Canada Line co-developer SNC-Lavalin defends Libyan prison project

Transit developer SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., which built Vancouver's Canada Line, has confirmed and defended its project to build a jail in Tripoli, Libya. According to The Globe and Mail, the Montreal-based company faced tough questions about why it accepted the $275-million (US) contract, given the notorious human rights record of the country's dictator, Moammar Gadhafi

SNC-Lavalin has said the facility will be the "first to be built according to international human rights standards." Leslie Quinton, the company's vice-president of global communications said in an email Thursday. 

"We think this is an important step forward for this country and an opportunity for us as a company to share values that we think are essential to all citizens of the world." She added that the jail, slated for completion in 2012, would become "a model for others in the region."

The company is currently working to evacuate its employees from the country, which erupted into violent conflict between pro-democracy protesters and government forces earlier this month. 

The company came under heavy criticism in Vancouver when it started developing the Canada Line in 2009. The $2-billion rapid transit line created disruption with its ground construction and has been blamed for the closure of 38 out of 275 businesses along Cambie Street. 

According to the Globe, the engineering giant has 22,000 employees in 100 countries, but strong roots in Libya, where it has worked on contracts since the mid-1990s. Most of its work has centred around a massive water pipeline and a new airport in Benghazi, the country's second-largest city. It says that as of 2008, SNC-Lavalin had 2,000 employees in Libya. 

The CBC reported on Thursday that Quebec solidaire member Amir Khadir criticized SNC-Lavalin, demanding it to "be socially and ethically responsible and stop this collaboration."

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