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

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12 March, 2012
By: Kyle Matthews
Executive director, Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies

In a perfect world there would be no corrupt or repressive regimes, making life much easier for Canadian corporations conducting business abroad. Unfortunately, our world is not perfect and reality dictates that we must engage with many countries that are neither democratic nor who share our values. In order to stay competitive, to penetrate new markets and in some cases to access important raw materials, there is no question that Canadian companies need to engage the broader world and seek the right balance between profits and corporate social responsibility. For example, should Canadian companies cease to import rare earth minerals from China because of Beijing’s treatment of its religious minorities? Was it right for Talisman Energy to pull out of Sudan in 2003, even if Indian and Chinese oil firms swept in to replace the company? I believe a blanket ban on all Canadian firms operating in “shady” countries is not the answer.

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