Kinsman: Should Canadian corporations be permitted to do business with corrupt and repressive regimes?

By: /
March 12, 2012
Jeremy Kinsman
Former ambassador to the European Union and high commissioner to Britain

“Permission” by the Government only clicks in when there are Security Council or Commonwealth sanctions involved. Authorities are less than vigilant, however; examples – on Iran where a Canadian software company is reported as assisting Iranian security on techniques to choke the Internet; or ill-disguised bribes (“signing bonus”) by Canadian corporations (eg, Petrocan in Libya) which contravene our obligations under OECD codes of conduct on corrupt practices. Otherwise, on doing legal business in what is a wicked competitive world, methods and scale of engagement are really up to the Boards of the corporations in question. SNC/Lavalin’s disgraceful conduct in Libya suggests a Board asleep at the switch or unacceptably very cynical governance for a company which long profited from projects funded by the Canadian taxpayer. There is an argument that doing honest business through investment in a dishonest country, a Canadian company with our habits and rules of meritocracy and transparency can be a mentor to employees and contribute to building capacity for a better culture. Maybe. But an obvious line not to cross is a joint venture with acknowledged tyrants, such as with a Gadhafi son to build them a better prison. Give us a break. “