Vive Le Canada

IPS: Is Canada's Pension Fund Violating Landmine Treaty?
Date: Monday, December 22 2003
Topic:


POLITICS: Is Canada's Pension Fund Violating Landmine Treaty?

By Stephen Leahy


BROOKLIN, Canada, Dec 20 (IPS) - Anti-war activists say Canada's national
pension fund might be violating the global Mine Ban Treaty that Ottawa
championed by investing in U.S. arms makers that have manufactured landmines.


A report released by the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT) says the
Canada Pension Plan (CPP), a 64-billion-dollar fund to which workers and
employers contribute, invests in 15 of the world's top 20 weapons contractors.


Three of those firms, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and General Electric, are
listed in a report by the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Human Rights
Watch (HRW) as having been involved in the making of anti-personnel landmines.


Lockheed Martin, the world's highest-ranking arms maker, still produces
components for CBU-89 "Gator" landmines, says COAT Co-ordinator Richard
Sanders.


By investing in these companies, Canada is breaking the spirit, if not the
letter, of the highly acclaimed global Mine Ban Treaty, which is now part
of Canadian law, Sanders told IPS. "It's incredibly hypocritical," he added.


By law, a portion of every Canadian's earnings, along with matching
contributions from employers, is channelled into the CPP. While monthly
pension checks are issued at age 65, most of the money in the plan is
invested in stocks and real estate by an independent agency called the CPP
Investment Board.


"I'm not sure there's proof of any breach but we would want to make sure
Canada would be consistent with the spirit and letter of the treaty," said
Paul Hannon, executive director of Mines Action Canada (MAC), one of six
NGOs that began the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL)
coalition in 1992. ICBL won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.


Canada led the diplomatic effort to create the treaty and was the first to
sign on in Ottawa in 1997. Today, 141 states from every region of the world
have ratified the convention, making it the most successful international
agreement in recent decades, according to the ICBL.


While the treaty bans states from producing, stockpiling or transferring
landmines, it also prohibits any action "to assist, encourage or induce, in
any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a state party under
this convention".


"We're trying to create a new international norm that says the use of these
weapons is repugnant," Hannon told IPS.


Investing in companies that make mines or their components should be
similarly stigmatised as repugnant he says -- "we shouldn't invest in them".


Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and General Electric remain on HRW's list as past
and potential future suppliers of mines and mine components, confirmed Mary
Wareham, a senior advocate with HRW, also a partner in ICBL.


However, the U.S. government has not awarded any mine-production contracts
since 1997, Wareham says. Washington has not signed the Mine Ban Treaty,
and has not renounced the weapons' use. The U.S. military currently has
some 10 million antipersonnel landmines in stock.


Even the appearance of a violation bothers Hannon.


Canada's investment practices should not call into question the country's
leadership role in the convention, he says. "It could be used as a way to
discredit the treaty."
Hannon says it should not be difficult for the CPP board to screen
potential investments, nor would doing that jeopardise the fund's earnings
potential.


But the three companies in question are respected and successful, counters
John Cappelletti, manager of communications and stakeholders at the CPP
Investment Board.


The CPP invests in legal, publicly traded companies in an effort to
maximize financial return, he added, basing those decisions solely on
financial information.


The legislation controlling the board prevents it from screening companies
on an ethical or moral basis, Cappelletti said.


In any case, such screens -- generally termed "socially responsible
investing" (SRI) -- would not be feasible because the plan represents
millions of Canadians with widely diverging viewpoints, he added.


When asked about potential violations of international agreements like the
Mine Ban Treaty, Cappelletti said he would have to look into the matter.


Screening weapons contractors from investments is quite easy to do,
according to Robert Walker, vice president of Ethical Funds, a Canadian
mutual fund company that manages 1.5 billion dollars in assets.


"It's a complete red herring to say you couldn't get a consensus on which
companies to exclude," Walker told IPS. Some U.S. states are already doing
it, and all pension funds in the United Kingdom must reveal their SRI
policies and criteria, he added.


"There's no reason CPP investments couldn't be consistent with Canada's
public policy," according to Walker.


Canadians would object if they knew how their pension monies are being
invested, he added.


The COAT report found investments of 2.5 billion dollars in at least 170
domestic and foreign military corporations.


CPP also invests in Altria, British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco
Inc., the top three tobacco firms in the world.


(END/2003)

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copyright IPS--posted here for fair use only

[couldn't find link]

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The story above was forwarded by the Inter Press News Service to 100
countries via 1,200 outlets (Dec.20-21,2003). Perhaps this will finally
result in some mainstream, corporate media coverage.


For more info and to
join the 2000 who've signed COAT's webpetition to "Stop CPP War Investments":

http://coat.openconcept.ca


To see the signers names and read their comments:

http://coat.openconcept.ca/signed.php3#namelist


-Richard Sanders, COAT



http://coat.openconcept.ca http://coat.openconcept...



This article comes from Vive Le Canada
http://www.vivelecanada.ca

The URL for this story is:
http://www.vivelecanada.ca/article/155712701-ips-is-canada-s-pension-fund-violating-landmine-treaty