Wednesday, 16 May 2018

MiningWatch Canada: Canadian Government Does Bidding of Ottawa-Based Sakto Corp., Seeks To Silence Civil Society Watchdogs

MiningWatch Canada
Canadian government not only fails to even investigate company accused of laundering proceeds of illegal logging in Sarawak, but actually moves to protect it from such accusations.
  

Canadian Government Does Bidding of Ottawa-Based Sakto Corp., Seeks To Silence Civil Society Watchdogs
(Ottawa-Amsterdam). In a most unusual move, the Canadian government appears to be caving to corporate pressure, covering up facts and threatening civil society to protect Ottawa-based Sakto Corporation. Canada’s Department of Justice has sent cease and desist letters to international non-profit civil society organizations requiring them to remove a document from their web sites. The document relates to a complaint brought to Canada’s National Contact Point (NCP) against Sakto Corp. for breaching principles on disclosure and for lack of transparency. The Canadian NCP, a governmental complaint mechanism set up to resolve allegations of corporate misconduct, has long been accused of bias and ineffectiveness. The NCP is facing increased criticism over its recent irregular handling of the Sakto case.

In January 2016, the non-profit Bruno Manser Fonds of Switzerland filed a complaint with the Canadian NCP alleging that the Sakto Corp. had breached disclosure and transparency standards found in the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, a guide to responsible businesses conduct that is binding on Canada and other members of the OECD. In October 2016, the NCP issued a draft statement finding that the allegations were “material” and “substantiated” and offering the parties “dialogue facilitation” to resolve their dispute.

Under normal procedures, this statement would have been issued publicly in a matter of weeks. But instead, after a 6-month delay, and in a complete reversal of position, the NCP produced a second draft statementin March 2017 dismissingthe case without explanation. The NCP’s reversal was clarified when, in July 2017, the Canadian government issued a final statement, this time explaining quite openly the pressure it had faced from Sakto, including:“Sakto involving a Member of Parliament during the confidential NCP assessment process; (…) Sakto’s aggressive challenge of the NCP’s jurisdiction; (…) Sakto’s legal counsel making submissions to the Government of Canada’s Deputy Minister of Justice…”

Now almost a year later, the Canadian NCP is again reversing its steps – not to accept the complaint after all, but apparently to conceal the inside role the corporation had in getting the case dropped. On May 9th the NCP unilaterally and unprecedentedly retracted its own July 2017 final statement and replaced it with a new final statement that removes any mention of pressure or misconduct by Sakto in regard to the complaint. Even further, on May 11ththe Department of Justice sent letters to the Bruno Manser Fonds and to Amsterdam-based OECD Watch asking the organizations to remove copies of the NCP’s October 2016 draft initial assessment of the case – the one in which the NCP found the allegations “material” and “substantiated” – from their websites.

“The Canadian NCP has flouted the rules set by the OECD and made a complete farce of the OECD Guidelines and the international system of NCPs,” says Joseph Wilde-Ramsing of OECD Watch. “Now it appears the NCP is trying to cover up both its own procedural missteps and the undue influence Sakto Corp. had on this government office.”

“These latest developments in the NCP’s handling of the Sakto Corp. case further deepen distrust in this office and strengthen the case for rigorous independence for Canada’s newly announced Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (Ombudsperson)” says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada.

Canada’s NCP underwent a peer review in February of 2018. Among the recommendations made by civil society organizations in Canada was that the NCP create an independent multi-stakeholder Steering Board with a formal structure that includes both an advisory and oversight role that has formal decision-making authority with respect to the NCP’s governance structure.

Contact:

    Catherine Coumans, Ph.D., Co-manager, MiningWatch Canada, tel. 613-569-3439, catherine@miningwatch.ca
    Joseph Wilde-Ramsing, Ph.D., Coordinator, OECD Watch & Senior Researcher, SOMO, tel.+31 (0)20 6391291, cell +31 642697343, joseph@oecdwatch.org

See also:

    MiningWatch Canada submission to the 2018 Peer Review of the Canadian NCP. January 23, 2018.
    OECD Watch submission to the 2018 Peer Review of the Canadian NCP. January 29, 2018.
    Statement at the end of visit to Canada by the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights. June 1, 2017.
    “Canada Is Back” But Still Far Behind: An Assessment of Canada’s National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. November 2016.

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