Coal miners pray deep inside the Stara Jama mine in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 15. The entire mining industry must make "radical change" to protect the environment and local communities, Pope Francis says. CNS photo/Dado Ruvic, Reuters

Human rights activists frustrated over delay in naming mining ombud

  • January 7, 2019

More than 200 activists and organizations from 56 countries have asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to get a move on and hire the ombudsperson he promised almost one year ago.

“We, the 240 undersigned activists and organizations from 56 countries, have been working for many years defending the human rights of communities affected by the activities of natural resource extraction companies around the world,” reads the Dec. 10 letter. “We ask you to take action quickly to name the ombudsperson.”

Development and Peace’s representative on an advisory board set up Jan. 17 — when Ottawa announced it would create an ombudsperson to oversee international complaints about Canadian business practices abroad — said she is frustrated and mystified by the slow progress in hiring somebody to fill the job.

“The whole process has been slow, much slower than we expected,” Development and Peace director of advocacy and research Elana Wright told The Catholic Register

Global Affairs Canada’s international trade department says it’s getting there.

“Progress continues to select a Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise, taking the time needed to ensure an open, transparent and merit-based selection process is followed,” said spokesperson Sylvain Leclerc in an e-mail.

Wright’s worried that they’re not getting there fast enough. Since a July cabinet shuffle installed Winnipeg’s Jim Carr as Minister of International Trade Diversification, the Advisory Body on Responsible Business Conduct hasn’t met. 

“Not only are we concerned about the ombudsperson not being named yet, but we still don’t have certainty that the ombudsperson that we’ve worked so hard for will have the powers it needs,” Wright said.

Meanwhile, Development and Peace partners are chomping at the bit to give the new system a try.

“There are multiple cases, multiple situations where they really do want to bring a case to the ombudsperson,” Wright said. “They’re ready to file a complaint and try out this mechanism.”

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