An ombudsperson with teeth

Communities that have suffered harms tied to Canadian mining activity abroad are still waiting for the ombudsperson they were promised.

Canada still needs an independent ombudsperson with the #power2investigate

In January 2018 the Government of Canada announced the creation of an independent ombudsperson office with robust powers to investigate allegations of human rights abuse tied to Canadian corporate activity overseas. It has still not delivered on that promise. 

The Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability has spent over a decade advocating for a human rights ombudsperson with real powers to investigate abuses and redress the harms caused by Canadian companies operating abroad. The federal government finally announced the creation of such an independent watchdog in 2018, and pledged that the office would have the crucial powers to compel testimony and the production of documents from companies. This announcement was applauded by civil society and labour groups, including the CNCA.

“It was because of assurances that the CORE would have independence and real investigatory powers that we stood alongside the government in January 2018 and we promoted the announcement both nationally and internationally.”

– Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada

Despite its explicit and public commitment, the government subsequently bowed to industry pressure and gutted the office’s powers before it even got off the ground. In April 2019, the government created a powerless advisory post that differed little from the discredited offices that had come before it. Sheri Meyerhoffer was appointed as the Special Advisor to the Minister of International Trade Diversification, to be known as the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise. It remains an ombudsperson in name only, without the independence and powers that are the foundation of an effective office. Our analysis of the serious deficiencies of the CORE’s mandate are available here and here.

Will the CORE be transformed into the Ombudsperson that was promised?

During the 2019 federal election campaign, several political parties committed to making the CORE independent and giving it the investigatory powers it needs, including the power to compel documents and testimony. See the responses here.

In a September 2019 letter to the CNCA, Minister of International Trade Diversification Jim Carr  acknowledged that the Ombudsperson needed investigatory powers to be effective, and committed to creating a “stand-alone legal framework for the office, including stipulating its powers to compel documents, witnesses, and other key testimony.” Ms. Meyerhoffer has publicly stated that she would also be pressing the government for these powers.

Canadians, civil society and impacted communities around the world continue to wait for Canada to get serious about its international human rights obligations and to put in place effective corporate accountability mechanisms. We expect the government to fulfill its commitments. We will not be waiting silently. 

Take action today and write, call or visit

Criteria for an effective ombudsperson

Remind the Prime Minister and Minister Ng that Canada must keep its promise and immediately provide the CORE with the independence and powers she needs to do her job.

Ask MPs to take a stand and publicly support the immediate establishment of an effective ombudsperson. 

Remind them that the ombudsperson we need is:

  • Independent from government and big business;
  • Has the tools and mandate to independently investigate, including the power to compel documents and testimony under oath from Canadian companies; and
  • Is oriented around advancing human rights.

Learn more




Impacted communities are advised to “Approach with Caution” – Canadian civil society groups raise alarm about Canada’s Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE)

30 April, 2020

Earlier this year, members of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA) learned that the office of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) was planning to travel to Colombia and Brazil without having consulted with local communities or human rights defenders prior to booking the trip. As a result, the CNCA felt it necessary to produce information for impacted communities so that they could make informed decisions about engaging with the ombudsperson.

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Parliament has dissolved and Canada still does not have an independent ombudsperson with #power2investigate

17 September, 2019

The Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) can’t be transformed into an independent office, nor given the investigatory powers it needs, without a new order in council (OIC) under the Inquiries Act, or the passing of a new law. Neither of which can occur during an electoral period.

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News release: Government of Canada turns back on communities harmed by Canadian mining overseas, loses trust of Canadian civil society

11 July, 2019

Today all fourteen civil society and labour union representatives of the government’s Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Body on Responsible Business Conduct Abroad (Advisory Body) tendered their resignations. The unanimous decision to resign is due the erosion of civil society and labour unions’ trust and confidence in the government’s commitment to international corporate accountability.

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What does an effective corporate watchdog look like? Our model lays it out

13 June, 2019

What does a corporate watchdog need to be effective? Canada’s new mandate for the Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise entirely misses the mark. Thankfully, leading legal experts drafted a model order in council to spell it out.

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Letter to Minister Carr: Canada must fulfill its commitment to an independent ombudsperson

10 June, 2019

Dear Minister Carr,

Our members are highly concerned that your government is backtracking on its explicit commitment to create an independent ombudsperson with the powers needed to investigate allegations of human rights abuse linked to the overseas operations of Canadian mining, oil, gas and garment companies.

Read the full letter.

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“We need a corporate watchdog with teeth!” Thousands of Canadians call on the government to fulfill its commitment to an independent ombudsperson

05 June, 2019

Over 6000 Canadians and nearly 40 civil society organizations have signed a petition denouncing a major government backtrack on human rights and corporate accountability. The government has only two weeks to change course and make good on its commitment to create an independent ombudsperson with the power to investigate.

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