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Lawmakers, experts examine path forward for corporate accountability on human rights

Legislators and experts from Canada, the U.S. and Europe are gathered in Ottawa today to review governments’ progress on protecting human rights within the context of transnational business.

The Bringing Responsibility Home symposium, which is being hosted by members of parliament from all of Canada’s major political parties and by two senators, was organized by Above Ground and the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR).

Symposium participants are discussing groundbreaking international developments and exploring how Canada, which takes on the G7 presidency this fall, could become a leader in ensuring corporate respect for human rights.

“The business and human rights agenda is deeply entwined with Prime Minister Trudeau’s priorities on sustainability, gender and indigenous rights,” noted John Ruggie, the former UN Special Representative on business and human rights, in an opening speech this morning. “The world needs Canada to be fully engaged.”

Participants are taking a close look at the shift underway in Europe towards making respect for human rights by multinational companies an enforceable legal requirement.

“We need laws that require all corporations to respect human rights wherever they operate,” said Karyn Keenan, director of Above Ground. “France is already heading in that direction, with its new law requiring the largest French companies to take steps to prevent harm in their global operations and supply chains.”

“To eradicate the social and environmental harms that are still too often associated with business activity – from land grabs and pollution, to human trafficking and forced labour – home states must take a much bolder approach than they have to date,” noted Amol Mehra, executive director of ICAR.


Above Ground: Lori Waller, communications officer, lwaller@aboveground.ngo, 613-805-5244

Above Ground works to ensure that companies based in Canada or supported by the Canadian state respect human rights wherever they operate. It sheds light on the impacts of Canadian business activity abroad and advances solutions for corporate accountability and access to justice in Canada. Above Ground is a project of Tides Canada, a national charity dedicated to a healthy environment, social equity and economic prosperity.

ICAR: Heather Cohen, legal and policy associate, heather@icar.ngo, 202-296-0187

The International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) harnesses the collective power of progressive organizations to push governments to create and enforce rules over corporations that promote human rights and reduce inequality. ICAR’s membership is composed of 40 human rights, environmental, labor, and development organizations.