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UN report tells Canada to do more to combat human rights abuse by business overseas

Press release from the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability

Make Canada #open4justice
Since 2005, the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability has been working to improve access to justice in Canada for people harmed by Canadian mining, oil and gas projects abroad.

The Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA) says the government must immediately implement the recommendations of a UN report that calls for a coherent policy to protect against Canadian business-related human rights abuse.

The UN Working Group on business and human rights last week published the results of its 2017 country visit to Canada. The group assessed Canada’s performance in preventing, mitigating and addressing business impacts on human rights.

The UN body acknowledges progress in Canada with the announcement of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise and the Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Body on Responsible Business. However, the group emphasizes that the success of these initiatives will depend on their implementation.

“The report’s recommendations on the ombudsperson hit the nail on the head,” says Emily Dwyer, CNCA coordinator. “It says the ombudsperson must be well resourced and completely independent from government. She must have all the powers necessary to fully address human rights abuse, including the power to summon witnesses and compel the production of documents.”

The working group also calls for mandatory human rights due diligence and disclosure requirements for Canadian companies.

“Acting on this recommendation would help Canada fulfill its international human rights obligations. It would also bring us in line with European initiatives to ensure transparency and accountability throughout company operations and supply chains,” said Hassan Yussuff, Canadian Labour Congress president.

The UN experts call for new measures regarding public supports for companies. They warn that only companies that respect human rights should qualify for government backing.

“Such measures are key because the Canadian government currently partners with companies associated with human rights violations – sometimes repeatedly,” said Karyn Keenan, director of Above Ground.

The report recognizes the particular vulnerability of women in the context of extractive projects.

“The Canadian government needs to pay special attention to the prevention of sexual violence against women and to remedy for victims. This is a serious problem related to the operations of Canadian mining companies operating overseas,” said Catherine Coumans, research coordinator at Mining Watch Canada.

The UN report also calls for the removal of barriers faced in accessing our courts by non-Canadians who allege they are harmed by Canadian companies and emphasizes the need to strengthen Canada’s policies on protecting human rights defenders.

Media contact:

Emily Dwyer, Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, coordinator@cnca-rcrce.ca, (819) 592-6657

About the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability

Formed in 2005, the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA) brings together 34 civil society organizations from across Canada. We represent Canadians who are concerned about the environmental and human rights impact of Canadian companies’ activities overseas. We support communities, workers, Indigenous peoples, and environmental and human rights defenders around the world by advocating for policy and law reform to hold Canadian companies to account.

Our “Open for Justice” campaign, launched in 2013, called for the creation of an ombudsperson to investigate claims of human rights abuse linked to Canadian extractive companies around the world. Our 2016 model legislation outlines the elements of an effective and credible ombudsperson.

About the United Nations working group

The UN working group on business and human rights was established by the Human Rights Council in 2011 and is composed of five independent experts. The working group’s official visit to Canada sought to assess how the Canadian government and private sector are implementing their respective human rights obligations and responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The guiding principles, unanimously endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, provide an authoritative framework to prevent and address adverse human rights risks and impacts of business activities, and to ensure that victims have access to effective remedy.

Access the working group’s report on Canada at http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/38/48/Add.1.