(Ottawa, Wednesday, 30 May 2007) – The Rights and Democracy report “Human Rights Assessments for Foreign Investment Projects” released today in Ottawa is a harsh reminder of how far Canada must still go to honour its international reputation as a defender of human rights and democracy abroad, said Canada Tibet Committee (CTC) Executive Director Dermod Travis.
“The Canadian government cannot just wash its hands of the five case studies discussed in the report by laying the blame on the corporate boardrooms of Canada,” said Travis. “Canadian companies who operate in foreign countries are effectively perceived as Canadian ambassadors and their corporate practices are a reflection on Canada, as the Rights and Democracy report so vividly details.”
It’s this “quasi-diplomatic” role that many companies play while operating abroad that has resulted in more-and-more countries establishing tight regulatory frameworks to set the highest possible standards for corporate conduct. Regrettably, Canada is still playing catch-up to these nations. One example of this trend towards greater social responsibility is the US Tibetan Policy Act which requires American funded entities to conduct thorough assessments of potential projects taking into account the Tibetan people, the environment, human rights and property rights.
The CTC notes that had similar reviews been required prior to the construction of the Gormo-Lhasa railway and infrastructure, this project may never have been put on the rails due to its socio-economic impact on the Tibetan population, its use as a means for population reengineering by the Chinese government, and its potential implications for peace and security within the region.
The Rights & Democracy report has added weight to the CTC’s original fears over the Gormo-Lhasa railway, even though the report only examined Nortel’s role in the project. Nortel’s steadfast refusal to respond to repeated inquiries by the report’s authors should be worrisome not only for the Canadian government, but also for the company’s shareholders. “With the same disdain that the telecommunications giant once held for its own shareholders, Nortel has again demonstrated a comparable disturbing attitude towards independent researchers,” said Travis.
Today’s report follows on the recommendations of the Advisory Group on the “National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries” released in March. The Rights & Democracy report may be obtained at www.dd-rd.ca.
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Canada Tibet Committee