Churches Pressure Canadian Oil Company (Talisman Energy)

By Fieguth, Debra | Anglican Journal, November 1999 | Go to article overview
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Churches Pressure Canadian Oil Company (Talisman Energy)

Fieguth, Debra, Anglican Journal

Church shareholders in a Calgary oil company working in Sudan are worried that revenues from oil production are supporting the Sudanese government in the north and contributing to genocide in the south.

About a dozen churches and denominations, including the Anglican Church of Canada, collectively hold some 100,000 shares in Talisman Energy Inc., which began exporting oil from Sudan in September through the Greater Nile Company. The churches, with support from the Taskforce on Church and Corporate Responsibility, have lobbied the company, spoken out at a shareholders meeting, met with the federal government and, more recently, written to Talisman's board of directors, so far with little result.

The churches were shareholders in Talisman long before the company acquired Arakis Oil in 1998 and began exploring in Sudan. Revenues from church investments go into pension funds and other funds.

A year ago the churches began writing letters to Talisman, task force spokesman Peter Chapman said. Talisman responded that the company is doing development work and helping to bring peace and stability to a country immersed in civil war since 1983.

But the task force and other human rights groups had received numerous documented reports that the National Islamic Front, which runs the Khartoum-based government from the north, has bombed hospitals in the south, starved people by not allowing food aid in, displaced those who live near the oil pipeline, and tolerated slavery, rape, torture and persecution of Christians and animists in the south. In 16 years, about 2 million people have died in the fighting.

It's clear that Talisman's presence in the conflict only exacerbates the problems, says Joy Kennedy, the Anglican Church's eco-justice coordinator. "This certainly just makes it so much easier for the government to have its way."

Task force members asked Talisman to adhere to human rights standards in its work in Sudan, to make known to shareholders what those standards are, and to ask an independent group to verify that those standards are being kept.

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