Canada Announces Watchdog for Corporate Accountability

Press release

OTTAWA, January 17, 2018 – The announcement by the Canadian Minister of International Trade on the creation of a Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise is encouraging for communities who have suffered human rights abuses by overseas operations of Canadian extractive companies.

On March 30th 2017, FIDH expressed support and encouraged the Canadian Government to create an effective and reliable « non-judicial state-based mechanism » to receive complaints concerning the overseas operations of Canadian extractive and apparel companies. Today’s announcement comes as a first step towards the objective of protecting human rights from extraterritorial corporate abuses and ensuring access remedy for affected populations.

In a global context of increasing concern for the severity of the human rights and environmental impacts in cases where Canadian companies are present, this mechanism is in line with the State duty to protect human rights, considering Canada is home to nearly 75 percent of the world’s mining companies. Canada is the first country in the world to create an ombudsperson for corporate accountability abroad. However, its credibility and effectiveness to redress and prevent human rights violations in practice will depend on its capacity to access information, require corporate disclosure, in order to conduct independent investigations, formulate and monitor recommendations. The ability of this mechanism to employ the tools at its disposal, including revocation of trade support when sanctions are warranted, is yet to be seen. If effective in practice, this watchdog would mean real progress towards ensuring corporate accountability extra-territorially.

FIDH, together with its member and partner organisations will undoubtedly take this unique opportunity to fight for redress of those affected communities, workers, farmers, women and indigenous peoples, who have suffered the pollution of their water sources and air, displacement from their lands, assassination and attacks against their leaders, hoping this mechanism will prove effective, encouraging other governments to advance in the same direction.

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