The government spent over $180,000 dollars last year to run the office of a corporate social responsibility counsellor for the Canadian mining industry even though there was no counsellor. Which is actually a fitting metaphor for what this office does: nothing.
It has no power to investigate problems or issue reports. Just look at the title, it’s not corporate social responsibility enforcer, it’s counsellor. “Hey man, there’s no judgment here. Think of me as a coach. How can I help you to help yourself to not murder activists, forcibly evict people and set their homes on fire? Yeah, help yourself to the jelly beans. Those are for everyone.”
Last spring over 30 organizations co-authored a report about mining in Latin America. It documented several human rights abuses by Canadian companies, and concluded that in spite of those abuses, the Canadian government provides those companies with political, legal and financial support. Because hey, what happens in Latin America, stays in Latin America.
Sometimes you just gotta take a break and get away from the hustle and bustle of…laws.
It surprised me to learn that I’m partly responsible for this problem. Because the Canada Pension Plan – and anyone who’s contributed to it – is an investor in these mining companies.
The NGO MiningWatch asked Canada’s pension investment board to divest the 26 million dollars it has in the company Tahoe, which owns a Guatemalan mine where security forces shot 7 protestors. But the board refused to divest, and said they aren’t allowed to consider any non-investment factors when deciding where to invest Canadians' retirement money.
Well if we’re not considering non-investment factors, know what company has a great return on investment? The mafia. Let’s invest our pension money in the mafia.
Between 50 per cent and 70 per cent of all mining in Latin America is done by Canadian firms, and until we have muscular laws and regulations to keep them in line, they will continue to make terrible ambassadors for our country. Even worse than Robin Thicke.
This video originally appeared on the Toronto Star.