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Calls to boost powers of watchdog for companies operating abroad

CBC / Canadian Press | 
May 6, 2024
The Canadian government is reviewing the scope of its corporate responsibility ombudsperson. It must strengthen the office by giving it real investigative powers, say human rights advocates including Above Ground director Karen Hamilton.
Calgary Herald | 
April 15, 2024
“Over the course of approximately four years, ReconAfrica has damaged homes, devastated subsets of crops, destroyed land and potentially contaminated the region’s only source of water in pursuit of oil,” say human rights advocates, who've filed a complaint with Canada's corporate responsibility ombudsperson.
Globe and Mail | 
March 11, 2024
Investigative reporting has exposed the widespread use of forced workers from North Korea in China’s seafood processing industry. In this Globe and Mail coverage, Above Ground and other commentators say Canada needs serious legal measures to crack down on Canadian companies profiting from this abuse through their supply chains.
CBC | 
November 28, 2023
Panama's Supreme Court has ruled the contract permitting operation of a Canadian-owned copper mine on ecologically sensitive lands is unconstitutional. That means First Quantum's Cobre Panama mine must be shut down, the country's president has confirmed.
Globe and Mail | 
November 3, 2023
A report by the Auditor-General finds that from 2019 to 2023, Export Development Canada applied its environmental and social review directive to only 0.4% of the transactions it supports. This puts the bank at elevated risk of financing projects that contribute to rising greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss and human rights abuse, says the audit. Above Ground's director comments on the findings in this Globe and Mail coverage.
Globe and Mail | 
October 17, 2023
Canada’s watchdog for corporate abuses abroad is facing challenges getting companies to fully participate in its assessments. The Globe and Mail reports, with comments from Above Ground's program officer, Georgina Alonso.
Globe and Mail | 
September 9, 2023
A United Nations expert has joined a chorus of critics who are faulting the federal government for not empowering its new watchdog for international corporate wrongdoing with broader investigative powers.
Canada's National Observer | 
August 30, 2023
A new complaint sent to the FBI’s white-collar crime division and filed with U.S. financial regulators alleges Canadian oil company Reconnaissance Energy Africa (ReconAfrica) has used environmental claims to mislead investors.
Corporate Knights | 
July 13, 2023
"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."
Globe and Mail | 
April 9, 2023
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.
CBC | 
December 23, 2022
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.
Globe and Mail | 
October 3, 2022
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.
Radio Canadá Internacional  | 
July 6, 2022
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.
Globe and Mail | 
May 27, 2022
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.
CBA National | 
May 24, 2022
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.
The Lawyer' Daily | 
March 30, 2022
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.
McCarthy Tetreault | 
October 25, 2021
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.
Global Trade Review | 
July 21, 2021
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.
Global News  | 
June 21, 2021
Our communications officer Lori Waller speaks with Global News local radio in Calgary, Alberta about our new report, "Creating consequences: Canada's moment to act on slavery in global supply chains."
National Post | 
June 21, 2021
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.
Toronto Star | 
June 21, 2021
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.
National Observer | 
May 5, 2021
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.
Reuters | 
May 4, 2021
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."
National Post | 
May 4, 2021
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.
Global News | 
February 26, 2021
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.
Toronto Star | 
February 22, 2021
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.
Globe and Mail | 
January 18, 2021
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.
CBC | 
January 15, 2021
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.
Radio Canada International | 
August 10, 2020
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.
The Energy Mix | 
July 22, 2020
“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.”
Winnipeg Free Press | 
July 22, 2020
“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.”
National Observer | 
June 10, 2020
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.
Globe and Mail | 
March 3, 2020
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."
Globe and Mail | 
September 26, 2019
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.
Radio Canadá Internacional | 
August 20, 2019
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.
The Energy Mix | 
July 8, 2019
“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.”
Globe and Mail | 
July 2, 2019
“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.”
Globe and Mail | 
July 1, 2019
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.
National Observer | 
June 19, 2019
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.
Globe and Mail | 
June 10, 2019
“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.”
Canadian Press | 
June 10, 2019
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.”
Globe and Mail | 
June 1, 2019
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.”
Canadian Press | 
May 1, 2019
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.”
CBC News | 
April 3, 2019
“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.”
National Observer | 
April 2, 2019
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.
Globe and Mail | 
February 15, 2019
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.
National Observer | 
February 14, 2019
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.”
Canadian Press | 
November 22, 2018
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.
CKUT  | 
November 16, 2018
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.
Globe and Mail | 
September 15, 2018
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.
Globe and Mail | 
May 22, 2018
A corruption investigation has prompted calls for the South African government to suspend a US$1.2-billion deal with Bombardier — a deal that received financial backing from the Canadian government.
Globe and Mail | 
April 30, 2018
“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.”
Globe and Mail | 
April 16, 2018
Canada’s export bank is at risk of paying corruption-tainted dividends to the government due to weaknesses in its regulations and screening procedures, says a new report from Above Ground.
The Washington Post | 
March 2, 2018
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.
Toronto Star | 
February 5, 2018
“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.
National Observer | 
January 16, 2018
The Canadian government has announced it will finally create an office to investigate alleged abuses by Canadian companies operating abroad.
Walrus Magazine | 
December 19, 2017
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.”
The Tyee | 
December 12, 2017
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.
National Post | 
November 27, 2017
“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.”
The Lawyer's Daily | 
October 2, 2017
“One of Canada’s leading jurists is urging judges here to be more creative in developing the common law to provide access to justice for those harmed by Canadian mining companies.”
iPolitics | 
September 30, 2017
iPolitics sums up commentary on Canada’s human rights responsibilities vis-a-vis its mining firms from former Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie and other speakers at Above Ground’s symposium.
Globe and Mail | 
August 4, 2017
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.
The Tyee | 
June 22, 2017
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.
The Guardian | 
December 28, 2016
The U.S.’s export bank has heavily financed Pemex even though the oil company’s alarming accident and injury rate is a matter of public record, notes Above Ground director Karyn Keenan.
The Tyee | 
November 15, 2016
A government office charged with ensuring that Canadian multinationals operate ethically abroad is ineffective, reveals a report from Above Ground, MiningWatch Canada and OECD Watch.
National Observer | 
July 12, 2016
Human rights advocates accuse Pacific Exploration & Production of violating labour regulations, causing pollution and harming indigenous communities at its oil concessions in Colombia.

media contact

Karen Hamilton, director
1 (438) 992-5163