Canada's mining companies urged to dialogue over environmental, human rights abuse

>Bishop Donald Bolen

Bishop Donald Bolen

December 7, 2015
DEBORAH GYAPONG
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS

OTTAWA - Dialogue is needed to address problems Canadian companies cause in the Global South, says Bishop Donald Bolen.

"I think we have work to do in determining how that dialogue best moves forward and discerning what our respective roles are in that conversation," Bolen told a symposium called Mining: We Must Talk.

Bolen, bishop of Saskatoon, noted Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si' emphasized the importance of dialogue by calling for a "culture of encounter."

The gathering at Saint Paul University included activist groups such as Mining Watch, several NGOs, indigenous rights activists and representatives of the mining industry.

As chair of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops' justice and peace commission, Bolen said he has been empowered by the words Canada's bishops have received from bishops in the developing world in places "negatively impacted by Canadian mining practices."

Last March, 19 bishops from Brazil, Guatemala, Peru, Honduras and Mexico appeared before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, D.C. to detail human rights violations and abuses of indigenous and non-indigenous populations by mining and extractive industries in Latin America, he said.

IMPORTANT INDUSTRY

The Latin American bishops, Bolen said, recognized the importance of the mining industry to local and national economies. They also expressed appreciation for those in the industry and government who strive to ensure the safety of workers and nearby communities.

The bishops said Canada was viewed as a "mining superpower" in an environment where multinational corporations are sometimes stronger than local economies, he said.

They also linked the mining industry to:

The "situation is tremendously complex," said Bolen, noting "when things go wrong, the fault can often be distributed in multiple directions.

"I know, and these bishops who appeal to us also know, that a significant part of the problem is in their own homelands, in a lack of regulatory procedures and in corruption and in various forms of injustice that also involve their own people."

OMBUDSMAN

Yet those bishops have also appealed to the Canadian bishops to stand with them against abuses by Canadian mining companies, he said.

An ombudsman in Canada is needed whom people in other countries could contact if Canadian mining companies cause problems, he said. Such an ombudsman would need to have "real authority to act against offending companies."