Human rights abuse allegations hang over bypass builder gov’t chose

France investigating VINCI and its Qatar FIFA World Cup soccer stadium project

The France-based corporation that will build and maintain the Regina bypass on a 30-year contract has been mired in troubling allegations, and an investigation by the Government of France into its human rights practices. The NDP wants to know if the Sask. Party asked the right questions, or just looked the other way before awarding the corporation a massive contract.

VINCI is the company the government chose to build the Regina bypass. It’s also the corporation building the Qatar soccer stadium in preparation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Paris-based human rights organization Sherpa accuses VINCI of, allegedly, withholding the passports of the migrant workers, forcing them to work long days and preventing them from moving to non-company housing. French authorities determined in April that there is enough evidence to warrant an initial investigation into those allegations.

“We want to know if the government asked the tough questions before inviting this corporation into Saskatchewan, and we want to know what the Sask. Party plans to do should any of the claims be proven in court after their massive deal is finalized,” said NDP labour critic David Forbes.

“This is a corporation we will be tied to for 30 years. Going with a corporation that is connected to alleged human rights concerns just does not match Saskatchewan values.”

In addition to awarding VINCI a contract to build Regina’s $1.2 billion bypass, the government plans to pay a VINCI subsidiary to operate and maintain the bypass for 30 years.

VINCI denies wrongdoing, and says it has filed a defamation lawsuit against Sherpa, noting on its website that: “… All QDVC employees are free to retrieve their passports at any time…”

QDVC is the partnership between VINCI and the Qatari government’s sovereign wealth fund. The partnership adopted the name Qatari Diar Vinci Construction. The Qatar sovereign wealth fund is also a shareholder in VINCI.

Meanwhile, various organizations, media reports and foreign governments allege that hundreds of workers are dying on that Qatar project – perhaps at a rate equal to one every two days.

In Saskatchewan, the VINCI-led bid group calls itself SaskLink Global Transportation Partners.

The NDP is a strong supporter of building a bypass around Regina. It has raised concerns about the route the Sask. Party government chose, which is too close to the city and will be in the midst of future city expansion. It has also raised concerns about the use of a P3 financing and maintenance scheme for the project. P3s tend to cost more. For example, in Ontario, the Auditor General found that 75 P3 projects cost $8 billion extra, compared to straightforward builds.