If Canada wants to promote peace in Africa’s Great Lakes Region, Parliament should pass Bill C-571, which would ensure that Canadian companies stop purchasing conflict minerals from the area.
Last month I introduced new legislation to put an end to the trade of conflict minerals from Africa’s Great Lakes region. Co-sponsored by Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj, fellow member and vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Prevention of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, Bill C-571 establishes a due diligence mechanism for Canadian corporations to ensure their products are free of conflict-minerals originating from Africa’s Great Lakes region. Furthermore, the bill mandates the extractive sector’s Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor to identify companies which fail to exercise this due diligence.
Each year, armed groups make millions of dollars in the illegal extraction and trade of minerals such as gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten. In eastern Congo, they control and tax the mines. They make more money as they smuggle the minerals through Rwanda and Uganda to Asia for processing. At this stage, conflict minerals originating from the Great Lakes region are mixed with minerals from other parts of the world before they are sold on the market for use in electronic products.
Canada, along with other OECD countries, relies on the resources of countries like the Congo to maintain its technological advances. Our insatiable appetite for Congo’s minerals fuels the demand for these resources. By failing to establish mechanisms to disrupt and put an end to the trade of conflict minerals, we have created an incentive for the growth of the industry.
There is an added burden of responsibility on Canada. As a global leader in the extractive industry, and with mining interests in the DRC nearing $6 billion as of 2008, Canada can play a significant role in disrupting the financial channels that sustain the conflict.
Due to the mixing process, it is difficult, though not impossible, to trace the origin of the minerals on the market. Metal originating in the DRC often passes through many hands before it winds up in an electronic product.
That is why in 2009 UN Security Council tasked a Group of Experts with recommending “guidelines for the exercise of due diligence by the importers, processing industries and consumers of mineral products regarding the purchase, sourcing (including steps to be taken to ascertain the origin of mineral products), acquisition and processing of mineral products from the Democratic Republic of the Congo”.
The reasonable expectation is that we do not continue our indirect financing of conflicts in places like the Congo. Government must establish guidelines for Canadian corporations to ensure that they satisfy this reasonable expectation.
The recommendation in our bill is for Canadian corporations to track the origin of imported minerals and the supply chain between the mine and their company. They should monitor any financial contribution to armed groups from the supply chain and desist completely from purchasing materials from which rents have been collected by illegal armed groups. Finally, they should devise strategies to eliminate payments to armed groups collecting rents from the supply chain.
It is estimated that over the past fifteen years more than five million people have died from the ravages of war in the Congo. Over a million people have been displaced and each month 45,000 people die due to hunger and disease resulting from the conflict.
The violence in the Congo is on the other side of the world, but our purchase and use of conflict minerals that sustain the conflict connects us intimately with the problem.
Bill C-571 codifies Canadians’ reasonable expectation that our products would be conflict-free, and if adopted would reaffirm this country’s long standing -commitment to the struggle for peace and security in the Great Lakes region.