Canada Fails to Take Action to Reduce Trade in Conflict Minerals
On September 24, private members bill C-486 was defeated in Canada’s parliament prohibiting the bill from receiving a second reading and referral. C-486 was introduced by Paul Dewar, New Democratic Party (NDP) MP and Official Opposition Critic for Foreign Affairs in March 2013. It had the intention of aligning Canada with other ongoing international efforts to reduce the trade in conflict minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and surrounding countries through mineral supply chain due diligence.
The bill came within 19 votes of passing but was defeated by conservatives who instead wanted a voluntary proposal that would not strictly mandate company supply chain due diligence. Modeled on the precedent of Dodd-Frank Section 1502, Dewar’s conflict minerals bill sought to obligate Canadian companies using tin, tungsten, tantalum or gold—3TG minerals—in their products to undertake supply chain due diligence. With this due diligence activity, it is hoped that companies will be better able to ascertain the source of the minerals and the extent to which the minerals could be contributing to conflict.
Unfortunately, opponents voting against the bill focused on the downstream repercussions on Canadian companies of the mandatory due diligence rather than the potential upstream benefits in the DRC and surrounding countries. This sentiment was expressed by Louis Brown, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development, in the last house debate on the issue. According to Brown, “As a result [of the bill’s passage] an extremely wide range of companies of varying sizes, functions, and sectors would potentially be implicated by the bill and saddled with significant costs associated with reporting.” But, multiple studies have shown that this ‘crippling cost’ argument is unfounded. A bit contradictorily, opponents complained that the bill had a wider scope than Dodd-Frank but then also argued that it was too limited as it only focused on Africa.
Supporters of the bill expressed the importance of obligatory rather than voluntary supply chain due diligence in order to ensure company engagement on the issue. As expressed by MP Wayne Marston, “When we say ‘voluntary’, to me that fails the test of true due diligence. I come from farm country, and that is like saying to the fox that we trust it not to come near the henhouse. It would likely not work here.”
The Responsible Sourcing Network agrees with this sentiment and encourages Dewar to continue his advocacy on the issue through his Just Minerals Campaign. It is vitally important that jurisdictions introducing new conflict minerals legislation including the proposed EU legislation follow the precedent of mandatory supply chain due diligence and disclosure set in Dodd-Frank 1502. This is critical to ensuring that consistent and robust international standards for downstream corporations are established to bring positive change to the conflict minerals supply chain.