplars.
ESG investing is on the rise, and investors will not ignore any unethical and irresponsible behaviour of mining companies. It is no longer enough to operate with judicial and administrative permits.
The Global Compact Network Canada can be an important resource for Canadian companies. We currently have a few companies from the mining sector that have joined the network and benefit from the resources.
Lawsuits for human rights violations and accusations of slavery and malicious treatment of protesters put the global spotlight on Canada and have negative implications for the Canadian mining sector. Failure to respond effectively can give advantage to Canada's competitors.
While Canada continues to occupy a strong place in the sector, investment can be mobile. Investments now come with the strong desire for business sustainability considerations. The question to ask is this: How do we benefit from this new environment, and how do we gain sustained competitive advantage?
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you.
I want to address the chair and the members of the committee for one second, to get you to think about the amazing opportunity you have today. Let's think about what we are learning. We're receiving a lot of information. Let's keep our minds and hearts open to receive it.
Since the creation of KAIROS more than three decades ago, and even before that, global partners, church members and various Canadian NGO networks have been calling on Canada to address allegations of human rights abuses and environmental harm linked to Canadian businesses operating abroad. How? Through stronger corporate accountability measures. Corporate accountability in the Canadian extractive sector is a gender issue.
KAIROS is not anti-miner or anti-business. KAIROS advocates for the rights of indigenous people to be upheld and for the inclusion of women in decision-making spaces, including the right to free, prior and informed consent.
It's been noted that some companies have a reputation of mistaking consultation for consent. When it happens, partner organizations around the world have consistently sounded the alarm on the concerning attitudes and consequences of Canadian extractive companies' mining, oil fracking and gas extraction operating in their territories.
Mining activities have consequences more evidently local but undeniably national and regional. Regarding women, mining impacts the territories of their bodies, their lands and their organizations, and has deepened the structural violence exerted against them.
Furthermore, mining activities become a fundamental nexus within the enclaves of a masculine-focused economy. Mining is developed mainly by men in the field, which leads to a reconfiguration and a reprioritization of local social activities that didn't exist before the arrival of the companies.
The introduction of a utilitarian and monetary model of engaging with nature leads to the commodification of important natural environments and later environmental destruction. I can bring examples of that.
The productive process has increased the numbers and intensity of daily violent encounters within the communities, particularly violence against women and girls. Nothing can show that more painfully than the El Salvador case in Las Cañas.
In the last decade alone, extractive mining has increased in Meso-America and South America, leading to more than 200 conflicts around mining activities in just four countries: Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and Chile, increasing the violation of human rights and the criminalization of environmental land and water defenders.
Women and indigenous communities are vital stewards of land and water. Fresh water is vital. Women and girls are vital for the communities and their livelihoods. Water is needed for everyday life tasks that usually fall upon women to perform, such as cooking, cleaning, child-rearing and cultivating. These jobs are socially and conveniently invisible and underestimated.
Women protect the social and community structure of preserving knowledge and transmitting it. At the cost of their well-being, their safety and sometimes their lives, they stand in a long-standing fight against corporations extracting resources from their lands. For their efforts, they are stigmatized, ostracized and, in many cases, criminalized, threatened, attacked and even killed.
Local women are the centre of building a just, equitable and lasting peace in their regions, and large-scale resource extraction projects undermine their efforts.
How can we do this better? I think the task starts at home through strong accountability and responsible legislation. We have to move on. Bill and Bill are the core of solving this problem, and the pun is intended.
Because of all this, I'm here now in front of all of you to remind you that the lives of women and girls around the world are under threat more than ever, and the time to act is now.
At KAIROS, we believe that women are leaders in community resistance to extractivism. Because of that, we advocate for including women and water and land defenders in the decision-making process and for protecting them, because activists are always under threat.
Because extractivist activities cause severe environmental and social impacts, which often are invisible because they happen in the bodies and lives of women and girls, KAIROS advocates for gendered impacts of resource extraction to be considered a key aspect of business development.
Finally, because of environmental racism and colonialism and for many other reasons, most of the extractive mining operations are found on or near indigenous territories in the global south. KAIROS advocates to protect the rights of indigenous and local communities of the global south to be fully informed and consulted before operations are even started on their territories, and to recognize the possibility of rejection.
Dear members of the committee, one life lost and one inch of land destroyed is one too many. You have the unbelievable power to stop it.
Thank you, Chair. Through you, I would also like to thank the clerk and all members of the committee for the opportunity to join you here today.
My name is Meg Gingrich, and I'm here with the United Steelworkers.
The United Steelworkers union is the largest private sector union in North America. It includes 225,000 members in nearly every economic sector, right across Canada, about 15,000 of whom work in the mining industry.
As a labour union, our core mission is to improve the lives of our members. That work necessarily extends to fighting for better conditions for all workers everywhere. Our members understand that to serve Canadian workers, we have to fight the race to the bottom of salaries and working conditions and flip that old paradigm on its head.
That starts by holding Canadian companies accountable for their global operations. By raising the basic standards everywhere and closing the delta between fair pay and the need to respect human rights in Canada and in other countries, we can decrease the incentive to cut Canadian jobs and compensation in favour of operations elsewhere, and we can secure a new foundation on which we can build stronger workers' rights here.
Put simply, doing the right thing for workers around the world is good for working people in Canada. At the USW we do this work directly through our Steelworkers Humanity Fund and in collaboration with civil society organizations and a variety of coalitions, some of whom you've heard from here, and that includes the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability.
It is through the CNCA and the Non-Negotiable campaign that we've been actively lobbying Parliament to pass mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence legislation. As you know, that legislation, Bill , is at the heart of addressing the concerns that are being raised in and by the study you're undertaking.
With all due respect to the work done by diplomats and those in any form of foreign service, I'm sure we can all agree that a country's foreign policy includes the international operations and business dealings of the private sector. Canada's mining sector is active in at least 100 countries. Without oversight of the private sector, the Canadian government risks harming some of its bilateral relationships and foreign policy goals in aid, trade, diplomacy and defence.
The impacts on the Canadian economy as a whole, as well as on communities and individual workers and their families, is significant. Governments in other countries are understanding these facts and are taking action. Recent G7 discussions saw a reinforced collective support for working together towards trade that lifts up workers, businesses and peoples.
However, frankly, here at home we're discouraged to see the Canadian government pushing legislation. We're talking about Bill now, which does not actually create a legal obligation to stop the practice or provide a path to remedy for anyone affected by a violation. This will not stop the abuses.
As this committee has already heard, to be robust and effective, legislation on this must legally oblige Canadian companies operating or sourcing abroad to identify, prevent and mitigate violations and provide remedies to those affected and for damage caused by their operations. This must apply to all human rights violations and environmental damage.
Some might suggest to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, but as you may be aware, the experience of a similar law in the U.K. and other jurisdictions shows that modern slavery acts and the reporting only requirements have not brought the change they promised. Worse, when compared to the effective changes proposed in legislation before the House, for example, the corporate responsibility to protect human rights act, passing Bill could actually hurt the movement towards increased corporate accountability by being pitched as enough and used as an excuse to stop further work on this file.
Another more effective course of action would be to finally give the Canadian ombudsperson for responsible enterprise the investigative and enforcement powers she needs to effectively do the job she's been tasked with doing. Again, another bill before the House, Bill , would be a step in the right direction in terms of that goal.
In advance of any questions, I would like to close on this point. We all understand that jobs and increased compensation rely on corporate success and profitability. It's not about deciding between doing the right thing or making a profit, because as we watch global awareness and the focus on corporate accountability rise, these goals are increasingly connected.
I am pleased to say that, as of today, the standards of the Canadian ministry industry are among the highest in the world and that the industry is appreciated in the countries where it operates. I speak from experience in at least 15 countries.
Of course, there are issues, but it's important to distinguish between the exploration and extraction sides. They are almost two separate industries. Generally, extraction touches on all the activities I listed earlier. You're generally going to generate net cash flow.
The Canadian mining industry consists of over 1,500 junior companies, working around the world. These junior companies are companies that are not involved in production, but in exploration. The junior companies are trying to do a good job overseas, but what happens when the money is unfortunately no longer available? We live in a time when everyone is able to fund their activities easily, but, when funding is no longer available, the result is what happened to Canadian companies: they are not necessarily able to finish their activities diligently.
The environmental and social damage is obviously minimal. Aside from a few drill holes, exploration does not really result in significant environmental damage. For—
For Canadian mining companies operating abroad, respect for human rights is more than essential. They go even further than what the rules of the stock market dictate.
I'll give you an example.
Suppose a mine is built in a town the size of Val-d'Or, with about 50,000 people. The workers are going to have benefits, and they're going to work under fantastic human conditions, on par with those in a developed country. People will have enough money to buy a car, for example. However, if the mine is built near a town that doesn't have electricity yet, it's going to create jealousy in the community.
Unfortunately, this is a very difficult problem to solve. All mining companies have pretty much the same problem. To find a solution, we have to work with local governments. That's why it's difficult to set certain standards in countries where those kinds of standards are not usually imposed. So we have to find a middle ground.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I want to thank all the witnesses for their testimony and for helping us with this study.
I'm going to come to you in entirely good faith and with some open questions. I've been working on this in my role as parliamentary secretary for the , and we're keenly aware of the fact that improvements need to be made, as well as of the economic contributions that the mining sector makes.
I'm going to turn to Ms. Dhalla first. You used one word, which is competitiveness.
When we relaunched the responsible business conduct strategy, we revised it and we felt it was an improvement. We attached an attestation whereby they must agree to this responsible business conduct in order to avail themselves of the trade commissioner services. We created the CORE. We're the only country in the world that has an ombudsperson. I appreciate that people have concerns—they've been expressed today—that the ombudsperson needs greater powers, but we have an ombudsperson. That's a good start.
I'll say to you in all candour that when I've been in places like South Africa for Indaba, I've talked about these great things and how I think it makes Canadian mining entities more attractive for those investors that you said want legitimate good actions on the part of corporate actors. I've received push-back, to be blunt.
I'm wondering how you could help me and our government deal with some of that push-back. For the many people who say to me that these are steps in the right direction, there are still those who say to me that when we're dealing with entities like China in a race for critical minerals on a continent like Africa, a lot of the gloves are off. I would like us to hold ourselves to a better standard than that.
I want your best pitch as to how we should be making that pitch to Canadian companies.
I think the ESG numbers are in the trillions. Institutional investors all the way down to individual investors want to invest in ESG. We're talking about trillions, and it continues to grow.
One challenge with having these programs that you speak about is that they are aspirational. There are not a lot of sanctions. If I don't do this, if I don't produce a report or if I don't meet these metrics, there are no sanctions, really. That's one way to look at it.
The other thing is we have to decide if we are going to operate differently. Not being as bad as the bad guy doesn't really make anyone the good guy, if you know what I mean. Basically, what we have to do is say, “This is how Canada operates.” We have a stellar reputation. Canada has a great reputation for being all kinds of wonderful things. Do we want to protect that, and how?
The EU has.... Somebody mentioned critical metals and minerals. Do we want to have legislation? Why don't we have that?
I think it's important for us to look ahead. A lot of industries are being affected by this. They are producing integrated reports. There is going to be a requirement to report on all three dimensions—the environmental, social and financial. We are seeing that in the global financial markets.
We can either get ahead of the curve and say, “This is how we do business,” and stick to it and find a way to be competitive within those new parameters, or we say we're just going to continue on as long as we can and just milk it.
Sadly, we are working here in a responsive way. If we were really aware and acting according to the legislation, we have to accept free, prior and informed consent. We have to invite everyone to the table and listen to them, and if the answer is no, the answer is no, not on my land.
I will give you an example. Do you want mining activities in your backyard without consent, knowing that it is going to happen? Having the right to say no, you would like it to be respected.
I would say that it's the same happening at home and happening abroad. As the person before me said, we have to be consistent. If we have this idea of not in my backyard but in anybody else's backyard is okay, we are wrong. Let's not react; let's check this work with legislation that works according to the signatures that we gave.
If we agree, we compromise, and we are in favour of respecting indigenous opinions and their livelihoods. We have to accept that maybe they are going to reject the project. Maybe they are thinking of development in a different way; maybe they don't want pollution and violence; maybe they want something different; maybe they want a car but in a different way.
That's my invitation, and that's my message here, to be coherent in the way we work at home and work better at home, by the way, and then work accordingly abroad, respecting the possibilities of a no, of a rejection. Let's not react later, like, “Oops, there was something wrong, let's see what we do.” Let's avoid that. That's the idea.
From my personal experience and my experience over the 18-odd years I was at Cambior, we worked quite well in general with the mining industry.
To be honest, I would tell you that, when you come to a country where you don't speak the language, you obviously rely on people you trust. So we would take some of the people who worked with us for the first two or three years. After that, we would try to keep it at no more than 5% Canadian workers to about 90% to 95% local workers.
That's also the proportion we were trying to maintain across industry. I'm thinking of service companies such as geophysics, drilling or laboratories, for example.
In this regard, I certainly have more experience in Chile, Peru, Colombia, Argentina and Brazil. Unfortunately, it may not be as fashionable to talk about it now, but in the six years I spent in China, we had roughly the same ratios, even though it was more difficult to speak a Chinese language than Portuguese or Spanish.
I can speak from my opinion or I can show you facts. We have more than 500 different conflicts going on in the entire southern continent—Meso-America and South America.
That's a fact. It's not an opinion. It's happening right now in the courts of different countries and in the field.
Sometimes it could be harmonious from the exterior, because our countries are looking for income and finding some ways to get some income. Part of that is monetizing nature. The consequences of that are experienced by the communities. The communities are going out to the streets, mining sites and exploration sites and saying “no”, or showing the results of this.
One of our partners last year published a report on 11 cases of mining activities in different countries, from El Salvador to Argentina. They are inspiring and terrible. You can see persecution, pollution, contamination, health risks and evident harm in their bodies because of the pollution.
What can I tell you? My opinion is that it's terrible. I think it's not as good as it shows.
The fact is that many hundreds and thousands of communities are out there fighting against mining. We cannot hide that under the rug. It's happening now. Just look at it.
We can do better. That's the thing. We can do much better, if that's the interest.
I cannot give you an exact number right now. I don't think there is any pride in saying there are very few. One is one too many.
My own management does not recommend that I mention numbers. I will respect the authority of my bosses, who say to not name names.
Only one is one too many. We can talk about Jachal in San Juan, Argentina. That's a Canadian company. We can talk about Catamarca in Argentina, where there's another Canadian company. We can talk about Rio Blanco. We can talk about El Salvador, where a pregnant woman was killed being a water defender. Come on. What is going on?
One is one too many. If I say “only two”, it's too many. If we want the numbers right now, the environmental justice website shows you all the conflicts in the world. You can focus on the continent, and it's on fire.
There is no pride in saying that there are only a few.
: Gracias. Me gusta mucho Costa Rica
Dr. Silvia Vasquez-Olguin: It's a beautiful country.
Mr. Richard Cannings: If I have some time left, I will turn to Ms. Gingrich, with the steelworkers.
Thank you to the steelworkers for all you do. It's a very important voice in my riding, in the mining industry, with the Teck smelter in Trail. I appreciate their work a lot.
I'm wondering if you could expand again on what I've been asking of Ms. Vasquez-Olguin in terms of what we need to do, and why the bills that are before us are important. One of the other witnesses, Ms. Dhalla, said that Canadian companies need to do abroad what they do here, and be held to the same standards.
First of all—I apologize to others who have commented —all self-respecting Canadian companies work according to Canadian standards. Even though there are habits in other countries that are very different from ours, Canadian companies work according to Canadian standards.
Next, I heard the cases of the Rio Blanco project and mines in the Cajamarca region being cited. As far as I know, these are not Canadian companies.
With respect to the Colombian case, I repeat that there are many mining companies, and some may have a Canadian shareholder, but they are still what I call artisanal companies. It's pretty obvious when you see their facilities. It's artisanal. It may be a simple mill, but it's not representative of large Canadian companies; it's totally different. I am telling you, they are two different worlds.
However, some countries don't tolerate Canadian companies working according to, let's say, artisanal standards.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to say thank you to all the participants for their testimony today.
Take a look at what we're doing. We're studying Canadian mining companies abroad and what they are doing as it relates to the environment, labour and a number of practices. We've heard testimony already that there are some pretty bad things happening out there.
What came to mind for me—I'm from Sault Ste. Marie in northern Ontario—is that we have a thing called the Ring of Fire in northern Ontario, which everyone, I think, in Canada knows about. It's like an unlimited potential with critical minerals. A number of companies have been interested in this and gone through some processes, the most recent of which was Noront.
Noront has just been purchased by Wyloo, from Australia. They're going through the processes, and rightly so. They have to do federal and provincial environmental assessments. They have to engage with the indigenous communities around the Ring of Fire and a lot of the communities that would feed into it as well, including Sault Ste. Marie. There are a number of stringent requirements that a Canadian mine has to and ought to meet to begin operations, including labour practices and such.
When they deal with the indigenous communities, they start talking about community benefits and how those indigenous communities can get work and have other opportunities to build their skills through skill development and whatnot.
About 50% of all mining companies are headquartered here in Canada. Then we take a look at what Canadian companies are doing abroad, and they're guided by the towards sustainable mining standard of the Mining Association of Canada. It's a program that is mandatory for the companies that belong to it here in Canada, but it is voluntary when they go abroad.
Madam Chair, through you to our presenters, could they please comment on that program, which the trade commission services here and abroad try to promote with these mining companies? What are the advantages and disadvantages of requiring all Canadian mining firms operating abroad to meet these standards?
I'll start with the United Steelworkers, and then we can go around the floor. If you can, keep your comments brief so that everyone can get a chance.
I'll start with Meg first.
Regarding the towards sustainable mining initiative, it is important to have something that comes from outside of industry actors, which is why we support stricter and more comprehensive due diligence legislation. Voluntary standards can be useful. We work with IRMA and other responsible mining initiatives, but they wouldn't be entirely dominated by industry, and they would include particular labour rights and so on.
In terms of our position, we think that actually having legislated due diligence is the best way of ensuring that mining companies act as they should abroad, and that there's recourse for those affected by Canadian mining companies and their subsidiaries. It ensures that even if they have good intentions, even if the market is putting pressure on companies, or even if there are increasingly voluntary standards to adhere to.... All of that can be okay, but it's often not enough. That's why we press so hard for the due diligence legislation and actual requirements, to ensure that environmental, human and labour rights are respected and that there's recourse for people in communities around the world.
Yes, I think one of the challenges is the understanding that we act a certain way here in Canada where there's a regulatory framework and legal recourse, yet when we go away, we're so far away that perhaps we may act differently. Then we say, “Well, we're just doing what the competition is doing,” or, “We're doing what the locals require us to do.” I guess the idea is to ask whether we can operate the way Canadian companies operate and find a way to be successful.
For example, I'm a business professor by profession, and we work with companies that have done so well when they really pay attention to the triple bottom line. I mean, they really do well. They invest in renewable energy. They invest in new technologies to reduce the use of water. They work with local communities. The gender equity numbers are really strong. Those kinds of things are happening, so why does it feel like we don't think our Canadian mining companies can do that? I really think when you make....
For example, the integrated reporting that so many companies are now required to produce—the financial, social and economic—we're seeing more and more companies producing it voluntarily, but then more and more companies are going to be required to produce it, because they're listed on the exchange.
When you start reporting on things—not just the good things, when you start reporting on good things and everything else that's going on—what are you planning to do? What are you going to do when you don't meet your objectives or if there are accidents, spills—all those things? We see companies really trying to achieve it. Having those targets is really important, because I believe companies really do want to do better. The ones we work with are striving to do better.
The Chinese are just about the worst in the mining industry, and we had the same problems when we worked in China. It's like that in Africa and Latin America, but in China too. I guess the reasons are cultural, and again there are big differences.
Ms. Vasquez-Olguin mentioned Rio Blanco. The Chinese are there. I don't know about the Canadian mining company that was sold to the Chinese in Colombia, but I know about projects in Colombia generally. I don't know about the circumstances of that sale, but I'm not at all surprised that the Chinese operate that way. That's their way of doing things. They don't integrate; they bring their own equipment and personnel, and that's a problem.
You've probably heard about the problems in Peru; I'm not talking about the most recent ones, but the ones that we've heard about in the last six months, which involved a company that was mining the Las Bambas deposit. It was a Chinese company, and the problems were due to the very reasons I just mentioned.
Unfortunately, Canadian companies are not very far away, and quite often they find themselves in a difficult situation, as the protests are aimed at the mining industry. This situation was not created by the Canadian mining industry, but it is being affected by it. It happened recently, in the last six months, in the Cuzco region, and a Chinese company was involved. Unfortunately, we were in the same countries at the wrong time. So the behaviour of the Chinese is terrible all over the world.
The British that register in Canada have their own mentality, which is very different from the Canadian attitude in the mining sector. I would say that in the mining sector, Australian companies behave like Canadian companies. American companies do not align all that much with the Canadian approach, and South African companies, to not mention them by name, even less so. Canadians and Australians work to about the same standards, but I would say the others certainly work very differently.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to weigh in on the debate about transparency legislation versus due diligence legislation and what's on offer and what's not on offer.
Transparency legislation is what it seems to be, which is that every year a Canadian entity has to examine its supply chain and satisfy itself that there is no slavery in the supply chain. A CEO has to sign a statement to that effect, and if the statement they sign is false, there will be the same impact as there would be if an accountant signed a false statement, for instance. This applies to a certain level of entities all across the country. If you don't file, you're fined and you also expose yourself to various investigations by the .
That's what Bill is. That's on offer. The third reading and debate are coming up on March 6.
What's being talked about is Bill , which is due diligence legislation, which, as the witnesses have acknowledged, places a very significant obligation on companies. Bill C-262 is, with greatest respect to , an aspirational bill, because it's not likely to be debated in this Parliament.
If the House is to do anything, the only thing really on offer is Bill .
That being said, there are two countries that have due diligence legislation—Germany and France. Germany's threshold is 3,000 employees. Any company with fewer than 3,000 doesn't have to comply with the legislation. France's legislation stipulates 5,000 employees, or 10,000 worldwide. Those are the companies.
The transparency legislation catches a lot more companies, and it generates information. Maybe, in the fullness of time, you'll be able to move to due diligence legislation.
Due diligence legislation cuts off the vast majority of Canadian companies, because who has 3,000 or 5,000 or 10,000 employees, plus multiple billions of euros in revenues?
That's the essence of the debate. It's not as though I think a bill on due diligence wouldn't be useful for companies. It's just that we're not there yet.
What's on offer is that we go from being, frankly, Canadian laggards to world leaders. Only a couple of other countries have written transparency legislation. They have rewritten it to make it stronger, but it's still weaker than ours. Australia have just implemented theirs, and we jump Australia as well because, again, our legislation is stronger.
The debate here is that, as particularly the witness from the steelworkers and some of her colleagues believe, perfect is actually the enemy of good. I do not take that view and, colleagues, I don't think you should take that view.
Who knows what the life of this Parliament is going to be, but I'd really like it if, following the March 6 debate, it would come to a final vote and we could have something on the books.
May I say that Canadians talk a good talk. Walking the talk is sometimes a little more difficult. This will enable us to actually walk the talk, and it will bring us forward.
I have to say that this legislation has been broadly supported. It's not limited to the mining industry, although it will certainly affect the mining industry. Maybe I shouldn't say it, but the Mining Association of Canada and PDAC, the prospectors and developers, welcome the legislation because it distinguishes them from some of their somewhat unscrupulous competitors. It has considerable support.
In the 31 seconds I have left, I'm going to ask the witness whether she thinks that the good should be the enemy of the perfect, or if she supports the idea.
By the way, before you answer that question, I would support Bill —which, again, is an aspirational bill—and I do think the CORE ombudsperson should have the powers that are in it.
Thus endeth the homily. I thank you very much.
The information I have is that 68.9% of Canadian companies' mining assets are located abroad.
Mr. Virani talked about the race for critical minerals. Mr. Sheehan talked about the Ring of Fire. We've been talking about the Ring of Fire for 20 years in this country. To the best of my knowledge, there isn't a single shovel in the ground as we speak.
While in Canada, Canadian mining companies have to subscribe to the most rigorous environmental and human rights standards and indigenous consultations. Shouldn't part of this, then, be that we find a way to make Canadian mining companies actually mine here in Canada, to bring the jobs and the contribution to the GDP here and to make it faster to develop and produce here in this country? Wouldn't that be a great first step to helping not only Canada but the world abroad?
Mr. Gauthier, I wonder what your comments are. After that I'd like to hear from anyone else.
You've touched on a point, because I'm a proud Canadian. When I started, in 1974, there was a boom in the mining industry.
However, there are things we cannot change. It's nature. Nature blessed us with a lot of deposits in Canada, but just to take an example of how nature works for us, there was a big project, Nemaska, on which the Quebec government and the mining industry spent $1.1 billion. They had to sell for $1. Why? It was because it didn't make the cut.
Take the Renard project. Then there is the Éléonore project, which is the proudest discovery that we have made in the last 20 years. The owner of the Éléonore mine took the writeoff from the mine, so they kind of acknowledged to the industry that they would never make money out of that mine.
Now, is it because the mining executives were stupid or were paying too much? I'm not here to discuss that. However, that's the reality of life.
That's why sometimes mining companies go elsewhere to find deposits that are of high quality. It has nothing to do with the local populations. They take everything into account. Even here, where we have plenty of help from the government, and we have flow-through shares, which are working well, and which keep our exploration industry going, that doesn't mean they go to development and to construction because that's where it counts. It's just difficult. It's just nature.
Very often, mining companies abroad are making the profits that allow them to mine here in Canada. However, maybe there are few deposits here. I would say, for example, there are definitely good deposits of nickel and copper, if you look at Raglan or in the Ring of Fire and more in the Sudbury area, but this is just nature.
We are a mining union. We represent a lot of workers in mining, so we are supportive of development in Canada. We don't want it to happen as a result of a race to the bottom, or by degradation of environmental or human rights or labour regulations or standards. I want to make that clear.
Some of the things we're advocating for here will raise standards in other parts of the world in terms of human rights, environment, labour and so on. That's also a way of helping workers and development here in Canada, instead of saying, “Oh, we can make a bunch of profit abroad where there are lower standards,” or whatever it may be.
It's also important to tie into our trade strategy and foreign investment protection agreements that it should not be easy to import cheap products through trade deals that end up undermining Canadian development and employment, when it's just not attractive to do that here because we have higher standards.
I guess, just to sum up, we don't want to see a reduction in standards here as a way of doing that.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Mr. Gauthier, it's a pleasure to have you here.
I'm quite surprised that some of the witnesses are lumping the entire Canadian mining sector in with the mining companies from other parts of the world, with the reported human rights violations that happen in countries in Africa, South America, Asia, etc. I'm not suggesting that every single Canadian mining company is lily white—we do have some black sheep—but many of us sitting comfortably in our homes in the cities may not appreciate the kinds of things you mentioned—the risks the Canadian mining companies face, the capital risks, the logistical risks, the political risks, the physical risks and the environmental risks.
You mentioned how some of the mining companies contribute to education. I was born in a relatively poor country—a developing country. I know how projects like this, when it comes to poor countries, can make a tremendous change in the local economy, not only for our jobs and to put food on the table but also for education and rural economic and health development.
From your experience—and I have worked in several countries—in general—and I'm talking about the slightly bigger companies, not the junior ones—when they go in, will they go in with certain social responsibility too? Have you seen evidence of that?
Sure. Thank you very much.
I think Mr. McKay explained it fairly well in terms of what some of the differences are. It sort of comes down to a difference in the expectation of what's possible right now. I agree that Bill and Bill are still possible to pass if we can get the political support for them. I don't think it's a question of them going too far or anything like that. Transparency and a requirement to report are important. Again, I think Mr. McKay has very good intentions, and everything like that, but I think it comes down to what we think is possible. I have high expectations that as a country and as a society we can pass bills like this, which put real responsibility on Canadian companies to ensure adherence to human rights, labour rights and environmental rights across their supply chains, including the subcontractors and so on.
In terms of the CORE, as I've said, that is something we have supported the creation of, but I think that as it stands right now, it is simply not strong enough to be able to do much. We're trying our best to use it in the government sector to see what will happen, and we're happy to try to use what exists, but we always want to try to make things just a bit better for everyone.
We are pretty much at the end. Are there any questions on this side? Mr. Seeback, are you folks okay?
We're okay. No clarifications are needed.
All right, I'm going to thank the witnesses, and then we need to do a few minutes of business in preparation for upcoming meetings. I suggest we don't need to go in camera, if that's okay with everybody. It will be a brief meeting.
Thank you very much to the witnesses. This was very valuable information today.
I'm going to suspend for a second while the witnesses leave.