By Andrew Russell
NDP Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar introduced private member’s legislation on Tuesday aimed at fighting the use of so-called conflict minerals that often end up in electronic products like smartphones, and game consoles.
The bill incorporates into Canadian law guidelines developed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to tighten controls on the use of minerals from conflict zones, specifically from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“We would be taking leadership to make sure Canadian products are conflict free, and make sure Canadian companies have the highest levels of accountability and transparency,” Kiavash Najafi, legislative assistant to MP Paul Dewar, told Humber News.
The move “would brand Canada as a leader in ending the war in the Congo,” he said.
Dewar is reintroducing the legislation after a previous conflict minerals bill died in 2011 ahead of the federal election that year.
The legislation was designed in consultation with advocacy groups and industries representing Canada domestically and internationally.
Joanne Lebert, director of the Great Lakes program at Ottawa-based NGO Partnership Africa Canada, told Humber News the proposed legislation provides a road map for Canadian companies to source minerals responsibly from a region where violent crimes are tied to resource extraction.
“Five point five million people have died in the DRC and this bill offers Canadians, in a very tangible way, a chance to choose products that are conflict free,” Lebert said.
“Ultimately this bill will be good for Canadian business because they’ll be able to say what they do is conflict free.”
Industries that use minerals like coltan and wolframite in the production of electronic devices can face the difficult challenge of sourcing exactly where the minerals originated from in complex global supply-chains.
Coltan and wolframite are two common metal ores which the elements tantalum and tungsten are extracted from. Tantalum is then used to produce high performance capacitors which are found in smartphones, laptop computers and even hearing aids.
The proposed legislation is similar to the Kimberley Process, which fought the spread of blood diamonds used to finance rebels in western Africa a decade ago.
STAND Canada, a youth led organization advocating for the end of genocide, partnered with the Enough project – U.S based group aimed at ending crimes against humanity in Sudan and the DRC — to raise awareness about the wide-spread problem of conflict minerals.
“Mr. Dewar feels the Canadian public aught to be mobilized and educated on the issue,” Dana Ayrapetyan, campaign director with STAND told Humber News.
“Our initiative here is called the Conflict Free Canada Initiative and we’ve been working with the Dewar office to be the leg that really helps mobilize the public.”