Trudeau needs to press Aung Sun Suu Kyi on Rohingya ‘genocide’: expert

Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi smiles as she attends a photo opportunity after the opening ceremony of the 21st Century Panglong Conference in Naypyitaw, Myanmar May 24, 2017.
Photo Credit: Soe Zeya Tun

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Myanmar’s de facto leader and honorary Canadian Aung Sun Suu Kyi next week, he needs to pressure her to protect the Rohingya Muslim minority, which is facing genocide and crimes against humanity in the northwest of the country, says a Canadian genocide expert.

Kyle Matthews, executive director of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) at Concordia University and a Fellow at the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, says Suu Kyi’s five-day visit to Canada is a unique moment for Trudeau press the Nobel Peace Prize winner to do more to protect the stateless minority.

“It’s a very opportune time for the Canadian government to host her but realize that there are some severe human rights violations going on and Canada should not be quiet about it but should actually pressure here when she’s here,” said Matthews.

Seeking Canada’s advice on federalism and constitution
Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi (R) accepts the award of Honorary Canadian citizenship from Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird, after their meeting at Suu Kyi’s home in Yangon March 8, 2012.
Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi (R) accepts the award of Honorary Canadian citizenship from Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird, after their meeting at Suu Kyi’s home in Yangon March 8, 2012. © Soe Zeya Tun

The Prime Minister’s Office announced Friday that Suu Kyi, whose official title is State Counsellor of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, will visit Canada from June 5 to 9, 2017.

Suu Kyi is travelling to Canada to consult Trudeau on constitutional reforms. Her visit to Canada follows fresh round of peace talks in the capital Naypyidaw aimed at ending a conflict in Myanmar’s troubled frontier regions, where various ethnic groups have been waging war against the state for almost seven decades.

Trudeau will meet Suu Kyi on June 7 to “discuss federalism and democratic reforms in Myanmar, as well as regional peace and security and the importance of promoting democracy, good governance and human rights,” according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Stateless minority
Rohingya refugees come to Balukhali Makeshift Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh April 10, 2017.
Rohingya refugees come to Balukhali Makeshift Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh April 10, 2017. © Mohammad Ponir Hossain

The Rohingya, who number about one million, have lived in Myanmar, also known as Burma, for generations.

However, many in Myanmar’s predominantly Buddhist population view them as foreign intruders from neighbouring Bangladesh.

The persecution of Rohingya has been going on for a long time, Matthews said. Attacks against the Rohingya in Rakhine State along the border with Bangladesh came into the forefront in the last four-five years before Suu Kyi took power, he said.

“In the past couple of years we have seen different Buddhist monks actually become very open and loud in using their pulpits to spread hate and ask for the masses in Myanmar to attack the Rohingya,” Matthews said. “We’ve had civilians taking up weapons and arms to attack Rohingya and we’ve had almost sectarian strife between the Rohingya and the Buddhist population.”

Muslim mobs have also attacked Buddhist temples and villages in Rakhine and in neighbouring Bangladesh.

The most recent spate of fighting began in October last year, when nine Buddhist Burmese border guards were attacked and killed.

Security forces responded with a major security operation, conducting “clearance operations” and sealing the area, effectively barring humanitarian organizations, media and independent human rights monitors from entering, according to a report by Amnesty International.

Dozens of Rohingya villages have been burned to the ground, women have been raped and civilians murdered by the army, Human Rights Watch reported in late 2016. At least 10,000 Rohingya have fled across the Bangladeshi border to escape the violence.

Targeted human rights abuses
A Rohingya woman walks at the Kyein Ni Pyin camp for internally displaced people in Pauk Taw, Rakhine state, April 23, 2014
A Rohingya woman walks at the Kyein Ni Pyin camp for internally displaced people in Pauk Taw, Rakhine state, April 23, 2014 © Minzayar Minzayar

The government has placed thousands of Rohingyas in internment camps, in places where they can’t interact with anyone else and don’t have the freedom to travel, he said.

“There have been deportations, there have been mass killings,” Matthews said. “What has happened with Rohingya is a series of targeted human rights abuses against one particular group with the aim or partially destroying the group or trying to make them leave the territory.”

That’s the very definition of genocide, Matthews said.

However, the Burmese government has denied allegations of genocide and ethnic cleansing, rejecting any evidence to the contrary as “propaganda” and “fabricated news and rumours.”

Lost opportunities

When Suu Kyi took power after the 2015 elections, many in the international community and human rights organizations saw her as a beacon of light, someone who has fought against oppression and for justice, and fought for democracy, Matthews said.

However, many have been very dismayed that that she hasn’t made any strong public statements about what’s happening to the Rohingya and doesn’t seem to have done anything to help their plight, Matthews said.

“So it [persecution of the Rohingya] didn’t start on her watch, but she is now in charge and, having won a Nobel Peace Prize, it’s a little perplexing that she has not been more outspoken or done more to protect the Rohingya,” Matthews said. “I don’t know of any other Nobel Peace Prize winners who have gone on to govern a state committing genocide against a minority.”

With files from AFP

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$1.35M report ordered by Ottawa cites persistent mismanagement at Shared Services

Ottawa is in way over its head by attempting a massive transformation of its information-technology (IT) systems under Shared Services Canada, says a scathing indictment of the agency’s failings since 2011.

The government of Canada “has vastly underestimated the size, scale and complexity of this effort. … They are attempting the largest and most complex public-sector shared-service implementation ever considered,” concludes a $1.35-million report by international consultants.

“We … lack confidence in the ability of SSC (Shared Services Canada) and the GC (Government of Canada) to successfully execute the plan.”

The Jan. 12, 2017, report by consultant Gartner Inc. was ordered by the federal government last August, after repeated failures of the Phoenix payroll system and complaints from departments about Shared Services Canada’s inability to deliver technology upgrades, including new email systems.

U.S.-based Gartner brought together a five-person expert panel to examine the agency and its projects, a group that included executives experienced in public-sector digital transformations in California, Massachusetts and Northern Ireland, as well as the former IBM executive who handled big projects within that firm.

Shared Services Canada outsourcing

A $1.35-million consultants’ report, obtained by CBC News under the Access to Information Act, says Shared Services Canada is in way over its head trying to manage a massive transformation of technology. (Shutterstock)

The report lauds the project of consolidating the federal government’s information technology, including creation of a single email system, but says “very little progress” has been made in the last six years because of persistent management failures.

“Decision making cannot follow current approaches,” said the document, obtained by CBC News under the Access to Information Act.

“Execution must be based on agile, effective decision making, with clear and singular accountabilities. This is the antithesis of governance today.”

The report repeatedly underscores the enormous scale of the consolidation project, likening it to combining the infrastructure of between 30 and 40 large banks.

Slow-footed

The consultants say Shared Services Canada is slow-footed, partly hobbled by complex procurement rules, so that an email solution it chose in 2011 and still has not completed has since been outmoded by new cloud services.

“The world in 2016 is much different from how it was in 2011, and the expert panel and Gartner believe developments such as cloud services should be given much more prominence in SSC’s future,” said the 198-page report.

Some of the document is redacted, including key financial information. The authors make a series of recommendations, chief of which is the appointment of a deputy minister for IT for all of government, to whom the head of Shared Services Canada would report.

In April 2011, then-prime minister Stephen Harper lauded the project to consolidate the government’s IT systems and data centres, saying on the election campaign trail that year that “we know we can save all kinds of money there.”

‘The project was set up to fail through underfunding, lack of service standards, and poor planning from the previous government.’
– Jean-Luc Ferland, spokesperson for Treasury Board President Scott Brison

The new agency charged with carrying out the transformation, Shared Services Canada, was announced on Aug. 4, 2011, after Harper won a majority.

But two projects in particular went off the rails in the early going, one to consolidate cell and telephone services, the other to consolidate email services. Both have been plagued by delays, among other problems.

And the new agency was immediately required to cut costs as part of a government-wide effort to wipe out the federal deficit by 2015.

Shared Services Canada data centre

Shared Services Canada is the department responsible for the federal government’s IT services, including its data centres. A new report says the federal government must create a new deputy minister of IT, to help get the troubled agency back on track. (Shared Services Canada)

Jean-Luc Ferland, a spokesperson for Treasury Board President Scott Brison, welcomed the consultants’ conclusions and recommendations, pinning much of the blame for the bad results on the former Conservative government.

“As the report makes clear, the motivation and objectives behind the creation of Shared Services Canada are even more relevant today than they were when it was conceived in 2011,” said Ferland.

“The report is equally clear that the former Conservative government failed to put in place the basic fundamentals for success at the time SSC was created. The project was set up to fail through underfunding, lack of service standards, and poor planning from the previous government.”

No timeline

Ferland said the government is still reviewing the recommendations, alongside those of the auditor general, House of Commons committees and other consultations. He did not provide a timeline for solutions.

“Our government’s ambition is to provide exemplary service to Canadians while making a seamless transformation to the age of digital government — not booking false savings, arbitrarily hobbling the public service, or cutting corners.”

Last year, Finance Minister Bill Morneau added $383.8 million to the budget of Shared Services Canada over two years to help it resolve a raft of problems.

The outside experts who contributed to the Gartner report were William Oates, former CIO of Massachusetts; Ron Hughes, former chief deputy CIO for California; William Wickens, chief executive of North Ireland Shared Services Organization; Luc Portelance, former president of the Canada Border Services Agency; and Sal Calta, former IBM executive.

Follow @DeanBeeby on Twitter

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Canada delivers business satire

Comedian Nathan Fielder of
Nathan for You, streaming on Stan.

Pick of the day: Nathan for You, streaming on Stan.

It is a fitting compliment to Canadian comedian Nathan Fielder that some observers speculated the disastrous Fyre Festival, sold as a luxury event on a private beach in the Bahamas in April, was secretly an episode of Nathan For You, his comedy series satirising modern business practices.

There have been precedents of the show’s setups gaining notoriety. In 2012 Fielder created a cute but fake video, staged to save a California petting zoo from going broke, of a piglet swimming to save a baby goat. It ended up being shown on NBC Nightly News in the US before the hoax was revealed.

And in 2014 he attempted “fair use” of Starbucks name and logo by opening a cafe with the word “dumb” preceding every title and product: Dumb Starbucks, dumb grande mochas, CDs for sale of duets by dumb Nora Jones (sic) next to the cash register.

During this third season, which arrived on streaming service Stan last week, another incident went viral when people interested in new exercise fads were duped into supplying free labour to a company in need. (A related book became a bestseller on Amazon which — remarkably — remains on sale.)

In the first episode, Fielder meets Alan, a struggling television retailer. His recommendation? Drop his prices to $US1, exploit the price-matching policy of the local big electronic retailer to create an endless supply of cheap TVs that can then be resold at a profit.

Not for nothing did Fielder attend “one of Canada’s top business schools and get really good grades”.

Naturally twists and turns ensue, including an in-store alligator, a class-action lawsuit and an insanity plea.

Fielder has developed an original niche in the comedy world — no mean feat — and season three takes that conceit to a further extreme.

A fourth season is in the works, with a sneak peak being screened at a Chicago comedy festival tomorrow.

Canada Trade Disappoints With April Deficit, March Markdown (1)

(Bloomberg) — Canada’s trade deficit was wider than forecast in April, and there was further disappointment in revised figures showing larger gaps in the prior two months.

Imports exceeded exports by C$370 million ($274 million) in April, Statistics Canada said Friday in Ottawa. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists was for a shortfall of C$20 million.

Key Points

  • In addition to the April setback, the agency boosted the March deficit to C$936 million from an initial reading of C$135 million. It also increased February’s shortfall to C$1.41 billion from C$1.08 billion.
  • Exports grew 1.8 percent in April to C$47.7 billion, faster than the 0.6 percent rise in imports to C$48.1 billion; both figures were record highs. Export gains were led by a 4.4 percent rise in automobiles and parts, and a 4.7 percent rise in forestry before U.S. duties on softwood lumber took effect at the end of the month.
  • The report showed some building momentum in trade, with exports rising 14.7 percent in April from a year earlier, almost double the 7.4 percent gain in imports.

Big Picture

The latest trade figures are another signal of Canada’s complicated transition after an oil shock, where exports and business investment have been weak spots while consumers keep borrowing and spending. Policy makers have said a long period of above-average production is needed to restore the economy to full health. Questions around further delays in the recovery may discourage the Bank of Canada from raising its key lending rate above 0.5 percent, where it’s been since July 2015.

Economist Reaction

Economists weighed the weaker headline trade balance against the second month of growth in exports, after some weakness in the first quarter. “Trade appears to be beginning to get traction,” according to Benjamin Reitzes, a Canadian rates and macro strategist at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto. “The second quarter is going to look a lot better” than the first one, he said by phone.

Other Details

  • The surplus with the U.S. widened to C$5 billion in April from C$3.4 billion a month earlier, the largest since May 2014. The deficit with countries other than the U.S. widened to C$5.3 billion from C$4.4 billion.
  • The volume of exports advanced 1.1 percent and import volumes fell 0.3 percent, Statistics Canada said. Volume figures adjust for price changes and can be a better indicator of how trade contributes to economic growth, and in volume terms there was a trade surplus that widened to C$843 million from C$239 million.
  • There were mixed signs on whether companies are importing more gear to boost their production capacity. Inbound shipments of industrial machinery, equipment and parts were unchanged, while electronics imports gained 4.6 percent.
  • Most of the boost to the March deficit was linked to imports, part of which came from crude oil and bitumen.

(Updates with quote in economist reaction section.)

–With assistance from Erik Hertzberg

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

Canadian Trade Disappoints With April Deficit, March Markdown

(Bloomberg) — Canada’s trade deficit was wider than forecast in April, and there was further disappointment in revised figures showing larger gaps in the prior two months.

Imports exceeded exports by C$370 million ($274 million) in April, Statistics Canada said Friday in Ottawa. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists was for a shortfall of C$20 million.

Key Points

  • In addition to the April setback, the agency boosted the March deficit to C$936 million from an initial reading of C$135 million. It also increased February’s shortfall to C$1.41 billion from C$1.08 billion.
  • Exports grew 1.8 percent in April to C$47.7 billion, faster than the 0.6 percent rise in imports to C$48.1 billion; both figures were record highs. Export gains were led by a 4.4 percent rise in automobiles and parts, and a 4.7 percent rise in forestry before U.S. duties on softwood lumber took effect at the end of the month.
  • The report showed some building momentum in trade, with exports rising 14.7 percent in April from a year earlier, almost double the 7.4 percent gain in imports.

Big Picture

The latest trade figures are another signal of Canada’s complicated transition after an oil shock, where exports and business investment have been weak spots while consumers keep borrowing and spending. Policy makers have said a long period of above-average production is needed to restore the economy to full health. Questions around further delays in the recovery may discourage the Bank of Canada from raising its key lending rate above 0.5 percent, where it’s been since July 2015.

Economist Reaction

Economists weighed the weaker headline trade balance against the second month of growth in exports, after some weakness in the first quarter. “Trade appears to be beginning to get traction,” according to Benjamin Reitzes, a Canadian rates and macro strategist at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto. “The second quarter is going to look a lot better” than the first one, he said by phone.

Other Details

  • The surplus with the U.S. widened to C$5 billion in April from C$3.4 billion a month earlier, the largest since May 2014. The deficit with countries other than the U.S. widened to C$5.3 billion from C$4.4 billion.
  • The volume of exports advanced 1.1 percent and import volumes fell 0.3 percent, Statistics Canada said. Volume figures adjust for price changes and can be a better indicator of how trade contributes to economic growth, and in volume terms there was a trade surplus that widened to C$843 million from C$239 million.
  • There were mixed signs on whether companies are importing more gear to boost their production capacity. Inbound shipments of industrial machinery, equipment and parts were unchanged, while electronics imports gained 4.6 percent.
  • Most of the boost to the March deficit was linked to imports, part of which came from crude oil and bitumen.

(Updates with quote in economist reaction section.)

–With assistance from Erik Hertzberg

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

CANADA STOCKS-Futures bolstered by upbeat U.S. economic data

Stock futures pointed to a higher opening
for Canada’s main stock index on Friday as strong U.S. economic
data eased growth concerns, ahead of a payrolls report due later
in the day.

U.S. job growth likely remained strong in May, a further
sign of an acceleration in economic activity that would
effectively seal the case for an interest rate increase this
month despite sluggish wage gains.

June futures on the S&P TSX index were up 0.10
percent at 7:15 a.m. ET.

Trade balance for April data is due at 8:30 a.m. ET.

Canada’s main stock index rose on Thursday to a more than
one-week high in a broad rally led by energy and financials,
while BlackBerry Ltd jumped after an influential
investment firm said the technology company’s stock could
double.

Dow Jones Industrial Average e-mini futures were up
0.39 percent at 7:15 a.m. ET. S&P 500 e-mini futures were
up 0.29 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-mini futures were up
0.34 percent.

(Morning News Call newsletter here
; The Day Ahead newsletter here)

TOP STORIES

Canadian apparel maker Canada Goose, which went
public in March, reported a bigger fourth-quarter loss as
expenses rose.

Athletic apparel maker Lululemon Athletica Inc on
Thursday said it would close most of its money-losing Ivivva
girls stores and boost investment in its online business as it
reported quarterly profit that beat analysts’ forecasts.

Canadian auto sales hit a record high in May, with General
Motors Co and Ford Motor Co on Thursday reporting
double-digit increases, fueled by demand for crossovers and
light trucks, according to analysts who compile the monthly
data.

ANALYST RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS

Canadian Western Bank: CIBC raises to
“outperformer” from “neutral”

Saputo Inc: Desjardins raises to “buy” from “hold”

BRP Inc: CIBC raises target price to C$42 from C$34

COMMODITIES AT 7:15 a.m. ET

Gold futures: $1,263.9; -0.35 pct

US crude: $47.13; -2.54 pct

Brent crude: $49.35; -2.53 pct

LME 3-month copper: $5,591; -1.89 pct

U.S. ECONOMIC DATA DUE ON FRIDAY

08:30 Non-farm payrolls for May: Expected 185,000; Prior
211,000

08:30 Private payrolls for May: Expected 173,000; Prior
194,000

08:30 Manufacturing payrolls for May: Expected 5,000; Prior
6,000

08:30 Government payrolls for May: Prior 17,000

08:30 Unemployment rate for May: Expected 4.4 pct; Prior 4.4
pct

08:30 Average earnings mm for May: Expected 0.2 pct; Prior
0.3 pct

08:30 Average workweek hours for May: Expected 34.4 hrs;
Prior 34.4 hrs

08:30 Labor force participation for May: Prior 62.9 pct

08:30 U6 underemployment for May: Prior 8.6 pct

08:30 International trade mm for May: Expected -$46.1 bln;
Prior -$43.7 bln

08:30 Goods trade balance (R) for May: Prior -67.55 bln

09:45 ISM-New York Index for May: Prior 738.0

09:45 ISM NY Business Conditions for May: Prior 55.8

10:30 ECRI Weekly Index: Prior 144.1

10:30 ECRI weekly annualized: Prior 5.1 pct

FOR CANADIAN MARKETS NEWS, CLICK ON CODES:

TSX market report

Canadian dollar and bonds report

Reuters global stocks poll for Canada

Canadian markets directory
($1= C$1.35)
(Reporting by Sai Sharanya Khosla in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil
D’Silva)

Trump pulls U.S. from Paris climate accord, raising challenges for Canada

President Donald Trump vowed to pull the United States out of the Paris climate-change agreement and immediately end all compliance with the 18-month-old deal, a move that raises new challenges for Canada’s climate strategy.

In a news conference at the White House Rose Garden on Thursday, Mr. Trump slammed the 195-country accord as a “bad deal for America,” saying it would force the country to abandon its world-leading reserves of coal and would create job losses in the coal, oil and natural gas industries and in the manufacturing sector.



The President held out the prospect of renegotiating the Paris accord or reaching a new deal with the goal of lessening the burden on the United States and putting more onus on major developing countries such as China and India.

Read more: Can China be a world leader on climate change?

John Ibbitson: Trump can pull out of the Paris climate accord – the world has moved on

Read more: With U.S. out, Paris Agreement could soon become the walking dead

“So we’re getting out,” he said. “But we’ll start to negotiate and we will see if we can get a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine.”

With his announcement, Mr. Trump formally renounced U.S. leadership in the international battle against climate change, which scientists say will impact billions of people with devastating droughts, floods, rising sea levels and changing weather patterns in the coming decades.

Washington’s reversal on the Paris accord and regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions represents a major challenge for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has claimed a leadership role on the climate-change issue, both internationally and domestically. Critics argue Canada must align its policies with those in the United States or face the growing loss of the Canadian economy’s competitiveness.

The Prime Minister quickly affirmed his support for Paris on Thursday and conveyed that message in a phone conversation with Mr. Trump, his office said. “We are deeply disappointed that the United States’ federal government has decided to withdraw from the Paris agreement,” Mr. Trudeau said in a statement.

“Canada is unwavering in our commitment to fight climate change and support clean economic growth. Canadians know we need to take decisive and collective action to tackle the many harsh realities of our changing climate.”

At the signing of the deal in December, 2015, global leaders cheered a historic agreement – signed by virtually every country on earth – to work together in order to avert the worst impacts of climate change by holding the increase in global temperatures to less than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, with a goal of 1.5 degrees.

Mr. Trump has abandoned that joint effort, not only by announcing the withdrawal from the Paris agreement but by moving to reverse federal policies aimed at cutting GHG emissions. In the United States, the leadership now falls to states such as California, as well as municipalities and businesses that see climate change as an unalterable fact of modern life.

It will take four years for the United States to officially withdraw from the accord that was ratified by then-president Barack Obama. In the meantime, the Trump administration will essentially ignore its obligation, though environmental groups may go to court to force its compliance.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announced that she will host her counterparts from the European Union and China to see how the three sides can work together to support the United Nations-led agreement.

Ms. McKenna said she would “seek clarity” when she meets next week with Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, on how the United States envisions a path forward toward a new deal.

She added the Paris accord has been ratified and is now in force, suggesting she sees no prospect for reopening it.

The leaders of France, Germany and Italy responded Thursday by saying they would not renegotiate the deal. French President Emmanuel Macron, who made a televised address in French and English, said Mr. Trump had “committed an error for the interests of his country, his people and a mistake for the future of our planet.”

“I tell you firmly tonight: We will not renegotiate a less ambitious accord. There is no way,” said Mr. Macron, who took office less than a month ago.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a pastor’s daughter who is usually intensely private about her faith, said the accord was needed “to preserve our Creation.”

“To everyone for whom the future of our planet is important, I say let’s continue going down this path so we’re successful for our Mother Earth,” she said to applause from lawmakers.

Ms. McKenna said the U.S. reversal on climate policy will not deter Ottawa from implementing the federal measures in the pan-Canadian strategy that Mr. Trudeau signed in December with 11 of 13 provincial and territorial premiers.

“It’s something we owe to our kids and grandkids,” she said. She added that the transition to a lower-carbon global economy presents “a huge economic opportunity” for Canadian businesses and workers, even as governments protect the overall competitiveness of the economy.

Still, Mr. Trump’s action will reinforce calls from conservative politicians and some business leaders to slow the course on carbon pricing and costly regulations.

Conservative Party environment critic Ed Fast said his party supports the Paris accord but opposes the Liberal approach to meeting Canada’s commitments, particularly carbon levies. Indeed, it was then-prime-minister Stephen Harper who first pledged Canada would reduce its GHG emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, a target the Liberals have since adopted.

But with the American government now backpedalling from the more ambitious policies of Mr. Obama, Canada has to respond, Mr. Fast said. “The competitiveness challenge we face will only be exacerbated,” he said.

On Thursday, Mr. Trump used similar argument in jettisoning the Paris accord, saying it would “hamstring” the American economy and “empower some of the world’s worst polluters,” notably China and India. He slammed the creation of a Green Climate Fund, in which wealthier nations agreed to marshal $100-billion (U.S.) a year by 2020 in government and private funding to help developing countries reduce GHG emissions and cope with the impacts of climate change.

“The bottom line is the Paris accord is very unfair at the highest level to the United States,” he said. “This agreement represents a massive redistribution of United States’ wealth to other countries.”

It will now fall to states and cities that have been pushing ahead with their own environmental policies, to become the de facto U.S. leaders on climate change.

The largest among those is California, where Governor Jerry Brown has built his legacy around aggressively leading on climate change.

In a conference call, Mr. Brown decried the “insane move” to withdraw from the Paris agreement. “Donald Trump has absolutely chosen the wrong course,” he said. “He’s wrong on the facts. California’s economy and America’s economy are boosted by following the Paris agreement.”

Since Mr. Trump’s election in November, California legislators have introduced a series of new environmental-protection bills in an attempt to insulate the state from the new White House administration’s climate policy.

On Friday, Mr. Brown is heading to China on a week-long trip to meet with world leaders as part of an effort to take up the mantle as the U.S. leader on climate change. “California, we’re all in,” he said. “While our President may be AWOL in the battle against climate change, we’re not.”

Indeed, there was a battle within the administration and among Republicans in Congress as to whether the U.S. should stay or go from Paris.

Mr. Pruitt was a key hawk – a climate skeptic who is in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency but a staunch support of the fossil-fuel industry. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – the former chairman of Exxon Mobil Corp. – argued U.S. interests would be better served by staying at the table.

The White House announcement reverberated through the U.S. business community. Tesla founder Elon Musk, a strong supporter of the Paris agreement, announced he was stepping down as one of Mr. Trump’s economic advisers. “Am departing presidential councils,” he wrote on Twitter. “Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.”

Business leaders, including General Electric chief executive Jeff Immelt, Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein and Microsoft president Brad Smith, issued statements expressing disappointment in Mr. Trump’s decision, with companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Intel pledging to push forward with their own environmental initiatives. “Climate change is real,” Mr. Immelt wrote on Twitter. “Industry must now lead and not depend on government.”

A long-scheduled meeting on Friday between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and top European Union officials in Brussels was dominated by Trump’s decision.

The meeting will end with a joint statement pledging full implementation of the Paris deal, committing China and the EU to cutting back on fossil fuels, developing more green technology and helping raise $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poorer countries reduce their high-polluting emissions.

China has emerged as Europe’s unlikely partner in this and other areas – underlining Trump’s isolation on many issues.

“There is no reverse gear to energy transition. There is no backsliding on the Paris Agreement,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.

In the weeks leading up to Mr. Trump’s announcement, dozens of major U.S. corporations, including Apple and Morgan Stanley, took out full-page ads in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal urging Mr. Trump not to abandon the deal. Some energy business leaders, including Exxon Mobil Corp CEO Darren Woods, also publicly encouraged Mr. Trump to remain in the agreement, arguing the U.S. stood a greater chance of influencing global climate policy as part of a coalition than it could on its own.

Withdrawing from the Paris agreement is “huge foreign policy blunder” that would likely make it more difficult for the U.S. to succeed in other international negotiations, including trade, said Samantha Gross, a fellow at the Brookings Institution. Far from boosting U.S. jobs, leaving a multilateral environmental agreement could prove to be an economic blow, said Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based think tank.

“One-trillion dollars a year is available on offer to American exporters and investors because there is the climate deal in Paris and quite frankly some of the American companies won’t have access to that probably moving forward,” he said.

With files from Reuters




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On business: South Carolina firm is now a heavy hitter in the Falkland Islands

The short war between Britain and Argentina over control of the Falkland Islands came to an end on June 14, 1982.

As that 35th anniversary approaches, a more recent conflict caused tensions to flare between the two nations. This time, the battle was all about a business.

The latest skirmish centered on the ownership of FIH Group plc, an obscure publicly traded company that has one foot planted in the South Atlantic archipelago, the other in Europe.

When the dust settled a few weeks ago, one of South Carolina’s largest privately held companies emerged as the majority shareholder.

The roughly $12 million investment capped a fast-moving sequence of events that included an unsolicited buyout proposal from a Buenos Aires billionaire that nearly triggered an international incident.

The InterTech Group Inc.’s unlikely journey from its global headquarters near Park Circle to one of the world’s tiniest economies began when it added FIH Group to its stock portfolio years ago.

The North Charleston company’s other publicly disclosed investments tend to be more pedestrian, from apartment complexes in the Columbia suburbs to ice rinks in Canada to natural gas distributors in Kentucky and New York.

FIH Group, which went by Falkland Islands Holdings until last year, adds an exotic if not quirky edge to that collection of assets. A British financial columnist in 2015 compared the business to the pushmi-pullyu, the fictional dual-headed beast from “Dr. Doolittle.”

“It’s kind of a neat company,” said Robert Johnston, chief strategy officer at InterTech. “It’s like a mini-conglomerate.”

It’s also steeped in history, much like Hudson’s Bay Co., the 347-year-old Canadian retailing icon that InterTech briefly owned, from 2006 to 2008.

FIH Group hasn’t been around quite that long. It originated as the Falkland Islands Co. in 1852, courtesy of a royal charter, to establish a strategic shipping and agriculture outpost for the British Empire. By then Britain already had asserted its rule over the chain, though Argentina also maintains a claim to the territories.

The company plugged along quietly for much of the next century. In the early 1960s, it was listed on the London Stock Exchange. After being bought and sold twice, it was spun off and became an independent publicly traded business again in 1997.

InterTech began acquiring the stock through a trust controlled by its owners, the Zucker family. It liked the clean balance sheet and the dividend FIH Group was returning to shareholders, according to Johnston.

“It’s been years since we took the first investment. … We’ve held it ever since,” he said.

London-based FIH Group has diversified beyond its rugged old stomping grounds in the last decade or so. For instance, it bought a ferry business that serves Portsmouth Harbour on the south coast of England. In 2008, it acquired Momart, which stores and transports pricey art exhibits and antiques for customers that have included Christie’s auction house and Kensington Palace, according to reports.

“It’s an interesting and competitive business in Europe,” Johnston said.

Back in the Falklands, FIH Group remains a big fish in that small and remote pond. It owns prime swaths of real estate, operates car dealerships and other retailers, and services the fleet of squid boats that ply the local fishing waters.

The low-key company was thrust into the spotlight earlier this year, after a major shareholder from the U.K. offered to take it private. That drew the interest of billionaire Argentine property magnate Eduardo Elsztain, who said he was considering his own bid.

It quickly became apparent that relations between the two nations over the disputed Falklands remain frosty.

FIH Group called Elsztain’s proposal “unwelcome” and a “real hazard” to its operations and employees. The governing body of the islands also pushed back, threatening to strip the 165-year-old company of its valuable land and shipping rights if the wealthy Argentinian investor gained control of it.

According to reports, a threat to Britain’s rule over the Falklands could require Prime Minister Theresa May to step into the fray.

“If Elsztain makes a formal offer, it will test the Prime Minister’s pledge to block foreign takeovers not in the national interest,” the London Evening Standard wrote in March.

It never reached that point. Elsztain abandoned his idea without making a formal offer.

Shareholders, meanwhile, had rejected the original bid from the U.K investor, who, in turn, offered to sell all of his stock to InterTech in late April. The North Charleston company took the deal. It now owns about 29 percent of FIH Group, giving it a big say in how the business is run.

Management sounded relieved, telling investors in early May that InterTech is a “long-term shareholder” and that it “has provided certain assurances to the board as to its intentions.”

“In particular, it has stated its support for the long-term growth of the business and its subsidiaries, as a London quoted company,” FIH Group said in a statement.

The Falklands play includes what Johnston called “a lottery ticket” that could pay off if oil-drilling recovers in that part of the Atlantic or if Argentina eases local airspace restrictions, allowing more tourists to fly to the islands.

“That would be very good for the economy of the Falklands,” he said last week.

Otherwise, InterTech still likes FIH Group’s businesses and plans to stick with its buy-and-hold strategy – as long as it makes sense to do so.

“It’s a perfect fit for us, but, like anything, never say never,” Johnston said.

© Copyright, 2017, The Post and Courier. All Rights Reserved., source Newspapers

Submission by Human Rights Watch to the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights on the Overseas Operations of Canadian Extractive Companies

Human Rights Watch welcomes this opportunity to address the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights in relation to the human rights impact of Canadian extractive companies operating abroad.

Human Rights Watch is actively engaged in promoting the safeguarding of human rights in the global extractives industry. We are a founding member of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and engage with the Principles through our research, our advocacy with governments and multilateral organizations, and our ongoing dialogue with companies. In 2011, we published a report on the Porgera gold mine in Papua New Guinea, which at the time was majority owned and solely operated by the Canadian corporation, Barrick Gold, the world’s largest gold mining company. It highlighted a longstanding pattern of violent abuse, including acts of gang rape carried out by members of the mine’s private security force, as well as concerns about the mine’s discharge of millions of tons of mine waste into the nearby Porgera River. Subsequently, in 2013 we reported on the Canadian firm Nevsun Resources’ Bisha mine in Eritrea, documenting the apparent use of forced conscript labor in connection with the project and highlighting abusive conditions endured by those forced laborers. These reports serve as a strong example of why Canada—arguably the global mining industry’s most important hub— needs to develop mechanisms that pay close attention to the human rights records of Canadian companies when they operate abroad. Even well-intentioned mining companies often fail in their efforts to address the complex human rights challenges they face around the world without government oversight and regulation to guide them. Most worryingly, many companies seem never to learn of serious abuses linked to their own operations unless independent groups like Human Rights Watch bring problems to their attention.

Over the last decade, the international community has made major strides in recognizing that companies should respect human rights and avoid complicity in human rights violations wherever they operate. It is also understood that governments have a responsibility to concern themselves with the extraterritorial human rights impact of companies domiciled on their soil. Nowhere is the need for a stronger government role more urgent than in the mining sector. Mining firms frequently confront complex human rights challenges in countries whose governments lack meaningful oversight and regulatory capacity.

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights have moved the world closer to consensus around the minimum core human rights responsibilities of businesses. The Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights establish a solid framework for how extractives companies should seek to grapple with complex security issues. But this growing landscape of voluntary standards remains, quite deliberately, an accountability-free zone. Companies take up their human rights responsibilities with varying degrees of seriousness and competence, and those that choose to ignore them altogether face few, if any, consequences. Navigating complex and unfamiliar human rights contexts would be made easier for companies with meaningful government oversight and guidance.

No country is better poised than Canada to take this issue up. Canada’s status as home to more than half of the world’s mining companies and its dominant position in mining investment abroad create a key opportunity for the government to exercise global leadership on the human rights challenges that arise in the extractives context. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights confirm that “States should: Enforce laws that are aimed at, or have the effect of, requiring business enterprises to respect human rights, and periodically to assess the adequacy of such laws and address any gaps”.[1] However, no Canadian law provides a mechanism to allow Canadian authorities to exercise meaningful scrutiny and oversight of the human rights impact and compliance of Canadian extractive companies operating overseas. On these issues, Canadian companies operating overseas generally only must comply with the laws and regulations of the countries in which they work. This often means the bar is set far too low. Canada arguably has more experience than any other nation in developing policies that both regulate and nurture a competitive mining industry. The example of Canadian leadership on this issue would show other governments that responsible human rights policy is compatible with the legitimate needs of a robust and healthy mining industry.

The Need for an Ombudsperson to Regulate Canadian Extractives Companies

In January 2016, we sent a letter to Stéphane Dion, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, identifying abuses in the Canadian mining industry and calling on the Canadian government to take a leadership role in addressing them. In April 2016, we provided Minister Dion a first set of recommendations regarding the establishment of an independent ombudsperson’s office for the regulation of Canadian extractives companies, and last month we wrote further in support of this proposal to Prime Minister Trudeau.

We have actively urged the government of Canada to establish an ombudsperson’s office with a mandate to independently investigate and publicly report on human rights problems involving Canadian extractive companies. This office would help strengthen the mining industry’s human rights practices consistent with the UN Human Rights Committee’s recommendation of 13 August 2015 that Canada establish an independent mechanism to investigate extractives companies operating abroad and a legal framework of remedy for abuses suffered by affected communities.[2] An independent ombudsperson was also a consensus recommendation from the 2007 report of the National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries that included the Canadian government, civil society, the industry, and other experts.[3] The Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA) has also been spearheading a campaign to establish an ombudsperson to handle the grievances of people affected by Canadian oil, gas and mining companies abroad. Like the CNCA, Human Rights Watch was disappointed and concerned to learn that Canada’s 2017 federal budget does not include any reference to funding for a human rights ombudsperson.[4]

The core components that Human Rights Watch believes are essential for an independent ombudsperson’s office to be effective are:

  • A credible and accessible complaint process, without undue obstacles or burdens;[5]
  • Transparency, with public reporting to successfully confidence-build throughout the process;[6]
  • Independent investigating power, free from external interference in decision-making, including the ability to trigger investigations, rather than simply respond to complaints;[7] and
  • The ability to make recommendations for meaningful remedies to hold perpetrators accountable.
  • The meaningful participation of affected individuals and communities, including assessing and addressing security risks associated with participation.

We have advised the Canadian government that in addition to an independent investigative capacity and coordination with civil society, government, and industry, the ombudsperson’s mandate should include making recommendations to government on how to best go about identifying and mitigating future human rights violations in the extractive sector. This mechanism should proactively identify issues and develop the best method of response. Much as the World Bank Group’s Compliance Advisory Ombudsman’s (CAO) advisory capacity allows it to make general recommendations that are not case-specific, the ombudsperson’s office should provide the government with a broader set of lessons learned and recommendations for the systematic improvement of the environmental and/or social performance of the extractives industry.

In June 2016, Minister Dion responded to Human Rights Watch, explaining that Canada’s Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor is at “arm’s length status from the government” and already has the “mandate to engage directly with impacted communities, seek and receive information from advocacy groups and report publicly”. Yet by merely facilitating a dialogue between complainants and extractives companies, the role of CSR Counsellor does not provide the level of oversight necessary for such an industry and indeed few companies have agreed to make use of its services. This mechanism lacks investigatory powers, is not mandated to recommend remedy or engage in follow-up and monitoring activities, and has not proven effective in resolving cases. It also fails to meet the standard of the UN Guiding Principles that “States should: Encourage, and where appropriate require, business enterprises to communicate how they address their human rights impacts”.[8] The CSR Counsellor plays a valuable role in promoting good business practice in the extractive sector, but this is no substitute for real independent monitoring of company human rights practices.

We maintain that an effective ombudsperson’s office committed to independent investigation, accessibility, transparency, and effective remedy would send a strong signal that Canada is committed to corporate responsibility and human rights by assuming global leadership on this issue.

Human Rights Watch recommends the Working Group asks the Canadian government to:

Human Rights Watch asks the Working Group to call upon the Canadian government to:

  • Introduce legislation to introduce a regulatory framework sufficient to give the Canadian government power to sanction and publicly report on Canadian companies that fail to meet minimum human rights standards in their overseas operations.
  • Implement legal frameworks, including the establishment of an independent ombudsperson, that allow government institutions to monitor the human rights performance of domestic companies when they operate abroad in areas where there are serious or systematic human rights issues.
  • Take steps to regulate the human rights conduct of domestic companies operating abroad in complex environments, such as requiring companies to carry out human rights due diligence activity.
 


[5] “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,” Principle 31 section b.

[6] “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,” Principle 31 section e.

[7] A useful mechanism to examine is the Compliance Advisory Ombudsman (CAO), or the accountability mechanism for the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), particularly in its compliance function. The CAO Vice President can trigger compliance appraisals on IFC or MIGA investments, which has served to boost the mechanism’s legitimacy, especially with communities lacking the resources or security to submit their own complaints.

[8] “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,” Principle 3.