Anniversary of Kilwa massacre in Congo highlights need for regulation of Canadian businesses overseas

MONTREALOctober 14, 2005 – Exactly one year ago, in the remote town of Kilwa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Army suppressed a small-scale rebellion by killing dozens of people. Anvil Mining Corporation, which is registered as a Canadian company on the Toronto Stock Exchange and operates the Dikulushi Mine nearby, admitted it provided the troops with “logistical assistance,” including planes, vehicles, drivers, food and even some payment.

The human rights violations that took place between Oct 14 – 16, 2004 in Kilwa are well-documented, most recently by a report from the United Nations Mission in the Congo (MONUC) as well as by local and international human rights organizations (ASADHO-Katanga, Rights and Accountability In Development – UK , among others). Anvil says it had no choice but to respond to the DRC government’s request for assistance. However, international human rights groups think otherwise, and question the adequacy of Anvil’s reporting to the Canadian and Australian stock exchanges as well as to the World Bank which approved a $5 million ( US ) in political risk insurance a few months after the event.

“If companies are going to operate in conflict zones, it is imperative that they take steps to ensure they are not complicit in any way with human rights violations,” said Jean-Louis Roy, President of Montreal-based Rights & Democracy. “Certainly this is what is expected internationally, in standards such as the Global Compact and the UN Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regards to Human Rights. From the evidence gathered by the UN investigators, it seems that Anvil did not take the necessary steps to ensure that its legitimate mining investment would not be used to strengthen the hand of those who systematically violate human rights.”

Denis Tougas of Entraide Missionnaire, who has observed the evolving situation of the DRC for many years, states: “In many regions of the DRC, Canada is known first and foremost by its mining companies, especially the juniors who are known to take risks to make money. The Congo is a destination of choice for such enterprises. Regulation regarding human rights and environmental matters are notoriously weak. This has to change.”

The Canadian Government is expected to respond to a June Parliamentary Committee report on mining and human rights next week. The report contains several recommendations including passing new legislation to make compliance with international human rights standards compulsory for Canadian companies operating overseas.

Rights & Democracy and Entraide Missionnaire are prepared to respond to media requests on this issue, as well as to provide journalists with additional background materials.

Entraide missionnaire is an organisation sponsored by Francophone religious communities that works to train and educate people on questions of international solidarity.