Guidance Note No. 3: Information on joint requests for review in the Review Process

Accessible, Effective, Independent, Predictable, Responsive, Transparent

The Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor
Government of Canada

Views expressed herein are those of the Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor

Errors and omissions remain the responsibility of the Office

October 2012

What is the Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor?

The Office of the CSR Counsellor is a new office, set up as part of the Government of Canada's corporate social responsibility strategy for the Canadian international mining, oil and gas sectors. The Office's Review Process provides an opportunity for dispute resolution, dialogue and effective problem-solving between a Canadian extractive company and people overseas affected by the extractive project.

What is the Review Process?

The Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor is a resource that people can draw on to reduce and to constructively resolve conflict between project-affected communities and Canadian extractive sector companies outside of Canada. The Office provides a new option for constructive resolution of disputes between Canadian companies and communities outside of Canada. Our problem-solving tool, called the Review Process, emphasizes dialogue and constructive problem-solving. It is about people with different views and interests working together to find mutually acceptable solutions to resolve disputes or issues.

Rules of procedure:

"The CSR Counsellor invites joint submissions from two or more Participants who mutually seek a resolution to an issue of concern."

How does the Review Process work?

The Review Process is a platform for affected individuals, groups and communities and Canadian companies to work together. Extractive sector projects are complex, and social expectations may be more dynamic than the legal or regulatory framework at play. This can strain relationships between communities and companies. The Review Process provides a safe space for dialogue and creative problem solving, which can support working relationships.

Once we receive a request for review, we confirm it is complete. If it is complete, we carry out an intake screening. This screening is not a judgment on the merits of the request or an assessment of the information contained in the request. The screening is only to determine whether the request meets the Office's legal mandate. We then meet with the participants, by phone or in person, to let them know how the process works, what they can expect, and begin to build understanding of the issues.

The Office normally conducts a situational assessment in the field. The purpose of this assessment is to help everyone involved better understand the context, the issues, and whether this problemsolving approach is appropriate and will likely be helpful in resolving the issues. Some other tools the CSR Counsellor may use during the Review Process are: information-sharing, convening, facilitation, process design and joint fact-finding. The CSR Counsellor can also assist the parties to structure a formal mediation process, if they so desire.

The intake process:

Steps in the intake process, full description following the image.
  1. Office receives request
    • Notifies other party within 24 hours
  2. Completes intake screening
    • Verifies request is complete and meets criteria
  3. Begins situational assessment

There is a maximum of 40 business days between the office receiving the request and completes the intake screening.

What is a joint request for review?

Typically, a request for review is brought to the Office of the CSR Counsellor by project-affected stakeholders, or a Canadian company. However, the rules of procedure for the Review Process invites joint requests. This means that a company and project-affected stakeholders together can request the involvement of the CSR Counsellor in resolving disputes or issues. This could be useful when both parties believe that their discussions or interactions could benefit from the assistance of a neutral third party, such as the CSR Counsellor. As a neutral third party, we help people find solutions, but we do not take sides.

How does the CSR Counsellor help?

The Office of the CSR Counsellor is a third party neutral in disputes between companies and people affected by an extractive project. The CSR Counsellor is a convener and facilitator. In many cases, a neutral third party can help people work together better. The Counsellor uses interest-based mutual gains dispute resolution. This means that the Counsellor seeks to uncover the real reason or motivation behind the dispute and find out what is important to the participants in reaching a solution. The CSR Counsellor can work with parties in setting a framework for information exchange, two-way communication and structured dialogue.

There is no cost to use the process.

What are some possible outcomes?

The process is designed to assist participants, working in good faith, in reaching workable solutions to issues. Since both parties have an active opportunity to shape the resolution, the end result may be more durable or meet their needs better.

Participating in the Review Process can have benefits before resolution of the issue. You will be able to explain the situation from your perspective while hearing directly how the other party sees it. This process can: help you gain a deeper understanding of the underlying dispute, become better informed about the situation on the ground and demonstrate your responsiveness to the situation. The joint problem-solving approach used by the CSR Counsellor can help parties in a variety of ways. The range of possible outcomes includes:

  • Workable and lasting solutions that allow parties to maintain control and input in a process
  • Improved trust and working relationships
  • Enhanced trust in scientific information – beyond "duelling experts"
  • A better understanding of the situation and get to the root cause of conflicts or issues
  • Mutual understanding of how to implement a performance standard in a way that best meets interests

How do we know if this process might be right for us?

The Review Process is not appropriate or effective in all circumstances. There is a greater chance of this process being successful when:

  • Participants have the incentive and willingness to participate
  • Issues are a high priority to all participants
  • The long-term relationship matters