Invest Your Values Q & A
"Invest Your Values" is our campaign to ensure Canadian bank and pension investments respect human rights. Here are some answers to your great questions:
1. What else can I do to support the “Invest Your Values” campaign?
Thank you sending a message to your bank(s) and the Canadian Pension Plan at www.amnesty.ca/investyourvalues. Here are a few other ways you can help!
- Send the action to your friends, families and colleagues and encourage them to get involved. The more people engaged in this campaign the more effective it will be.
- Use social media? Share the campaign using the #investyourvalues hashtag. Please also 'like', retweet, comment on the "Invest Your Values" posts.
- Set up a meeting with your financial advisor about these human rights concerns. We have a list of reports you can bring at the bottom of this page.
- Get more involved with Amnesty International Canada’s Business and Human Rights work. Follow the Business and Human Rights program on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates. And if you have any questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
2. I bank at several financial institutions. Can I send a message to more than one?
Absolutely! Please use our online action to contact any banks you deal with.
We also encourage you to send a message to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Investment Board since all working Canadians outside of Quebec over the age of 18 pay a portion of their income into the Canada Pension Plan. You can read the CPPIB’s 2015 Sustainable Investing Report here.
3. Why are credit unions not a part of this campaign?
Amnesty International Canada analyzed shareholdings in companies we are concerned about and discovered that major Canadian banks counted among the top shareholders in these companies. Some credit unions, such as Caisse de Depot in Quebec, also hold shares in companies on our list, but in most cases, held fewer shares than the big banks. Some credit unions have divested or never invested in some of the companies we've raised concerns about.
If you bank with a credit union, you can write to your fund manager and ask him or her about the credit union’s investment guidelines. You can tell them that you expect the credit union’s investment decisions to be guided by robust policies that include human rights, environmental and governance factors, and outline consequences for companies which fail to perform not just financially, but to the human rights standards expected of them.
4. Does Amnesty International have a position on ethical business practices of individual banks and credit unions?
We do not take a position on the practices of individual banks or credit unions. Just as we do not rank mining companies based on their policies, we do not rank banks or credit unions. We are concerned with whether or not human rights at particular project sites have been safeguarded by governments and respected by corporations and investors.
Investors have a responsibility to ensure they do not harm human rights directly or indirectly through their business relationships. Having strong investment guidance in place – such as a responsible investing policy – is one step towards carrying out such due diligence.
We look at what is happening on the ground regarding respect for human rights in communities living with extractives developments. We look at mining regulations and human rights protections in the country. We examine – and communities tell us – how the State, companies and investors are carrying out their obligations to protect (in the case of States) and respect (in the case of companies) human rights. We seek input from the companies themselves, government officials, Canadian Embassies and civil society groups in the country hosting the project. This is how we develop an understanding of the human rights issues at stake and then make recommendations.
5. Why is Amnesty targeting banks rather than individual companies involved in human rights abuses?
Canadian banks are invested in companies accused of some of the worst human rights abuses in the world. We discovered that even banks with the most lauded responsible investment policies are invested in these companies. We are asking them why this is the case. And we’re asking banks what they can do to make sure they actually invest in line with their own policies.
We think banks – which enjoy enormous profits – should stand by their policies and demand companies live up to their responsibility to respect human rights. Banks themselves have an obligation to ensure that their business practices do not directly or indirectly contribute to human rights abuses. This RRSP season, we are reminding Canada’s banks of this obligation.
Major Canadian banks may be able to leverage their power with companies to improve respect for human rights, so we’re also asking them to raise specific human rights concerns with the companies they are invested in. Some credit unions, for example, have listened to their customers’ concerns and have opted to divest or not invest in companies which they know contribute to human rights and environmental harms.
In some countries, State or private pension funds have strong track records for standing up for human rights. For example, in 2015, the Norwegian Council on Ethics for the Government Pension Fund recommended that Tahoe Resources not be considered eligible for investment due to an ‘unacceptable’ level of risk that the company’s Guatemala mine would contribute to human rights violations. History shows that shareholders have challenged companies over serious human rights failures and forced them to improve their human rights due diligence practices and increase transparency. We believe that Canadian banks can also rise to the challenge.
6. Does Amnesty also meet with companies?
Yes, Amnesty International Canada’s Business and Human Rights program meets with Canadian oil, gas and mining companies to discuss their human rights records and to push laggard companies to live up to their human rights responsibilities.
People affected by oil, gas and mining projects tell us their stories. People like farmers in Guatemala who lost their grazing land and access to water sources for their cattle – without any compensation – when a Canadian mine came to town, or Indigenous women who were beaten up and threatened because they attended a community meeting about a mine, or villagers who can no longer send their kids to school because their livelihoods have been destroyed by an oil pipeline that burst and wiped out the shellfish they rely on. Amnesty meets with companies to ask them what they are doing to address these human rights harms. We meet with all parties – companies, communities, civil society groups and governments – in order to have a well-rounded understanding of the issues.
Amnesty International doesn’t take a position for or against mining, oil, or gas development. We take a position on whether or not governments or companies – including investors – have respected the human rights of the communities where such developments occur or have been proposed. And where companies, investors, or governments have failed to respect or protect rights, Amnesty International and our members demand that those failures be rectified and the victims given an effective remedy.
7. Are there examples of Canadian companies being involved in human rights abuses?
Yes. There are numerous examples of Canadian-headquartered companies accused of being directly or indirectly involved in human rights abuses. In many cases, unfortunately, there is no official investigation into the allegations, or victims lack financial and other resources to bring forward legal cases. As a consequence, perpetrators are not brought to justice and victims do not receive remedy or compensation.
Amnesty International does not have the capacity to research and substantiate all human rights allegations against Canadian companies, but we have researched several emblematic cases. Here are some examples:
- Turquoise Hill Resources (formerly Ivanhoe Mines): In 2015 Amnesty International published research revealing that Ivanhoe Mines (now named Turquoise Hill Resources) publicly disclosed inaccurate and misleading information about its Myanmar joint venture selling copper to Myanmar government security forces. Ivanhoe Mines also used secrecy jurisdictions in the Caribbean to evade scrutiny over the sale of assets in Myanmar in an apparent attempt to circumvent Canada’s economic sanctions against Myanmar at the time. A breach of these sanctions is a criminal offence. Ivanhoe’s Myanmar joint venture also led to forced evictions and environmental problems. You can read more about this in Amnesty’s 2015 report Open for Business? Corporate Crimes and Abuses at Myanmar Copper Mine
- Tahoe Resources: For several years Amnesty International has raised troubling concerns about Tahoe Resources human rights performance in Guatemala. In 2015, Guatemala’s courts found Tahoe Resources responsible for industrial pollution of the Los Esclavos River. The company also faces a civil claim in Canada - currently under appeal – brought by seven Guatemalan men who were shot and injured by the company’s security forces in 2013. Criminal charges were brought in Guatemala against the former head of the mine’s security over the incident. The company lacks a social license to operate: over fifty thousand residents have voted against the project in local plebiscites. In December 2015, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court upheld an Appeals Court ruling that the government failed to carry out proper process when granting Tahoe’s exploitation license in 2013. The decision is understood to effectively suspend Tahoe’s current environmental permit to operate. Increased militarization in Santa Rosa has stifled the right to freedom of expression and criminalized the activities of human rights defenders. Meanwhile, the company seeks to expand its operations in the region. You can read more about this in Amnesty’s 2014 report Mining in Guatemala: Rights at Risk.
- Nevsun Resources: Nevsun Resources is at the centre of civil litigation in British Columbia related to alleged use of conscripted (forced) labour at its Bisha mine in Eritrea. According to legal documents filed in BC, the plaintiffs allege that Nevsun’s local contractor, Segen Construction Company, is owned by the Eritrean government’s ruling party, and forced conscripted workers to work under ‘abhorrent’ conditions.. The use of conscripted labour is a serious and well-known human rights concern in Eritrea. In 2015, the United Nations published a report from a Commission of Inquiry established by the UN Human Rights Council chronicling repression, surveillance, use of torture and forced labour under the Eritrean government. The report concluded that, “The use of forced labour is so prevalent in Eritrea that all sectors of the economy rely on it and all Eritreans are likely to be subject to it at one point in their lives...The commission concludes that forced labour in this context is a practice similar to slavery in its effects and, as such, is prohibited under international human rights law.” We are deeply concerned that Nevsun entered into a partnership with the Eritrean government to develop the Bisha mine given the wide-spread use of forced labour in the country. Amnesty International has not conducted its own research into Nevsun but you can read more about the Nevsun legal case on the Canadian Centre for International Justice website.
Media coverage of the incident: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/andes-to-the-amazon/2015/dec/14/canada-justin-trudeau-mining-abuses-latin-america
8. Do you have any resources I can bring to my financial institution?
Yes. You can bring the following Amnesty reports:
- Open for Business? Corporate Crimes and Abuses at Myanmar Copper Mine (2015)
- Clean It Up: Shell’s False Claims About Oil Spill Response in the Niger Delta (2015)
- Briefing for Shell Investors: Lessons from the Bodo Court Case (2015)
- Mining in Guatemala: Rights at Risk (2014)
- Injustice Incorporated: Corporate Abuses and the Human Right to Remedy (2014)
Thank you for engaging with your financial institution around human rights.