Fr Jacques Nzumbu SJ speaks at a CJI co-sponsored event held at the Metropolitan Toronto University’s Ted Rogers School of Management November 23, 2022. Photo: Juan Emilio Hernandez/CJI
Watch video of the event here.
TORONTO — Fr Jacques Nzumbu SJ, a Congolese Jesuit and specialist in renewable energy technology, urged universities and NGOs on November 23 to conduct “deep research” into whether the green energy transition is “just” both ethically and economically. He also called on them to ensure that their investments are not supporting mining companies that violate human rights and cause irreparable harm on people’s health and environment in the Global South.
“Universities have a responsibility to question, to publish, and do research,” on the green energy transition, which is being advanced in the Global North as a solution to the climate crisis, said Fr Nzumbu. A “just transition” should be the guiding principle in the search for valid and legitimate energy and ecological transition.
Fr Nzumbu spoke at an event co- organized by Canadian Jesuits International (CJI), the Toronto Metropolitan University’s Institute for the Study of Corporate Social Responsibility, St Mark’s College at University of British Columbia, Campion College at the University of Regina, St Paul’s College at the University of Manitoba, and Regis College at the University of Toronto. The event was held in person at the Ted Rogers School of Management, and online via Zoom.
Fr Nzumbu decried the devastating impact of mining operations, some by Canadian companies, on local communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Aside from conventional practices that displace communities, mining companies also buy from artisanal mines that employ child labour, he said. In his visit to artisanal mines Fr Nzumbu has witnessed children washing cobalt in muddy, uranium-laced waters. Cobalt is used for lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles, laptops, and smart phones.
“I asked workers to get out of this kind of work, but there’s no alternative for them,” said Fr. Nzumbu, noting that the DRC is heavily dependent on income from mining.
Fr Nzumbu underscored the importance of imposing mandatory due diligence, saying that voluntary compliance doesn’t really change the behaviour of mining companies. “The reports from mining companies are not accurate…Companies are reporting that they are the best, but we are still suffering on the ground,” he said. “Transparency is important,” so that investors can make good decisions about the assets they are holding, he added. “Are these green assets? Toxic assets? Human rights abuse assets? Without information, they will make mistakes.”
He also urged civil society organizations in the North to work with people in the DRC in monitoring the activities of mining companies and publishing information about human rights abuses. He noted how, with the help of a network of NGOs, Germany was able to pass a Supply Chain Due Diligence Act that mandates German companies to observe human rights and environmental due diligence obligations in their supply chain. The law will come into force January 1, 2023.
CJI Executive Director Jenny Cafiso, who spoke briefly at the event, urged Canadians to support two private Members’ bills introduced in the House of Commons March 29, 2022.
Bill C-263 aims to empower the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) to compel Canadian corporations to provide documents and testimonies in response to complaints about their actions that violate human rights. Bill C-262 will require Canadian companies to exercise due diligence with respect to human and environmental rights throughout their global supply chains.
If passed, these bills would give marginalized communities in the Global South more protection against forced labour, land and water contamination and violence against women.