21 November 2022

The following letter, signed by over 100 academics and legal experts, was sent today to the prime minister calling for Canada to adopt a strong corporate accountability law.

To: Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

CC:
David Lametti, Minister of Justice
Mary Ng, Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development
Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Labour
Helena Jaczek, Minister of Public Services and Procurement
Marco E. L. Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety

Make human rights and environmental due diligence mandatory for Canadian corporations

Dear Prime Minister,

We, the undersigned, are academics and legal professionals in the fields of business, human rights, environment, global affairs, and Canadian and international law. We are calling on the Government of Canada to enact legislation that would require Canadian corporations1These include non-Canadian companies that import goods into Canada. to prevent and remedy human rights and environmental harms in their business activities and relationships abroad. This legislation must also provide affected people and communities around the world with access to justice through Canadian courts.

Canadian multinationals continue to be implicated in serious human rights abuses and environmental damage throughout the globe. The communities and workers who suffer these harms are often unable to access justice or remedy in their own countries, while human rights and environmental defenders who stand up to powerful corporations frequently face violence, including assault, murder, rape, death threats, intimidation and criminalization.

Canadian mining companies – including Hudbay, Tahoe Resources, Nevsun, Goldcorp and Barrick Gold – are perhaps the most well-known multinationals accused of grave violations of human rights abroad. Canadian oil and gas companies, such as Pacific Exploration & Production and ReconAfrica, have been accused of causing both local devastation and global harm, particularly in their contributions to the climate crisis. Garment and manufacturing companies are also connected to harm, including the Canadian companies that profited from clothing produced at the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh, which collapsed and killed over 1000 people, and companies like Supermax, which have imported into Canada products linked to documented human rights abuses in their supply chains.

Harmful behaviour of Canadian companies persists despite decades of public pressure and repeated corporate commitments to voluntary codes of responsible business conduct. For over two decades, the Canadian government has merely “expect[ed]” and “encourag[ed]” Canadian companies to respect human rights throughout their global operations and supply chains. In the absence of binding rules that enshrine these principles in Canadian law, companies operating abroad too often fail to deliver on their responsibilities.

The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, adopted unanimously by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2011, with broad support from business actors, sets a clear global standard regarding the responsibilities of businesses to prevent, address and remedy all human rights harms they cause or contribute to. The Canadian government must uphold these principles by implementing a comprehensive and mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence (mHREDD) law. This would require:

  1. establishing a corporate duty to prevent and avoid all adverse human rights impacts, including the right to a healthy and sustainable environment, throughout parent company supply chains, including subsidiaries, contractors and other business relations;
  2. establishing a corporate duty to develop, implement and report on adequate human rights and environmental due diligence procedures, including: identifying real and potential adverse impacts; ceasing, mitigating and remedying adverse impacts; monitoring the effectiveness of the measures adopted to address adverse impacts; developing a mechanism to provide an alert to the company of possible adverse impacts or risks; documenting due diligence efforts; and establishing a commissioner empowered to enforce the production of due diligence reports; and
  3. ensuring access to remedy for those harmed, through civil liability mechanisms in Canadian courts.

To address corporate impunity, several jurisdictions, including in Europe, have passed or are developing laws requiring companies to undertake human rights due diligence, with many requiring environmental due diligence as well. The implementation of strong Canadian mHREDD legislation – that includes the elements outlined above – would help Canada meet the growing global momentum for effective corporate accountability measures.

The former Vice-Chair of the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights, Surya Deva, made it clear that Canada cannot claim leadership on promoting business respect for human rights until such legislation is in place. In 2021, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, which includes members from all four major federal parties, adopted a report echoing Professor Deva’s appeal, calling on Ottawa to “introduce legislation requiring Canadian corporations to conduct human rights due diligence” to address adverse human rights and environmental impacts in their global operations and supply chains.

We call on the Canadian government to walk its talk on human rights and environmental protection and fulfil its international obligations by enacting mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence legislation for Canadian corporations operating abroad.

Sincerely,

  1. Adam Cornwell, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Geography and the Environment, Lakehead University
  2. Adrian Murray, PhD, School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa, and Board Member of the Canadian Association for the Study of International Development
  3. Alberto Salazar, Associate Professor, Department of Law and Legal Studies, Carleton University
  4. Allan Greenbaum, Contract Faculty, Business and Society Program, York University
  5. Aloysius Newenham-Kahindi, Associate Professor, and Canada Research Chair in International Sustainable Development, Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria
  6. Andrew E. Cleland, human rights lawyer, Delangie Cleland Limoges
  7. Angela Cameron, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law (Common Law Section), University of Ottawa
  8. Anna Zalik, Associate Professor, Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change, York University
  9. Anthony VanDuzer, Professor, and Former Hyman Soloway Chair in Business and Trade Law, Faculty of Law (Common Law Section), University of Ottawa
  10. Arturo Ezquerro-Cañete, lecturer, Department of Global Development Studies, Saint Mary’s University
  11. Audrey Macklin, Professor, and Rebecca Cook Chair in Human Rights Law, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto
  12. Barnali Choudhury, Professor and Director, Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
  13. Bonnie Campbell, Professeure émérite, Département de science politique, Université du Québec à Montréal
  14. Bree Akesson, Canada Research Chair in Global Adversity and Wellbeing, Faculty of Social Work and Social Justice and Community Engagement, Wilfrid Laurier University
  15. Bruce Broomhall, Professeur (droit international pénal), Département des sciences juridiques, Université du Québec à Montréal
  16. Carol Hunsberger, Associate Professor, Department of Geography and Environment, University of Western Ontario
  17. Catherine Nolin, Professor (social geography), Chair of the Department of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Environment, University of Northern British Columbia
  18. Charis Kamphuis, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Thompson Rivers University
  19. Chris Huggins, Associate Professor, School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa
  20. Colin H. Scott, Professor, Department of Anthropology and Director, Centre for Indigenous Conservation and Development Alternatives (CICADA), McGill University
  21. Darryl Robinson, Professor, Faculty of Law, Queen’s University
  22. David Black, Professor, Department of Political Science, Dalhousie University
  23. David Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, and Associate Professor (law, policy and sustainability), School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia
  24. David Szablowski, Associate Professor (Law & Society Program), Department of Social Science, York University
  25. David P. Thomas, Associate Professor, Department of Politics and International Relations, Mount Allison University
  26. Daviken Studnicki-Gizbert, Associate Professor (Latin American history), Department of History and Classical Studies, McGill University
  27. Devin Holterman, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, University of Northern British Columbia
  28. Dominique Caouette, Professeur titulaire, Département de science politique, Université de Montréal
  29. Elizabeth Sheehy, Professor Emerita, Faculty of Law (Common Law Section), University of Ottawa
  30. Emily Gilbert, Associate Professor, Canadian Studies Program, University of Toronto
  31. Erin Simpson, human rights lawyer, Landings LLP
  32. Etienne Roy Grégoire, Professeur, Département des sciences humaines et sociales, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi
  33. Fabiana Li, Associate Professor (environmental conflict, resource extraction and social movements), Department of Anthropology, University of Manitoba
  34. François Larocque, Professeur titulaire, Faculté de droit (Programme de common law), Université d’Ottawa
  35. Furqan Asif, PhD, School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa
  36. Gavin Fridell, Professor, and Canada Research Chair in International Development Studies, Department of Global Development Studies, Saint Mary’s University
  37. Geneviève Dufour, Professeure titulaire, Faculté de droit, Université de Sherbrooke
  38. Georgina Alonso, PhD candidate, School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa
  39. Haroon Akram-Lodhi, Professor, Department of International Development Studies, Trent University
  40. Hassan M. Ahmad, Assistant Professor, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia
  41. Henry Veltmeyer, Professor Emeritus, Department of Global Development Studies, Saint Mary’s University
  42. Ivan Tchotourian, Professeur titulaire, Faculté de droit et Codirecteur du Centre d’études en droit économique (CÉDÉ), Université Laval
  43. Jamie Liew, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law (Common Law Section), University of Ottawa
  44. James Yap, human rights lawyer and board member, Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights (CLAIHR) and Adjunct Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
  45. Jason MacLean, Assistant Professor (environmental law), Faculty of Law, University of New Brunswick
  46. Jessica Dempsey, Associate Professor (political ecology), Department of Geography, University of British Columbia
  47. John W. Foster, lecturer, Department of Justice Studies, University of Regina
  48. John Packer, Neuberger-Jesin Professor of International Conflict Resolution, Faculty of Law (Common Law Section), University of Ottawa
  49. Josh Lepawsky, Professor (globalization, economy and resources), Department of Geography, Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador
  50. Joshua Ramisch, Professor and Director, School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa
  51. Judy Fudge, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and LIUNA Enrico Henry Mancinelli Chair of Global Labour Issues, School of Labour Studies, McMaster University
  52. Karena Shaw, Associate Professor, School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria
  53. Karine Vanthuyne, Professeure agrégée, École d’études sociologiques et anthropologiques, Université d’Ottawa
  54. Kate Ervine, Associate Professor, Department of Global Development Studies, Saint Mary’s University
  55. Kirsten Van Houten, Adjunct Research Professor, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University
  56. Anders Sandberg, Professor (political economy/ecology), Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change, York University
  57. Liisa L. North, Professor Emerita and Fellow, Center for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC), York University
  58. Lindsay Bailey, human rights lawyer and board member, Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights (CLAIHR)
  59. Lorelei Hanson, Associate Professor, Environmental Studies, Athabasca University
  60. Luc Brès, Professeur titulaire, Département de management et Co-directeur, Laboratoire interdisciplinaire de la responsabilité sociale des entreprises, Université Laval
  61. M. Soro K. Coulibaly, Doctorant, Faculté de droit, Université Laval
  62. Magda Donia, Assistant Professor, Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa
  63. Malcolm Rogge, Canadian lecturer (business and human rights law), University of Exeter, and member, Global Business and Human Rights Scholars Association
  64. Marie-Dominik Langlois, Doctorante, École d’études sociologiques et anthropologiques, Université d’Ottawa
  65. Marina Pavlovic, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law (Common Law Section), University of Ottawa
  66. Mark Kersten, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of the Fraser Valley
  67. Marzia A. Cremona, Professeure adjointe, Faculté des sciences de l’administration, Université Laval
  68. Melissa Marschke, Professor, School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa
  69. Mona Paré, Professeur titulaire, Faculté de droit (Programme de droit civil), Université d’Ottawa
  70. Monica E. Mulrennan, Professor (Indigenous conservation), Department of Geography, Planning and Environment, Concordia University
  71. Nadège Compaoré, Assistant Professor (international relations), Department of Political Science, University of Toronto
  72. Nancy R. Tapias Torrado, Postdoctorante, Faculté de science politique et de droit, Université du Québec à Montréal
  73. Nathan Andrews, Associate Professor (international relations), Department of Political Science, McMaster University
  74. Nathan J. Bennett, Research Associate, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia
  75. Nicole Barrett, Assistant Professor and Director, International Justice and Human Rights Clinic, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia
  76. Nigel Bankes, Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Law, University of Calgary
  77. Nolywé Delannon, Professeure agrégée, Département de management, Université Laval
  78. Norbert W. Witt, Assistant Professor (former, Indigenous education), Faculty of Education, University of Regina and First Nations University of Canada
  79. Paul Bowles, Professor, School of Economics and Department of Global and International Studies, University of Northern British Columbia
  80. Penelope Simons, Professor, and Gordon Henderson Chair in Human Rights, Faculty of Law (Common Law Section), University of Ottawa
  81. Peter Vandergeest, Professor Emeritus (political ecology), Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change, York University
  82. Philippe Tremblay, Conseiller juridique senior, Avocats sans frontière Canada
  83. Rachel Hurst, Professor, Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, St. Francis Xavier University
  84. Rakhi Ruparelia, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law (Common Law Section), University of Ottawa
  85. Ravi Malhotra, Professor, Faculty of Law (Common Law Section), University of Ottawa
  86. Rebecca Johnson, Professor, Faculty of Law, and Director, Indigenous Law Research Unit, University of Victoria
  87. Rebecca Tatham, PhD candidate, Department of Political Science, University of Guelph
  88. Richard Janda, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University
  89. Ruby Dagher, Associate Professor, School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa
  90. Salvador Herencia-Carrasco, Director, Human Rights Clinic, Human Rights Research and Education Centre, University of Ottawa
  91. Sean Irwin, Assistant Professor, School of Business, Royal Roads University
  92. Shin Imai, Professor Emeritus (business law and corporate accountability), Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
  93. Sonia Wesche, Associate Professor, Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics, University of Ottawa
  94. Sophia Carodenuto, Assistant Professor (climate policy and practice, global value chains), Department of Geography, University of Victoria
  95. Sophie Thériault, Professeure titulaire (droit environnemental et droits des peuples autochtones), Faculté de droit (Section de droit civil), Université d’Ottawa
  96. Steffi Hamann, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Guelph
  97. Stepan Wood, Professor, Canadian Research Chair in Law, Society and Sustainability, and Director, Centre for Law and the Environment, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia
  98. Stephen Brown, Professor, School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa
  99. Susan Spronk, Associate Professor, School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa
  100. Susan Vincent, Professor (political and economic anthropology) and Chair, Department of Anthropology, St. Francis Xavier University
  101. Tamara Morgenthau, human rights lawyer and board member, Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights (CLAIHR)
  102. Theresa Ulicki, Assistant Professor and Chair, Department of International Development Studies, Dalhousie University
  103. Tracy Glynn, Assistant Professor, Environment and Society Program, St. Thomas University
  104. Tyler Shipley, Professor (culture, society and commerce), Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Innovative Learning, Humber College
  105. Vanessa Andreotti, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Race, Inequalities and Global Change, Department of Educational Studies, University of British Columbia
  106. Veldon Coburn, Assistant Professor, Institute of Indigenous Research and Studies, University of Ottawa
  107. Vivek Krishnamurthy, Samuelson-Glushko Professor of Law, Faculty of Law (Common Law Section), University of Ottawa
  108. W. Cory Wanless, human rights lawyer, Waddell Phillips
  109. Walner Osna, Doctorant (théories décoloniales, extractivisme, développement et politiques de développement), École d’études sociologiques et anthropologiques, Université d’Ottawa
  110. Yvon Grenier, Professor, Department of Political Science, St. Francis Xavier University
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