November 8, 2010

Citing concerns about pollution and continued environmental abuse, the Canadian bishops' international development agency expressed disappointment that a responsible mining bill was defeated in the House of Commons.

"It is a very disturbing outcome," said Michael Casey, executive director of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace in a statement released Oct. 28.

Development and Peace had mounted a five-year campaign to ensure Canadian mining companies operating in the developing world would exercise corporate social responsibility.

"Our 11,500 members are deeply disappointed, as are our partners in the global South, who really welcomed the bill," Casey said.

"For years, we have listened to their stories about how Canadian mining companies are taking over their land, polluting their water sources, destroying their environment, and often without consulting the affected communities or listening to their concerns."

Supported by the New Democratic Party, the Bloc Quebecois and Liberal members of the House of Commons, the bill had squeaked through close votes to get to committee. But it was defeated in a 140-134 vote Oct. 27.

Mining companies and the Conservative Party vigorously opposed the bill.

If passed, the bill “would have the impact of putting Canadian companies on a very unlevel playing field versus other countries," cautioned International Trade Minister Peter Van Loan shortly before the vote. "The risk to Canada is thousands of jobs."

He said Canada's mining sector is a leader in the world, but most of its mines are outside of the country. He warned of untold economic damage if the mining companies moved their headquarters from Canadian cities.