Ottawa to punish resource firms that break social-responsibility rules abroad

The federal government is planning to punish bad behaviour by Canadian resource firms operating abroad if they break Ottawa’s new rules on corporate social responsibility.

OTTAWA — The federal government is planning to punish bad behaviour by Canadian resource firms operating abroad if they break Ottawa’s new rules on corporate social responsibility.

International Trade Minister Ed Fast will announce later today that Ottawa will withdraw government support from Canadian mining and energy companies that refuse to help resolve disputes with local communities.

In a prepared speech to be delivered in New Westminster, B.C., Fast says companies that do not co-operate will lose the support of Ottawa’s economic diplomacy and trade services.

The Canadian mining sector has large operations in developing countries, where companies have faced numerous allegations — from environmental destruction to human-rights abuses.

Critics, meanwhile, have said the government hasn’t done enough to crack down on Canadian companies accused of transgressions abroad.

Fast says he will also give the government’s corporate social responsibility “counsellor” a more proactive mandate to prevent and detect disputes between Canadian firms and local communities.

He says he’s looking to fill the position left vacant after the departure of the last counsellor, Marketa Evans.

Until now, the role of the office was to solve problems by bringing parties together, not by investigating allegations.

In his remarks, Fast says the changes are a result of consultations he started last year.

“We are ensuring that Canadian companies engage in our process because if they do not, or fail to embody CSR (corporate social responsibility) best practices, we will withdraw government of Canada support,” said Fast’s speech, obtained by The Canadian Press.

“Our message is simple: If you don’t play ball by doing business the Canadian way, then we won’t go to bat for you.”

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