Thirty-three organizations call on Canada to better regulate the conduct of Canadian companies in the Amazon region

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: PBI-Colombia meets with Martín Ayala of COSPACC.

The Globe and Mail reports: “As Canada vies for a seat on the United Nations human rights council, Indigenous leaders and environmental advocates have launched a co-ordinated campaign drawing attention to Canadian companies operating in the Amazon region and raising questions about their environmental and human rights track record.”

The article by journalist Tavia Grant continues: “A joint submission to the United Nations from 33 non-governmental organizations and advocacy groups, including California-based Amazon Watch, said Canada’s failure to take adequate measures to regulate the conduct of Canadian companies abroad ‘has contributed to the systematic violation of human and environmental rights in the Amazon.’ Canadian mining and oil companies, according to a 2021 study by the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue, had a larger share of foreign ownership in the rain forest than any other country.”

The 62-page joint submission can be read in full here.

Among the 33 NGOs that endorsed this submission is the PBI-Colombia accompanied Social Corporation for Community Advice and Training (Corporación Social para la Asesoría y Capacitación Comunitaria) COSPACC.

The twelve recommendations listed in the report (on pages 12-13) include a call on the Canadian state to “adopt policies to eliminate and prevent the criminalization of defenders and protests, considering that Canadian extractive companies operating in the Amazon have encouraged this treatment.”

The newspaper article notes that the submission names 11 Canadian-led projects in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Brazil, including Toronto-based Belo Sun Mining Corp.’s proposed Volta Grande open-pit gold mine and Brazil Potash Corp’s proposed fertilizer mine. Reuters has previously reported that Brazil Potash Corp is partially owned by the Toronto-based merchant bank Forbes & Manhattan Group that began the project.

The two projects in Colombia are the Calgary-based Gran Tierra APE-La Cabaña oil exploration project in Putumayo (that the submission says “operated from 2012 to 2022, leaving behind a severely impacted ecosystem and Indigenous communities seeking justice and reparations after the project’s closure”) and the Vancouver-based Libero Copper & Gold Corp. Mocoa copper and molybdenum mine (that is “in the exploration phase”).

Photo: This protest against the Gran Tierra APE-La Cabaña project in Villagarzón, Colombia was part of a national strike on June 17, 2021. Photo by Joaquín Jansasoy.

The Globe and Mail also notes that the submission names: “[Calgary-based] Frontera Energy Corp. in northern Peru, which, The Globe has reported, incurred 33 environmental fines related to oil spills in the time it operated there. In response to questions, Frontera said it is honouring its contractual commitments and will continue to comply with its outstanding social and environmental obligations.”

Photo: In August 2023, PBI-Colombia accompanied COSPACC and the Information Center on Business and Human Rights (BHRRC) to document testimonies from those who have experienced the impacts caused by oil companies, including Frontera Energy.

The article adds: “A draft of the universal periodic review report on Canada, issued by a UN working group [in November 2023], made more than half a dozen recommendations on business and human rights – among them, that the [Ottawa-based] CORE [Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise] be strengthened, and that the federal government ensure access to remedies for victims of human rights abuses committed abroad by Canadian corporations.”

Photo: Sheri Meyerhoffer, Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise.

“A Globe and Mail investigation this year showed that the office has yet to complete a single probe, and that it was never given the powers to compel testimony and documents for thorough investigations, despite a federal government pledge to do so. To date, Canada has introduced mostly voluntary measures related to corporate conduct, through adherence to guidelines and standards.”

Photo: UN Special Rapporteur Mary Lawlor.

The UN special rapporteur on human-rights defenders Mary Lawlor told The Globe that non-binding guidance and self-regulation “have proven insufficient to bring around real change for people in communities affected by industries such as mining.” She says: “If governments are serious about promoting respect for human rights, they must ensure business activities do not infringe upon them, undermine or threaten them.”

The vote on Canada’s bid for a seat on the 47-member United Nations Human Rights Council will take place in 2027.

Prior to this vote, the UN COP16 Biodiversity Conference will be held in Colombia (October 21 to November 1, 2024) in a city yet to be determined and the UN COP30 Climate Change Conference will be held in Belém, Brazil (November 10 to 21, 2025). Both may be occasions to highlight the role of Canadian corporations in the Amazon region and their impact on the environment and human rights defenders.

The article by Tavia Grant can be read in full at As Canada vies for UN Human Rights Council seat, some Indigenous leaders from the Amazon raise red flags (The Globe and Mail, Saturday December 30, 2023).


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