Time to make Canada free of conflict minerals – by Paul Dewar (Toronto Star – April 03 2014)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

Paul Dewar, New Democratic Party MP for Ottawa Centre riding, is the Official Opposition’s Foreign Affairs critic.

Today (Thursday, April 3) the House of Commons is to begin debating my bill C-486, the Conflict Minerals Act.
The illegal trade of conflict mineral from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other parts of central Africa has been funding and fueling the deadliest war since the Second World War. The Conflict Minerals Act is a significant and proactive step toward ending the trade of conflict minerals and eventually ending the war.

The scale of the crimes in the Congo, and the connection between consumers and the conflict, is shocking. More than five million people have been killed. Rape is used as a weapon of war – with an estimated 48 women raped every hour. In 2012, there were 2.2 million people displaced and driven away from their homes.

Bill C-486 is part of an international trend to end the trade in conflict minerals and improve consumer awareness of product supply chains. The aim is to cut off the financial resources that sustain the horrors of war in the Congo. It is also world-leading legislation, being the first to formally incorporate the internationally accepted due diligence guidelines from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development into national law.

This bill requires Canadian companies using minerals from the region to exercise due diligence to ensure that no armed groups engaged in illegal activities have benefited from the extraction, processing, or use of those minerals.

Companies would have to publish their findings on their website and in documents filed with the Canadian government.
The government would then share the report with the producing countries. This would support local efforts to manage and reform the mining industry, supporting action from the ground up. The bill recognizes that stopping the conflict mineral trade requires collaboration between governments in both developed and developing countries, as well as with civil society and industry.

Canadian mining companies are market leaders. It’s time Canada became a corporate social responsibility leader as well. Canada and Canadian companies should be diligent, accountable, and transparent in their operations overseas.
This is as much about consumer rights as corporate responsibility.

Canadians don’t want to have conflict minerals in their homes and they want to be able to choose products that don’t fund war. Canadians deserve to make that choice. But in order to choose, Canadians need to know the truth about what they’re buying. Canadian consumers have the right to know if a cellphone or computer or canned food or necklace is funding war. And then they have the right to choose for themselves.

For the rest of this column, click here: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2014/04/03/time_to_make_canada_free_of_conflict_minerals.html