Business and Human Rights Legislation

Canada has international human rights obligations to protect, respect and fulfill human rights, including protecting against human rights abuses by Canadian companies operating overseas. Yet there is at present no legal framework in Canada that sets out companies’ obligations to respect human rights throughout their global operations and supply chains, nor that defines corporate liability for harms caused as a result of their business activities.

A growing number of jurisdictions worldwide are acknowledging the failure of voluntary initiatives to curb corporate abuse, and have either enacted or are currently examining legislation to hold companies legally accountable when their operations cause harm. The CNCA, along with 34 other civil society organizations from across Canada, is calling on the government to learn from these experiences abroad and enact comprehensive and mandatory human rights due diligence legislation that:

  • requires companies to identify, prevent, and mitigate human rights abuses arising from their global operations.
  • applies throughout the entirety of a company’s business operations and supply chains. Legislation must apply to both companies headquartered in Canada and globally headquartered corporations doing business in Canada.
  • is comprehensive in scope, encompassing the full range of internationally recognized human rights.
  • includes meaningful consequences for non-compliance, including liability for harm and effective enforcement mechanisms.

Due diligence legislation, if properly designed and implemented, will drive change in preventing and addressing adverse human rights impacts, contribute to a more level playing field for Canadian businesses, and ensure Canadian companies can attract and maintain investment. Such legislation would complement developments in Canadian common law that also help to address the significant legal barriers faced by foreign victims seeking to access justice in Canadian courts for overseas abuse linked to Canadian companies and supply chains.

Recent
Work

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

19 June, 2018

CNCA press release: “The report’s recommendations on the ombudsperson hit the nail on the head … 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.”

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51 Canadian organisations call on Canada to close the international accountability gap in the extractive sector

14 July, 2016

“As organizations committed to upholding human rights, environmental protection, and fostering equitable and sustainable economic development, we recognize that there are significant challenges associated with resource extraction in developing countries. We call on the Government of Canada to ensure that people harmed by the overseas operations of Canadian mining, oil and gas companies are able to access justice in Canada.”

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Foreign plaintiffs try to use Canadian courts

25 May, 2016

CNCA member, Above Ground, examines the eight cases that have attempted to use Canadian courts in corporate accountability cases.

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