"Following heavy criticism over its ineffectiveness and inability to crack down on human rights abuses abroad, Canada’s corporate watchdog has launched investigations into allegations that Nike Canada and mining company Dynasty Gold Corp. have been benefiting from the forced labour of Uyghurs in China."
The office of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise was created in 2019 following years of campaigning by groups such as Above Ground for investigation into alleged human rights abuse by Canadian multinationals. Lacking real investigative powers, the office has done little to help people and communities defend their rights against corporate abuse, writes The Globe.
Canada badly lags behind the U.S. in blocking products of forced labour from being imported, reports the CBC. With comments from Above Ground's Lori Waller on the weaknesses of a government-backed bill aimed at combatting forced labour though corporate reporting, and the merits of Bill C-262—which would compel companies to take action to stop forced labour in their supply chains.
ReconAfrica remains under investigation by the RCMP, which says it's investigating alleged corruption and "possibly also securities fraud” related to the company's business in Africa. Questions about ReconAfrica's practices had previously been raised in complaints filed with securities regulators, including by Above Ground.
En 2018 casi se derrumbó la represa hidroeléctrica más grande de la historia de Colombia.
Dos años antes, la agencia crediticia de Canadá había otorgado un préstamo de 466 M de dólares a EPM, constructora del proyecto. Tras accidente, organismos canadienses Above Ground y Amnistía Internacional Canadá denuncian pasividad de la agencia.
The only shipment of goods detained at the border since Canada adopted a ban on importing goods made with forced labour was later released. Above Ground, a human rights organization that first learned of the release, said the case raises concerns about how seriously Ottawa is taking its pledge to keep these goods out of Canada.
Canada needs to get its act together now, not later, on a law to purge supply chains of human rights abuses, contends this article in the Canadian Bar Association's National magazine. Noting criticisms of reporting laws like Bill S-211 as "nothing better than corporate image-polishing efforts," it highlights how a true diligence law would fundamentally differ: by imposing penalties on firms that fail to act to prevent or stop abuses.
Two MPs have tabled legislation to strengthen oversight of companies operating abroad and compel them to respect human rights and the environment. The bills follow models proposed by the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, amidst a global shift towards mandatory due diligence laws.
In a blog post, law firm McCarthy Tetreault cites our latest report, "Creating consequences," to describe the extent of human rights abuses reported in the Uyghur region of China and their links to Canadian supply chains.
International news coverage of our report "Creating Consequences," which calls for stricter enforcement of Canada's import ban on slave-made goods, and for a new human rights due diligence law similar to those in force in Europe.
The National Post reports on the findings of our report "Creating consequences," which show that Canada's enforcement of a ban of slave-made goods must be far more stringent and transparent to meet standards set by the U.S. example.
The Toronto Star delves into our new report, "Creating consequences," which finds Canada is lagging behind the U.S. and other countries when it comes to rooting out forced labour from company supply chains.
The National Observer reports on the legal opinion published by legal experts Jorge Viñuales and Kate Cook, which explicitly singles out Export Development Canada (EDC) as the largest supporter among G20 export credit agencies of fossil fuels during the 2016-18 period.
A new legal opinion finds that governments will be breaching international law if they continue to allow their export credit agencies to finance fossil fuel infrastructure and activities overseas. Above Ground program officer Karen Hamilton says the opinion "makes it clear that export finance for oil, gas and coal might become the next target of climate litigation."
The government's measures aimed at countering the flow into Canada of goods produced by forced labour in Xinjiang and elsewhere appear to have had little impact. Above Ground communications officer Lori Waller argues that Ottawa has the tools at its disposal to ensure companies take real action, primarily by building on the work done by the United States.
Legal advice sought by Ottawa confirmed that without the promised investigative powers, the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise's effectiveness may be compromised. Our director, Karyn Keenan, states that the current incarnation of the CORE is not a meaningful mechanism for victims of overseas corporate abuse to seek justice.
The office announced by the federal government in 2018 to handle complaints of human rights abuses perpetrated by Canadian multinationals still doesn’t have a complaints mechanism in place. Once it is up and running, the office will be hampered by its limited investigative powers, argues Above Ground director Karyn Keenan.
Investments by Canadian companies in energy and mining projects have made Canada one of the top five foreign investors in Xinjiang, where many industrial facilities exploit the forced labour of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. At least one has reportedly contracted with a supplier known to use "surplus labourers" in the region.
On paper, Canada has prohibited the import of goods made by forced workers. Yet "millions of disposable gloves manufactured by Malaysian companies in conditions that experts say have the hallmarks of forced labour have come into our ports," reports CBC.
Canadian company PetroTal says it has shut down work at its Bretana oil field in the Peruvian Amazon after three indigenous people were killed in a clash with police while protesting the company's operations. The police were called in at the company's request, according to PetroTal, after protests broke out at another oil drilling site in the region.
“Routing public financing through an 'opaque Crown corporation with minimal government oversight' is not the way to be accountable for the way pandemic recovery funds are spent—or for the proportion of that money going to fossil fuel bailouts, three leading advocacy groups argue in a backgrounder.”
“Environmental Defence, Oil Change International, and Above Ground ... released a report Wednesday highlighting the lack of transparency in how the publicly backed EDC evaluates climate risk associated with loans to companies, and how continued investment in oil and gas runs contrary to the country’s emissions reductions targets.”
In a report released Tuesday, sustainable development consulting firm Horizon Advisors recommends that the government legally bar its export bank from backing fossil fuel projects such as the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
Canada's export bank is pledging greater transparency in response to accusations of excessive secrecy in its business dealings. Our program officer Karen Hamilton tells the Globe that EDC's new disclosure policy is not enough, and that only legal reforms can reverse the Crown corporation's "long-standing pattern of facilitating harmful business."
The government has directed Export Development Canada to more carefully consider the human rights impacts of its business decisions. The Globe notes that human rights and environmental groups like Above Ground have long called for greater federal oversight of EDC.
In this Spanish-language radio interview, our director Karyn Keenan explains how government backtracking on a key corporate accountability measure led to the mass resignation of Above Ground and 13 other civil society organizations from a federal advisory body.
“A federal export credit agency with a history of massively supporting fossil industry exports over clean technology is taking fire for failing to consider the environmental, human rights, and ethical implications of its financial support to Canadian businesses.”
“When [Export Development Canada] was considering its loan to EPM, there were already public debates in Colombia about Hidroituango’s environmental impact, its social cost, the engineering changes and corruption in the tendering process. The Canadian lender was not deterred.”
A government review has exposed a lack of transparency and weak social and environmental controls at Canada’s export bank. Above Ground’s communications officer states that without strong legislative oversight, the government risks profiting from corruption and human rights abuses.
Above Ground is calling on the federal government to publish the full results of its fossil fuel subsidies review. "I think it’s important for the public to know how much money Canadians are providing in support to fossil fuel companies,” states program officer Karen Hamilton.
“As South Africa’s biggest banks decided these wealthy, well-connected brothers were too toxic to touch, a Canadian Crown corporation was still doing business with them. Leaked e-mails and documents tell the story of how EDC’s vetting process broke down.”
Human rights groups accuse the government of backtracking after Ottawa outlines the mandate and powers of Canada’s new corporate accountability watchdog. Above Ground’s director Karyn Keeenan says “the government has weakened the office in response to pressure from industry.”
A sweeping investigation into Export Development Canada exposes a “pattern of secrecy and lax supervision” at Canada’s export bank. Above Ground’s director notes that numerous EDC clients have been penalized for their conduct, yet “[t]his doesn’t seem to be ringing any alarm bells for EDC.”
Advocacy groups respond to Export Development Canada’s new human rights policy. Above Ground program officer Karen Hamilton says the policy reflects the agency’s lack of influence over its clients’ behaviour, stating, “If we want to see change, it has to be legislated.”
“The review comes after a company insider told CBC News the engineering giant secured billions in loans from the Crown agency over the years, some of which he alleges was intended to pay bribes. If true, it could mean taxpayers have unwittingly backed illegal payments.”
A report from the federal environment commissioner finds that government efforts to identify fossil fuel subsidies are “incomplete.” Above Ground’s Karen Hamilton says Ottawa must eliminate all public finance for fossil fuels, including billions in export credit provided each year.
SNC-Lavalin received at least $800 million in loans from Export Development Canada after news broke of an RCMP investigation into alleged corruption at the firm. Above Ground’s director calls for legislative controls to limit EDC’s discretion in supporting companies accused of malfeasance.
Canada’s environment minister tells Above Ground that its review of “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies is ongoing, three years after Canada committed to eliminate them by 2025. Above Ground’s Karen Hamilton says obtaining information from the government is “like pulling teeth.”
A new report by Oil Change International reveals that Canada's export credit agency provided $62 billion in support to oil and gas companies between 2012 and 2017, compared to only $5 billion in backing for the clean-tech sector.
In this radio interview, our program officer Karen Hamilton explains why Above Ground and 16 other organizations are calling for legal reforms to prevent Export Development Canada from supporting companies engaged in abuses overseas.
Canada’s trade minister has directed Export Development Canada to strengthen its human rights and anti-corruption policies. Above Ground’s director says Ottawa must go further and impose strong legislative controls to prevent its export bank from engaging in harmful practices.
“Export Development Canada is mishandling loan risks and keeping board members in the dark about key financing arrangements, according to a scathing report by federal Auditor-General Michael Ferguson.”
Export Development Canada’s deal with a controversial South African business family turns sour, with reports that the Guptas defaulted on EDC’s loan and may be using the aircraft it financed for unlawful means.
“Should EDC be providing over a billion dollars of financing to a company that’s engaging in tax avoidance?” asks Above Ground’s director, commenting on a report that alleges EDC client Turquoise Hill used shell companies to dodge Canadian corporate income tax.
Export Development Canada’s deal with South Africa’s controversial Gupta family “serves as an example of how EDC can inhabit a grey zone between facilitating Canadian businesses and financing corruption.”
Canadian miner Kinross Gold violated local residents’ rights when it expanded its Brazilian mine, reveals a report by Above Ground, prompting calls for Ottawa to suspend its financial support for the company.
“A trio of civil cases winding through the courts signal a breakthrough in efforts to hold Canadian-based mining companies accountable on home turf when they’re accused of violations abroad, human rights and legal observers say.”
A Canadian government loan to a controversial South African business family raises questions about client screening standards at Export Development Canada. “EDC refuses to provide detailed information about its review process,” notes Above Ground director Karyn Keenan.
PotashCorp and Agrium have come under fire for the human rights implications of buying phosphate from Western Sahara. Both firms enjoy financial support from Canada’s public pension plan and public export bank.
Above Ground works to ensure that companies based in Canada or supported by the Canadian state respect human rights and the environment worldwide. It is a project of MakeWay, a national charity that builds partnerships and solutions to help nature and communities thrive together.
Above Ground c/o MakeWay 400-163 West Hastings Street Vancouver, BC V6B 1H5