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Tracking complaints of corporate abuse handled by the CORE 

The Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) launched her first investigations in July 2023 and has since announced several more. All announced investigations thus far involve allegations that a company based or operating in Canada has ties to the brutal forced labour system reportedly being imposed by China on Uyghurs and other Turkic ethnic minorities.

Cotton production, which is often tainted with forced labour
Workers picking cotton. Complaints to the CORE allege that several Canadian companies’ supply chains include cotton or other goods produced using forced labour in China.

The CORE has published findings in one case, involving Dynasty Gold, and continues to investigate complaints against Nike Canada, Ralph Lauren, Walmart Canada, Hugo Boss Canada, Diesel Canada, Levi Strauss & Co. Canada, Zara Canada and Guess? Canada.

These companies are only a portion of those named in complaints submitted to the CORE. So far, complaints deemed admissible have been linked to the garment and mining sectors.

The federal government created the CORE in 2019 following over a decade of civil society advocacy calling for a credible, independent ombudsperson to investigate Canadian business activity linked to human rights abuses abroad.

Unfortunately the office was created without the powers needed to carry out effective investigations, a key part of its mandate alongside offering mediation.1 The CORE has no authority to compel companies to provide documents or testimony, despite an initial government promise that the office would have these powers. In fact, there’s no obligation on companies to engage with the CORE at all.

The CORE must be given the powers to investigate effectively, as theCORE herself and several experts have called for (see examples: 1, 2). Accomplishing this should be an immediate focus for Parliament. And it wouldn’t be difficult. A bill that would overhaul the office and grant these powers, the Responsible Business Conduct Abroad Act (Bill C-263), has already been tabled.

Learn more

For a list of complaints brought to the CORE and how each has been handled so far, see our associated post: Overview of cases brought to the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise.

1. The CORE seeks to resolve complaints through informal mediation, if the complainants and company agree, before deciding whether to start an investigation.