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By Tyler Davie

There are places in the world where stitching a Canadian flag onto a backpack may not be such a good idea for travellers. In Guatemala, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and other countries, Canada’s image may be associated with contaminated water supplies, eviction, and even death threats. What these communities have in common is their location above large reserves of valuable minerals, and the development of those reserves by Canadian mining companies.

75 per cent of the world’s mining companies are based in Canada, and they generate four per cent of Canada’s GDP with significant funding from the Canada Pension Plan and Export Development Canada. Just as in the Alberta Tar Sands, there is an environmental and societal cost to resource extraction.

For example, the processing of one ounce of gold, worth about $1,200, can produce 60 or 70 tons of waste including contaminated water that can kill fish and cause rashes upon contact with human skin. Mining companies encountering tension in communities in which they operate have hired security forces composed of ex-military members, and continuing tension between security forces has resulted in violence.

Environmental damage at the Porgera Mine, Papua New Guinea

Bill C-300 was a private member’s bill put forward by Liberal MP John McKay in February 2009. It would have had the ministers of foreign affairs and international trade investigate complaints against the international operations of Canadian mining, oil, or gas companies. Consular services and financing from Export Development Canada and the Canada Pension Plan would be withdrawn from a project from which a complaint found to be true arose.

On Oct. 27, 2010, Bill C-300 was narrowly defeated by a vote of 134-140 in its third reading in the House of Commons, after vigorous lobbying from the mining industry and criticisms from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, CPP, and EDC.

The bill would have filled a policy void left in the wake of unimplemented recommendations from a Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade report in 2005 and a 2007 roundtable report drafted by members of industry, the government, and NGOs.

Tyler Davie graduated with a B. Sc. Hon. in electrical engineering from Queen’s University and is currently studying journalism at Humber College.

Remember – in the battle to save the planet, healthy communities matter. Share your story of how you are affecting the health of your neighbours and your local environment, by entering our contest, and you’ll be eligible to win a prize, including being featured on TV as our next GreenHero! Contest details and more information can be found here.