Since 2011, when the UN adopted its guiding principles on business and human rights, the governments of many countries including Canada have acknowledged that all companies should undertake human rights due diligence.
This means exercising caution and taking rigorous action to prevent, address and remedy human rights abuse arising from their global business activities and relationships.
Many countries in Europe — France, Germany, and Norway, for example — are now adopting laws to make human rights due diligence mandatory. The European Union is developing similar legislation. With most of these laws requiring that companies exercise caution to prevent environmental harms as well, they’ve generally been referred to as mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence (mHREDD) laws.
We’re working with a broad coalition of civil society organizations towards the adoption of this kind of law in Canada, to prevent and remedy the serious harms so frequently associated with Canadian companies’ activities and supply chains. As a steering committee member of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA), we helped develop draft model legislation to serve as a blueprint for lawmakers.
In essence, the law would establish that companies could face liability in Canada if they contribute in any way to human rights violations abroad. Human rights would be defined broadly and include the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, with significant implications for climate justice.
Legislation inspired by this model has been tabled in Parliament as Bill C-262, The Corporate Responsibility to Protect Human Rights Act. If adopted, it would impose broad due diligence obligations on companies incorporated in Canada or doing business in Canada.
If a company failed in its due diligence, the people or communities whose rights have been violated or put at risk would have a statutory right to seek justice in a Canadian court. The court could order the company to halt its harmful practices, provide compensation or take any other action needed to prevent or rectify harm.
Broad support is rapidly building for mandatory due diligence legislation in Canada. Tens of thousands of Canadians have called for its adoption, as have more than two hundred organizations in Canada and abroad. Over 100 Canadian academics and legal professionals have written to the prime minister calling for such a law, echoing a UN experts’ warning that “Canada cannot claim leadership on promoting business respect for human rights until such legislation is in place.”
- Read the CNCA’s draft model legislation and associated FAQs
- Read Bill C-262, the Corporate Responsibility to Protect Human Rights Act
- See our latest news and publications on this topic