OTTAWA — The federal government is sidestepping a UN panel’s request to explain how Canadian mining and resource companies deal with human rights complaints.
Tuesday was the Canadian government’s first opportunity to address the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva, which is conducting the first review in 10 years of Canada’s compliance to a major international treaty.
The committee, comprised of 18 experts, heard repeated concerns about Canada’s extractives industry, the treatment of aboriginals and anti-terrorism measures from two dozen groups, including the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International.
The committee asked Canada to provide answers to 24 separate questions about how it implements the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights — including how it monitors the human rights conduct of Canadian resource companies operating abroad, some of which face lawsuits alleging abuses.
“Please inform the committee of any measures taken or envisaged to monitor the human rights conduct of Canadian oil, mining and gas companies operating abroad,” said the list of issues given by the committee to Canada last fall in preparation for Tuesday’s testimony.
“Please also inform what the available legal venues are in the state party for victims of human rights abuses arising from overseas operations of Canadian extractive firms.”
Laurie Wright, the senior Justice Department official who led Canada’s delegation, did not address the issue in her six-page opening statement.
Instead, she highlighted four topics, two of them related to the treatment of aboriginal affairs, along with the terrorism and the treatment of immigrants.
“While challenges remain, we are committed to addressing them, and to our ongoing work in building an open, free and peaceful society where people from diverse backgrounds can live side by side and prosper,” Wright said in prepared remarks.
But at the hearing, the committee members persisted. They returned to the topic of Canada’s foreign-based resource companies and several other areas of questioning that were not addressed in Wright’s opening remarks.
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