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




Canada’s ‘toothless’ new corporate watchdog is a broken promise and a major setback for human rights

15 May, 2019

On the 8th of April, the Canadian government backtracked on a commitment to create an independent ombudsperson on corporate human rights. Instead, they appointed a special adviser to the Minister of International Trade Diversification, stripping the new office of all powers and mandate to investigate allegations of abuse tied to Canadian companies overseas.

What can explain this major setback? The answer is that industry influence in Canada gutted the creation of this innovative office before it could get off the ground.

Read the article

Why does Justin Trudeau succumb to corporate pressure?

08 May, 2019

The latest win for corporate Canada is in an executive order issued by the Prime Minister’s Office that creates the first-ever Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise. Initially, it will apply only to the Canadian garment and resource extraction sectors. The name of the new position, and the government fanfare about it, belie the fact that the Liberals have stripped the new ombudsperson of the investigatory powers that they’ve been promising for years.

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Corporate accountability is also a feminist issue

08 May, 2019

To address corporate misconduct, the federal government needs to truly commit to independence and power in an ombudsperson because the safety and well-being of Indigenous women are at stake.

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UN official criticizes Canadian delays setting up corporate ethics watchdog

30 April, 2019

Canada’s international reputation will be damaged if it doesn’t give real power to its new watchdog on responsible corporate conduct, warns a United Nations rights watchdog.

Surya Deva, the chair of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, is in Ottawa this week and will be seeking answers from the government on why it took 15 months to appoint its new “ombudsperson for responsible enterprise.”

Deva said Canada is falling behind other countries such as France, Germany, Switzerland and Australia in enacting laws to improve the conduct of their companies operating abroad, especially in less developed countries.

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Canada has a new watchdog for corporate ethics. But where are its teeth?

09 April, 2019

“International Trade Minister Jim Carr could have — make that should have — waited until he had the real goods before announcing on Monday the appointment of Sheri Meyerhoffer as the first Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE).” – Jennifer Wells writes for the Toronto Star.

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Canadian Government Reneges on Promise to Create Independent Corporate Human Rights Watchdog

08 April, 2019
For Immediate Release:
The Government of Canada failed today to appoint an independent Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) with real powers to investigate abuses and redress the harm caused by Canadian companies operating abroad.

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