Canada’s foreign minister John Manley is raising claims of impotence to a new rhetorical art form. He declares in a recent Canadian Press news story (attached below) that Talisman-generated oil revenues are “fuelling the aggression and exacerbating the hostilities in what is a dreadful, dreadful situation” (Sudan’s civil war). But he won’t intervene, explaining, “It’s not the government of Canada that is involved”—only Canada’s largest independent oil and gas outfit.
Eric Reeves [May 8, 2001]
Northampton, MA 01063
Shameless, pusillanimous, politically expedient: Mr. Manley’s attitude toward Talisman’s presence in Sudan deserves all these adjectives and others. But he has crystallized the issue: he would seem to be declaring that as long as it’s not the Government of Canada that is directly complicit in atrocities committed against civilians, then it’s really none of his business.
And as to working for legislation that would allow him to restrain the predatory and destructive international business activities of companies like Talisman, Mr. Manley can only cluck worryingly about “creating a precedent.” He seems unconcerned that Talisman’s brutalizing of southern Sudan creates its own deadly precedent, one that may very well guide future Canadian international extraction ventures if there is no present resolve to prevent complicity in massive civilian destruction.
[Mr. Manley’s email address is: John.Manley@dfait-maeci.gc.ca]
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“Talisman revenues fuelling Sudan war, says Manley, but Ottawa won’t intervene”
BY STEPHEN THORNE
The Canadian Press
Copyright (c) 2001 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.
OTTAWA (CP) The federal government will not amend legislation to curb a Canadian oil company’s controversial role in Sudan’s bloody civil war, Foreign Minister John Manley said Thursday.
Manley acknowledged oil revenues from Calgary-based Talisman Energy Inc. are helping fuel Sudanese military operations in the country’s war-torn south, but he said little can be done to stop it.
“It’s not the government of Canada that is involved,” Manley told the foreign affairs committee. “We also, I think, have good evidence that if it were not for the engagement of Talisman, it would be a much worse situation.
“They are doing some things to improve the situation in the south and we ought to be recognizing that.”
If anything, he added, Ottawa should be encouraging Talisman to do more.
Eric Reeves is a Smith College English professor who has written extensively and testified before the U.S. Congress on the Sudanese conflict. He calls the social-conscience argument bogus.
“Mr. Manley knows perfectly well that the Khartoum regime is relentlessly using Canada’s name as moral cover for this disgraceful oil operation,” Reeves said in an interview from Northampton, Mass.
“How can a dispensary and an infirmary and some infrastructure housekeeping be put in the balance with tens of thousands of Sudanese lives lost? This is just disgraceful, this argument.”
Critics like Reeves have urged Ottawa to beef up the Special Economic Measures Act to enable it to sanction companies like Talisman.
Bloc MP Francine Lalonde noted foreign investment by Canadian firms rose to $150 billion from $50 billion in 10 years. She said corporate ethics will undoubtedly become a more prevalent concern with that kind of growth.
But Manley said extraordinary measures like legislation to intervene in Talisman operations would “create a precedent that would be increasingly challenging for us to deal with in a host of situations around the world.”
Besides, he added, it’s not clear intervention would benefit those suffering as a result of the conflict.
Talisman declared record earnings in the first quarter of 2001 with net income of $346 million, three years after it took a 25 per cent interest in the Sudan-based Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Co.
Eyewitnesses report scorched-earth warfare, bombing, looting, abduction and massive displacement around oil fields.
Manley said Thursday there’s little doubt oil revenues are perpetuating the 18-year-old civil war between the Christian south and the Islamic government in Khartoum.
“We as a government share the concern that revenues that are flowing to the government of Sudan . . . are fuelling the aggression and exacerbating the hostilities in what is a dreadful, dreadful situation,” Manley said.
He said Ottawa has emphasized principles of corporate social responsibility among Canadian companies operating abroad.
“We will continue to watch very closely in determining whether there are other actions we can meaningfully take, as opposed to simply rhetorically taking and setting rules that have no practical effect in the end.”
Last month, Talisman issued a “corporate social responsibility report” that outlined construction of schools and hospitals near its holdings and claimed it pressures the government to end the war.
The company believes Sudan’s oil potential is huge; it has drilled 10 new wells this year.