VANCOUVER (miningweekly.com) – Functioning under new Minister of Trade Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) counsellor Jeffrey Davidson has not yet heard from his new boss, nor has he had any communication with the new Liberal government on its vision for the position.
“Things haven’t blown up yet for the office of the CSR counsellor, but it could,” Davidson told delegates at the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia’s yearly Exploration Roundup on Thursday.
He explained that since the new Liberal government won the general elections last year, his office had been operating under the presumption that it was still the Canadian government’s vision for it to continue its work, under the auspices of the enhanced CSR strategy launched in November 2014.
The CSR Counsellor had come under fire from nongovernmental organisations, which argued that the office was ineffective, a waste of tax money, and should be axed in favour of creating an ombudsman with broader powers.
The office was created in 2009 by the Conservative government of the day in response to growing public pressure to make Canadian mining and extractive sector companies accountable for serious and extensive human rights abuses associated with their international operations.
In October 2013, CSR counsellor Marketa Evans quietly walked away from the job, leaving the office without a counsellor for 16 months. In 2014 alone, the inactive and counsellor-less office cost Canadian taxpayers C$181 600, according to industry watchdog MiningWatch Canada.
In March 2015, Stephen Harper's Conservative government appointed mining professor and former mining executive Davidson as the new CSR counsellor, but he had yet to receive an official Order in Council mandate. According to MiningWatch, the Office of the CSR had not managed to mediate a single resolution in any of the six cases brought before it since its creation.
As the new government set out to review various Conservative institutions and appointments, MiningWatch lobbied that this one be closed to make way for a more effective approach to corporate accountability – the creation of an extractives ombudsman office – as well as for access to Canadian courts for people alleging harm by Canadian companies operating overseas.