An international human rights organization says Vancouver plays a key role in the import of a controversial conflict mineral from Western Sahara.
“We have fewer and fewer importers because of the ethical and legal implications of that trade.”
It’s hoping more attention will force companies involved to make other choices.
It’s not the sexiest of conflict minerals, but phosphates rock is used by the agriculture industry for fertilizer production.
Erik Hagen with Western Sahara Resouce Watch says the imports are problematic.
“The occupation and continued suffering and exile of those people, is partially because of the systemic import of those goods, and Vancouver plays a key role.”
Hagen says only three companies worldwide still import phosphates rock from the disputed territory, via Morocco.
Two of them are Canadian.
One, Calgary-based Agrium, brings it in through Port Metro Vancouver.
Hagen says Calgary-based Agrium could import the mineral from other, more ethical sources, but doesn’t.
“I hope that when people from Vancouver observe the large vessels coming in through the port, that thoughts are made to the people of Western Sahara, where most of that population lives as refugees, in the desert, away from their homeland, evicted from their homes, because of the way the country is occupied.”
For its part, Agrium says it doesn’t take a political position on disputed territory and looks to the Canadian and U.S. governments for guidance.
Only two other companies worldwide import phosphates rock from Western Sahara.
One of them is Saskatchewan-based PotashCorp.