Our Focus

Through research, analysis, collaboration and outreach, Above Ground works to ensure that companies based in Canada or supported by the Canadian state respect human rights and the environment wherever they operate.

Here are some of the primary themes we focus on:

The extractive sector and fossil fuels

Much of our work touches on the extractive sector due to the significant role Canadian companies play within it and the elevated human rights risks1John Ruggie, the author of the UN’s guiding principles on business and human rights, notes that this sector “is unique because no other [sector] has so enormous and intrusive a social and environmental footprint.” posed by mining and oil and gas extraction. Mining is frequently associated with abuses such as forced displacement of communities, environmental degradation and violent repression of people who protest companies’ activities. Fossil fuel extraction often poses similar risks locally, while also contributing to the accelerating climate crisis that’s threatening peoples’ lives and rights globally.

See our work on extractives and fossil fuels

Government backing of transnational business

The Canadian government provides substantial political and financial support to multinationals — loans, equity financing, insurance, political backing and public relations support — through institutions such as its embassies, the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, Export Development Canada and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.  We encourage the government to adopt policy and legal measures to ensure that it only supports companies that respect human rights in their operations around the globe.

See our work on Export Development Canada

“When a Government, directly or through its export credit agency, fails to exercise due diligence to protect human rights from the potentially harmful behaviour of non-State actors, it is in breach of its obligations under international human rights law.”

– Cephas Lumina, former UN independent expert on foreign debt and human rights

Public financing of fossil fuels

Canada’s public export bank, Export Development Canada (EDC), provides billions of dollars in loans and other support to oil and gas companies each year, both in Canada and internationally. This public financing, which the government does not consider a subsidy, has led to Canada being singled out on the world stage as one of the largest supporters of fossil fuels. We encourage the government to recognize the urgency of the climate crisis and to immediately end all public financial support for fossil fuel development of any kind, in Canada and abroad.

Learn more about Canada’s fossil fuel finance

Access to justice

We work to improve access to justice in Canada for people harmed by companies based in Canada or supported by the Canadian government. In many cases, the victims of corporate abuse lack access to impartial domestic courts or other avenues to seek remedy. We advocate for measures to reduce the barriers faced by foreign plaintiffs in bringing claims of corporate abuse before Canadian courts. We also encourage the Canadian government to establish and strengthen non-judicial mechanisms to ensure access to justice for victims of abuse and deter harmful practices in the future.

See our overview of transnational lawsuits in Canada against extractive companies

See all our work on access to justice