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A House Committee Learns that Canadian Pension Funds Have Invested in Chinese Businesses That Are Indirectly Related to Abuse of Human Rights

Taslima Jamal

Information regarding the Canadian Pension Plan is displayed of the service Canada website in Ottawa on Tuesday, January 31, 2012. Canadians need to place a higher priority on saving for retirement, says a new report from the Bank of Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Some Canadian benefits reserves have put resources into Chinese organizations complicit in denials of basic liberties, the President of an international knowledge counseling firm told a House board, repeating worries from freedoms backing gatherings.

“What we’ve noticed is that… America has a list of countries that are sanctioned, that can no longer act in the disclosure rules that are much more binding,” Alex Payette told MPs on the House committee on the Canada–People’s Republic of China Relationship (CACN) on April 24. “As far as we’re concerned, Canadian authorities should play a much more significant role in the setting up of this system of management of risk.”

CEO Payette of Cercius, a Montreal-based geopolitical intelligence and strategy consulting firm, agreed to provide the information to the House committee in private but declined to name any Chinese companies that are involved in human rights abuses and are invested in by Canadian pension funds.

Therefore, it is reasonable to assert that public pension funds in Canada have invested in PRC-based businesses associated with human rights violations. That is an accurate statement? Raquel Dancho, a member of the Conservative Party, asked.

Payette responded, “The fairer statement will be to say more indirectly, not directly.”

Dancho stated, “That’s still very significant.”

The subject of Canadian benefits finances’ ventures was raised by Moderate MP Michael Chong, who refered to a report by the NGO Hong Kong Watch, charging that no less than three government and six common benefits reserves have put resources into twelve Chinese organizations engaged with constrained work and internment programs for Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

Hong Kong Watch criticized the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) in a previous report for its “considerable holdings” in megacorporations like Alibaba and Tencent. In these companies, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which is in control, owns approximately one percent of the shares, giving it the authority to appoint board directors and influence management decisions.

Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, a senior fellow at the University of Ottawa, told another House committee in December that Tencent, which owns WeChat, a popular social media platform in China, has been used to monitor Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang Province.

The Centre Ice Canadians, an additional advocacy group, has urged the Canadian Pension Plan to withdraw from two of its equity indices that are allegedly associated with Chinese internment camps for Uyghurs.

According to Payette, public pension funds in Canada that wish to make investments in China ought to be required to “produce due diligence reports that are much more comprehensive,” so that the government can keep an eye on their clients, suppliers, and operations in the country.

He stated that Canadian pension funds could invest in certain Chinese businesses without supporting the CCP’s violations of human rights, but this may necessitate “due diligence studies that are more in-depth than a simple assessment from annual reports of certain companies.”

Payette stated, “So as far as we’re concerned, it is important to mobilize much more specialized firms that are not affiliated with Chinese companies and institutions in order to avoid these kinds of risks and prior to any investment in China.”

This report was made possible by Tara MacIsaac.

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