Aimed at corruption, Mining Assoc. prez says act could be used against First Nations
A new transparency act for the mining industry may go too far when it comes to First Nations, says the Mining Association of Canada.
The Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act (ESTMA), which received royal assent in December 2014, and is expected to come into effect in June, requires mining companies to publicly disclose payments greater than $100,000 they make to foreign and domestic governments.
“It’s an anti-corruption measure,” said Pierre Gratton, the president and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada. “By having companies disclose what they pay, then citizens of those countries can ask questions about what their governments might be doing with that money.”
The act’s purpose, as it appears in the document itself, is to “implement Canada’s international commitments to participate in the fight against corruption through the implementation of measures applicable to the extractive sector, including measures that enhance transparency and measures that impose reporting obligations with respect to payments made by entities.”
But when the Mining Association of Canada teamed up with non-governmental organizations to propose the legislation for the federal government, it didn’t intend for the rules to apply to First Nations as well.
“We actually discussed with the NGOs that very issue right at the beginning,” Gratton said. “And we all agreed that was too complex and would require extensive consultation we don’t have the capacity to do.”
But the federal government felt otherwise, and will require mining companies to disclose any payments exceeding $100,000 they make to First Nations. To allow for some consultation, the rules to disclose publicly payments to First Nations will be delayed for two years.
Gratton said he has not yet seen any evidence of consultations with First Nations to inform them about the act.
He also has concerns information the act reveals could punish First Nations financially.
The government could, in theory, use payments from mining companies to justify cuts to social programs for First Nations, Gratton said.
If it is revealed a First Nation has received $1 million in payments from a mining company, for example, government could then decide to cut $1 million in funding to that First Nation.
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