Agency petitions Canadian minister
The Sudan Inter-Agency Reference Group (SIARG) is a forum for Canadian agencies working on/in Sudan. The Inter-Church Coalition on Africa (ICCAF), is the host agency. SIARG recently petitioned the Canadian minister for foreign affairs regarding the activities of the Canadian company, Talisman Energy Inc. in Sudan
The Hon. Lloyd Axworthy
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Dear Mr. Axworthy,
RE: Talisman Energy Inc. and Sudan
We, the undersigned 11 Canadian agencies, are writing with regard to Talisman Energy Inc. and its business partnership with the Government of Sudan, which stands accused of genocide and slavery and a litany of other human rights violations.
Several of us have previously registered concern with the Canadian government regarding Arakis Energy Corp. and its Sudan oil projects. Recently, Arakis was acquired by Talisman, which is a major Canadian oil exploration and production company trading on the Toronto and New York stock exchanges. As a result of the take-over, elements of the Canadian corporate sector are poised to play a much larger role in Sudan.
This development requires the Canadian government's urgent attention. Several of us have been in direct dialogue with Talisman but have been unsatisfied with the responses received. In principle, we are not against a Canadian firm helping to develop Sudan's oil wealth. However, with the Islamist National Islamic Front in control of the Sudanese government, we believe that any revenue generated by oil production and sales will be used to further prosecute the civil war and result in many more human rights abuses and civilian deaths. Therefore, everything possible should be done to curtail or at least limit the activities of Talisman and other Canadian companies wanting to invest in Sudan at this time.
We believe that Canada has tools at its disposal for this purpose. We would like to draw your attention to several:
First, a word about Talisman's operations in Sudan. Talisman's presence will help provide the Sudanese government with oil for domestic use and much-needed revenue. Currently, according to Talisman's own reports, 10,000 barrels of oil a day are being pumped from wells in the Bentiu region of southern Sudan. The crude oil is being refined in nearby El Obeid and, we believe, used to fuel military activities including the operation of tanks, personnel carriers, and the planes that bomb hospitals and displaced persons camps in southern Sudan. We have received credible reports from displaced people from the areas surrounding the oil fields charging ethnic cleansing.
The reports allege that government forces and the militias armed and directed by the government have cleared the area of local people (whom the government believes could be sources of support for the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army) in order to secure the safety of Canadian and other foreign oil workers and increased oil production.
Furthermore, the presence of a credible Canadian oil company will also create a favourable climate of investment and allow the Sudanese government to access international credit, which, we believe, it will use to prosecute the civil war with even greater intensity.
Note: Among observers of the civil war in Sudan, there is widespread agreement that the struggle will not be resolved militarily, but that it can be prolonged.
We would like to make some practical suggestions concerning how Canada might take a stronger stand on this matter. It is inevitable that other Canadian companies will be interested in sub-contracts and investments made possible by Talisman's venture in Sudan. These companies, along with Talisman, will, no doubt, seek to have their financial risks underwritten by Canada's Export Development Corporation (EDC).
In a letter to the Inter-Church Coalition on Africa (April 1997), you wrote that Sudan remains "off-cover" in terms of EDC financial assistance to Canadian firms working in Sudan or supplying equipment and services to such companies or Sudan itself. We hope that Canada has no plans to change this policy and that pressure from these companies will be resisted.
We would further request the suspension of all support for Canadian firms doing business in or with Sudan, including export programmes and commercial promotion.
Sudan, like Burma, could be placed on the Area Controls List which would require companies wanting to export equipment and technology to Sudan to apply for an export permit. Applications for permits could be carefully screened and denied on the basis of the human rights record of the Sudanese government. We understand that any country can be added to the list at your discretion as minister.
Secondly, Canada could use the Special Economic Measures Act (SEMA) to unilaterally impose economic sanctions on Sudan. A prior resolution from an international body (e.g. the Commonwealth or UN) would not be needed to empower such an action. For the Act to be used, Cabinet must be of the view that a grave breach of peace and security has occurred that has resulted, or is likely to result, in a serious international crisis. We believe that more than five million displaced people, the use of famine as a weapon of war, humanitarian relief programmes costing $1million each day, support of insurgent forces in Uganda and Eritrea, and acts of international terrorism-all associated with the Sudanese government,-qualify as a serious international crisis.
We understand that determining whether there is such a breach leading to such a crisis is a discretionary decision taken by Cabinet, and one that is very difficult to challenge in the courts. This implies that the use of the SEMA is a matter of political will, not legal consideration-an important distinction.
Economic sanctions, we realise, can have far-reaching implications for civilians and should never be taken lightly. While we are not at this time calling for sanctions, we believe that Sudan qualifies for measures under the SEMA, and respectfully request that your office review prospects for the use of the Act as soon as possible. We suggest that a research memorandum be prepared to explore the options.
We appreciate Canada's commitment to peace, human rights, and humanitarian relief in Sudan, demonstrated tangibly through support for the IGAD peace process, resolutions at the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR), and donations of humanitarian aid. We hope this commitment will also find expression in political resolve not to allow Canadian corporations to add to the misery and suffering of innocent people in Sudan.
Thank you for your attention to this most urgent concern. We look forward to your response.
Gary W. Kenny
Director, Inter-Church Coalition on Africa (ICCAF)
On behalf of the following agencies:
Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers) (Contact: Carol Dixon 613-228-2805) Christian Reformed World Relief Committee: (Contact: Madeleine Robins 905-336-2920) Canadian Labour Congress: (Contact: Paul Puritt 613-521-4655 Ext. 435)
Emmanuel International: (Contact: David Bainbridge 905-640-2111)
Freedom Quest International: (Contact: Mel Middleton 403-818-5010)
Inter-Church Coalition on Africa: (Contact: Gary Kenny 416-927-1124)
Mennonite Central Committee: (Contact: Chris Derksen Hiebert 519-421-9078)
Primate's World Relief and Development Fund-Anglican Church of Canada: (Contact: Zaida Bastos 416-924-9192)
Project Ploughshares: (Contact: Ernie Regehr 519-888-6541 Ext. 263)
Steelworkers Humanity Fund: (Contact: Gerry Barr 416-487-1571)
United Church of Canada: (Contact: Lee Holland 416-231-7680 Ext. 5156)
Copies: Sandelle Scrimshaw, Director General, Africa Bureau, DFAIT
Aubrey Morantz, Director, Eastern and Southern Africa Relations
The Hon. David Kilgour, Secretary of State for Latin America and Africa
The Hon. Bill Graham, Chairperson, Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade
The Hon. Colleen Beaumier, Chairperson, Parliamentary Sub-Committee on Human Rights
David Melvill, Political Officer for Sudan, DFAIT
Eric Hoskins, Policy Adviser, Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs
John Schram, Canadian Ambassador to Sudan
Preparation of this letter was facilitated by the Sudan Inter-Agency Reference Group (SIARG).
Inter-Church Coalition on Africa 129 St. Clair Ave. West
Toronto, ON Canada M4V 1N5
Tel: 416 927 1124 Fax: 416 927 7554 E-mail: email@example.com
Web Page: www.web.net/~iccaf
SUDAN CATHOLIC INFORMATION OFFICE
Bethany House, P. O. Box 21202, Nairobi, Kenya
tel. +254.2.562247 or 569130, fax 566668
For further information, please contact:
Fr. Kizito, SCIO, tel +254.2.562247 - fax +254.2.566668 - e-mail: