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September 22nd, 2014

Dodd-Frank vs. the Conflict Minerals Act

By Anna Ou, Policy Researcher

As Bill C-486, the Conflict Minerals Act (CMA), comes to a vote today, Canadian consumers may soon have the opportunity to be more knowledgeable of where their products come from and make moral decisions on purchases based on this information. Following the footsteps of its American counterpart in 2010, the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the bill looks to ensure that Canadian natural resources companies in the Great Lakes region of Africa are doing their due diligence to not engage in transactions that may benefit armed rebel groups and spur human rights violations.

Similar to Dodd-Frank, Bill C-486 calls for companies to disclose their financial activities, including supply chains, in respect to the extraction, process, and trade of minerals such as gold, tin, tungsten, and others, in the Great Lakes region. However, one noticeable difference between the two is that the Canadian bill refers to the Great Lakes region as a whole, with no particular countries singled out, while Dodd-Frank primarily focuses on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with neighbouring countries as additions. As Canadian mining companies make up the highest concentration of foreign enterprises in the DRC, and the country remains the source of extreme violence and great human rights abuses in Africa, it seems odd that there were no indicators in the bill to mark its significance in the issue. But as the civil war violence in the DRC saturates most, if not all, of its neighbouring countries, it makes sense to include them all under one title to ensure maximum coverage.

What really separates Dodd-Frank and Bill C-486 is that the former seems to take on a more consumer-based approach in combating the issue of conflict minerals, in which government regulations are put in place to bring greater transparency for domestic choices. For Bill C-486, a greater importance is placed on the foreign welfare of the people of the African region, with its preamble clearly stating Canada’s responsibility on the international stage in promoting the trade of conflict-free natural resources. As the bill looks to follow much of OECD’s guidelines on due diligence, which are recognized by 34 member countries, Canada will play a leadership role in tackling this issue once the bill is passed.

Nevertheless, while Dodd-Frank and Bill C-486 both intend to bring greater transparency to consumers by getting companies to show their blueprints in how they obtain minerals, US companies have been experiencing difficulties in interpreting and complying with the Dodd-Frank Act. In a survey conducted by PwC in February 2014, more than 25 percent of the US companies that participated are still in the early stages of compliance and many were not sure if the rules applied to them.1 Should the CMA come into force in Canada, would Canadian companies also encounter similar confusions, or will lawmakers take this into account and produce a clearer interpretation of the Act? For now, we can only anxiously await the upcoming vote in the hopes that our MPs will make the choice to help curb the violence surrounding conflict minerals.

1 “2014 Conflict Minerals Survey,” PwC, last modified April 8 2014, http://www.pwc.com/us/en/audit-assurance-services/publications/assets/pwc-conflict-minerals-compliance-survey-2014.pdf

Posted in The Politician by Alison Chan
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September 15th, 2014

ACTION ALERT: Email your MP about the Conflict Minerals Act

As Parliament resumes today, it is important important more than ever to email your MP to support Paul Dewar’s Conflict Minerals Act. Members of Parliament are due to vote on the bill in the coming days, and your vocal support is key.

Visit the Conflict Minerals Act page of the STAND Canada website about emailing your MP, including:

  • How to find your MP
  • Who else to contact
  • What to say in your emails.

Don’t forget to also sign our Conflict Minerals Act petition too!

This Wednesday, September 24 marks a national day of action in support of Bill C-486. Help us turn off conflict by joining Canadians across the country by shutting down your cell phone for 486 minutes between 6:00p.m. and 2:06 a.m. (local time).

This act will help stand in solidarity with the survivors and bring awareness to those killed in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo which has been fueled and funded by the illegal trade of conflict minerals. Check out the event on Facebook.

Scott Fenwick
Executive Director, STAND Canada

Posted in Action Alert by sfenwick
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September 15th, 2014

Conflict Minerals: know your products.

By Colin Baulke

Bill C-486, known as the Conflict Minerals Act, would require Canadian corporations to practice due diligence in the trade of specific minerals originating from the Great Lakes Region of Africa. Although this law would make significant steps in reducing the exploitation of “conflict minerals” originating in the region, it is still important for individuals to self-audit their own purchases. To help you with this, STAND has created a list of five household products you may not have realized used minerals that would be in violation of proposed Bill C-486.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in The Activist by sfenwick
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September 14th, 2014

STAND in The Varsity, the U of T newspaper

STAND Canada’s Advocacy Director Kristen Pue wrote an op-ed this week in The Varsity, the student newspaper at the University of Toronto. In the article, Kristen writes:

Consumers may be inadvertently complicit in this violence through our purchases. Up to 95 per cent of revenue for armed groups is derived from the sale of conflict minerals, sustaining rebel operations and providing a strong incentive to avoid peace. Mineral wealth is thus a driver of conflict.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in News Update by sfenwick
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September 13th, 2014

The Conflict Minerals Act: What happens after second reading?

Bill C-486, the Conflict Minerals Act, is a Private Member’s bill, introduced by NDP MP Paul Dewar. Although STAND Canada’s campaign is centred around its second reading vote, it is just one step of several when it comes to making this bill a reality.

The bill has been tabled and has gone through its first reading in the House of Commons. The purpose of the first reading is to ensure that the bill can be printed and distributed to all MPs. It is a formality; all bills pass the first reading. Bill C-486 has also been through two debates in the second reading stage and will be voted on in the fall legislative session, tentatively September 24. If a majority of the House votes in favor, Bill C-486 will continue. If not, it will be defeated. Debate on the second reading is restricted to a bill’s general principle, rather than the details of specific provisions.

If Bill C-486 advances beyond the second reading, it will proceed to be reviewed by a committee. Usually, a bill is referred to the committee whose mandate is most relevant to the bill, so the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development is most likely to review it. The committee will likely hold public hearings, commencing with a speech from the bill’s sponsor, MP Paul Dewar. Other relevant individuals will be invited to speak as well. This can include experts, representatives of relevant organizations, or other individuals who would be affected. If the bill proceeds to committee, we would want to have a STAND representative speak at the hearing, which would mean having a strong sense of the amendments that we would like to see inserted in the bill.

After the public hearings, the committee will consider the bill clause-by-clause. At this point, all committee members – and only committee members – can propose amendments to the bill. STAND would aim to coordinate with MP Dewar and other Foreign Affairs committee members to ensure that our priorities were reflected in the new text of the bill. We will then want to campaign for public support of the bill as it proceeds to the third reading.

The committee will then report its recommendations to the House. It can recommend a bill as it is or with amendments, but it cannot comment otherwise. After the report has been presented, MPs are allowed to propose additional amendments. However, the Speaker will normally rule amendments out of order if they have already been considered and rejected in committee. This is part of the “consistency” principle that the House takes toward amendments. The Speaker of the House can choose to rule amendments out of order or group them together for debate and voting. When all amendments are voted on, the bill immediately moves on to the third reading, where it is debated and voted on for a final time within the House of Commons. If a majority of the House votes in favor, Bill C-486 will proceed to the Senate and, if it passes there, it receives royal assent.

Posted in The Politician by sfenwick
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