Canadians everywhere must ask anew about their complicity in the oil-driven destruction of Sudan. Maurice Vellacott, Canadian Alliance Member of Parliament, revealed yesterday that “the Canadian Pension Plan has invested $57.3 million of Canadians’ money in Calgary-based Talisman Energy” (press release attached). This means that millions of Canadians are investing in Talisman’s presence in Sudan, a presence that is sustained only by authoritatively documented scorched-earth warfare in the southern oil regions. This means that millions of Canadians are investing in a corporate presence that supports the extremist National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum, the overwhelmingly culpable and deeply recalcitrant party in Sudan’s immensely destructive civil war. It is not simply a Canadian company that is in Sudan, but Canadian pension investment dollars as well.
Eric Reeves [August 3, 2001]
Northampton, MA 01063
There has been much callous commentary in the Canadian press about Talisman’s presence in Sudan, a good deal of it suggesting that the government has no business interfering in Talisman’s off-shore activities and that Canadians can choose to invest or not invest in Talisman. And there, it has been suggested, the matter ends—politically and morally. But this is certainly not true if Canadian pension dollars are being invested in Talisman Energy shares by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. Moreover, as MP Vellacott points out, “though [the Investment Board] operates at arms length from the government, the directors of the Investment Board are appointed by the government on the recommendation of the Minister of Finance, Paul Martin.”
It’s difficult to see how Canadian complicity in Sudan’s genocidal oil project could be made more comprehensive. A Canadian corporation is present in Sudan’s killing fields, exacerbating conflict and making peace more difficult to achieve; a Canadian Government-appointed investment board has invested $57.3 million dollars in this brutal corporate rapacity; and millions of Canadian pension investors are represented by this investment. Canada and Canadians simply cannot shrug off the national complicity in human suffering and destruction that has been fully established by a Canadian assessment mission to Sudan, commissioned by former Minister of Foreign Affairs Lloyd Axworthy (the “Harker Report”).
[From the Report of a Canadian Assessment Mission to Sudan, led by John Harker (Ottawa, January 2000); commissioned by the Foreign Ministry to investigate the consequences of oil development in Sudan]:
“The evidence we gathered, including the testimony of those directly involved, directs us to conclude that oil is exacerbating conflict in Sudan.”
“It is difficult to avoid [UN Special Rapporteur] Leonardo Franco’s conclusion that a ‘swath of scorched earth/cleared territory’ is being created around the oilfields. Over the years, the series of attacks and displacements are leading to a gradual depopulation, as only a percentage of people who flee return after each displacement.”
“It is difficult to imagine a cease-fire while oil extraction continues, and almost impossible to do so if revenues keep flowing to the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company partners and the Government of Sudan as currently arranged.”
“[H]elicopter gunships and Antonov bombers of the Government of Sudan […] have armed and re-fueled at [Talisman’s] Heglig [airstrip] and from there attacked civilians. This is totally incontrovertible.”
“Leonardo Franco’s predecessor as Special Rapporteur, Gaspar Biro, has been quoted as saying that if the oil companies don’t know what’s going on, they’re not looking over the fences of their compounds.”
“We can only conclude that Sudan is a place of extraordinary suffering and continuing human rights violationsand the oil operations in which a Canadian company is involved add more suffering.”
If Canadians can look with indifference on these realities and their investment in them, they have suffered a terrible loss of moral bearings.
[from the office of Maurice Vellacot, Member of Parliament]
Thursday August 2, 2001
Ottawa – Saskatoon Canadian Alliance MP Maurice Vellacott wants Canada Pension Plan contributors to know that their premiums are being used to support genocide in the worn-torn country of Sudan. According to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board’s 2001 annual report (p. 16), the CPP has invested $57.3 million of Canadians’ money in Calgary-based Talisman Energy Inc., which is heavily involved in oil development in Sudan. Talisman, along with several other oil companies, is a partner in a joint venture with the Arab Sudanese government, which uses its share of the profits to finance human rights abuses against the black population in southern Sudan.
Vellacott stated, “The Canadian government has made all of us complicit in the gross human rights violations in Sudan. It can no longer be argued that it’s only one Canadian company that is complicit. Now most Canadians have blood on their hands, thanks to the Finance Minister.”
CPP funds are invested with a view to providing Canadians with pension benefits upon retirement. Investment decisions are made by the CPP Investment Board, which the Liberals established through
Bill C-2 in 1997. Though it operates at arms length from the government, the directors of the Investment Board are appointed by the government on the recommendation of the Minister of Finance, Paul Martin.
Vellacott said, “Ultimately the government is responsible for how our CPP premiums are being invested. It is the government that appoints the CPP Investment Board’s directors and it is the government that failed to include ethical guidelines for investing when it established the Board in 1997.”
Vellacott concluded, “Canadians don’t want to fund their retirements in this way. I certainly don’t want blood on my hands. There are many ethical companies out there and Talisman should not be getting a dime of CPP investment. I urge the Finance Minister to apologize for this and to take immediate measures to ensure that divestment comes swiftly.”