October 7, 2013

On Oct. 4, Catholics and many others celebrated St. Francis of Assisi. Caring and advocating for our suffering earth, we call on Francis as a patron of ecology and environmentalists.

Today news is filled with discussion about "fracking" to extract shale gas. Debate swirls about proposed major pipelines to transport oil and gas. Globally, protests against practices of Canadian mining companies are increasing. Protestors are concerned about effects on their health, land, water and animals.

Although Canada is home to most of the world's junior mining companies, there is no effective mechanism to hold Canadian companies operating overseas accountable for their social and environmental practices.

Extractive industries receive major financial support from the federal government which this year created the department of foreign affairs, trade and development. Concerns have been raised about a close relationship between development assistance and profit-driven trade.

The extraction, transport and sale of energy resources are urgent concerns. As Canadian Catholics, we are encouraged to participate in the new education and action campaign of Development and Peace (www.devp.org/campaign). It continues a five-year program, launched in fall 2011, promoting integral human development consistent with ecological justice.

We are called to join the movement advocating creation of an independent ombudsperson for the extractive sector (mining, oil and gas). By signing postcards available in parishes or online, we call members of Parliament to support creation of a extractive sector ombudsperson in Canada.

This office would impartially investigate complaints; assess compliance with corporate accountability standards based on international norms, and recommend sanctions by the Canadian government when companies do not comply with standards.

God hears the cries of those oppressed and in poverty. To heed these voices, Canada needs an impartial mechanism to ensure extractive industries uphold responsible human rights, labour and environmental practices. Our awareness, prayer and action can make a difference.

Roma De Robertis, SCIC
Saint John, N.B.