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The House of Commons is to vote today on a modest, sensible piece of legislation that would be a small step to help improve human rights and the reputation of Canadian companies around the world.

You would never know this listening to bill C-300's enemies in the mining industry. The debate over this legislation has descended into circus-like hyperbole, and it is long past time to set the record straight.

Canada is home to roughly 75 per cent of the world's major mining and exploration companies. The industry they represent is a pillar of the Canadian economy, and it has brought substantial economic benefits to many developing countries.

But the Canadian government does nothing to monitor - let alone regulate - the conduct of its corporate citizens abroad. This has led to real problems and has stained Canada's international reputation.

Canada's mining companies have thrown all of their weight against C-300, which would set guidelines for their behaviour abroad and monitor compliance.

The industry argues that the bill would unjustly tar companies, giving them a reputation for abuse and cutting off sources of financing. The companies say the bill would cripple their ability to compete and perhaps even force them to leave Canada altogether.

In short, the industry predicts that the sky will fall if C-300 is signed into law. These "concerns" are disingenuous. C-300 won't destroy Canadian industry. If anything, the bill is too timid.

Earlier this year, I saw firsthand what the lack of monitoring means for people living in communities where Canadian mining companies operate.

In May, I travelled to Porgera, a remote corner of Papua New Guinea that is home to a mine owned by Barrick Gold. While there, I interviewed several women who had been brutally gang-raped by private security guards on the company's payroll. One woman told me how one of her attackers kicked her in the teeth and then, along with several other guards, raped her after they caught her trespassing near the mine.

Faced with disinterested local authorities and wary of approaching the company whose employees had attacked her, she did not know where to turn for help.

We brought these allegations to Barrick, which is investigating and appears to be taking serious measures to reduce the possibility of future abuses. But abuses like this shouldn't happen at all, and Canada's government shouldn't be the last one to know when they do.

Canadian oil, mining and gas companies are no less responsible than their peers from other countries - but they are also not much better. And because Canada is home to so many of the biggest players, Canadian companies' shortcomings leave a bigger collective footprint than anyone else's.

A study that came to light this week - carried out by the Canadian Centre for the Study of Resource Conflict but commissioned by the mining industry itself - revealed that of 171 high-profile incidents of alleged corporate abuse in the mining sector since 1999, fully one-third implicated Canadian companies.

Bill C-300 would only require Canada's government to do three very simple but important things to help prevent or address corporate misconduct, and to help people like the women I met in Papua.

First, under C-300 the government would establish guidelines of responsible behaviour for Canadian oil, mining and gas companies operating overseas.

Those guidelines would be based on core provisions of international human rights law and on widely accepted principles of good corporate practice - norms most Canadian companies claim to adhere to already.

Second, the government would investigate credible cases where Canadian companies are alleged to have flouted these guidelines.

Finally, the government would withhold some forms of taxpayer-funded government assistance to companies that breach the guidelines unless they improve their practices.

C-300 would bring Canada into step with countries, including the United States, that have accepted that they have a responsibility to take interest in the way their companies behave overseas.

At Human Rights Watch, we believe that C-300 doesn't go far enough. We believe that Canada's government should regulate - not just monitor - the conduct of its companies operating overseas. But that is tomorrow's issue. For now, MPs should block out all the disinformation and examine the very modest legislative effort they have before them on its merits.

Chris Albin-Lackey is a Senior Researcher in the Business and Human Rights Program at Human Rights Watch.

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