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

5 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.

On April 8, 2019, the Canadian government announced details on the much-awaited Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise. And what did the long wait provide? A complete reversal on the government’s explicit commitment to create an independent ombudsperson office with the tools and robust mandate required to investigate and publicly report on allegations of abuse tied to Canadian companies operating abroad. Instead, the government revealed another powerless advisory post, little different from what has existed for years.

Yesterday, on the steps of the human rights monument in Ottawa, civil society organizations symbolically presented the petition to the Minister of International Trade Diversification, Jim Carr. They called on him to scrap the special advisor post and instead, fully implement all of the commitments made and create an independent ombudsperson’s office. With only a few short weeks before parliamentary business stops until after the next federal elections, the government has little time to make good on its commitment.

 

Featured prominently on the human rights monument is Article 1 of the United Nations’ Declaration on Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” Yet Canadian companies continue to be tied to serious human rights abuses at their overseas operations, facing allegations as serious as murder, rape, forced labour, and slavery. And those who are impacted often have nowhere to go to seek redress.

In the last three years, at least four United Nations bodies have called on Canada to hold Canadian companies to account for their actions. As recently as June 2018, the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights called for the creation of an ombudsperson’s office in Canada to help stop abuses. With this latest backtrack, the Canadian government has shown itself unwilling to take meaningful action to address human rights abuses.

Thank you to all of the people who signed the petition and who have taken action over the last decade. We will continue to demand that the Canadian government fulfill its international obligations to promote and respect human rights, including upholding its commitment to an effective ombudsperson with the tools, resources, and mandate to hold companies accountable.

For the full petition in English and French, click here.

List of endorsing organizations:

  1. Amnesty International Canada
  2. Amnistie internationale Canada francophone
  3. KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
  4. Mining Injustice Solidarity Network
  5. Development and Peace-Caritas Canada
  6. MiningWatch Canada
  7. Inter Pares
  8. Nobel Women’s Initiative
  9. Canadian Jesuits International
  10. Mining Justice Action Committee
  11. Oxfam Canada
  12. Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network (BTS)
  13. Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC)
  14. Committee for Human Rights in Latin America (CDHAL)
  15. British Columbia Teachers’ Federation
  16. Maritimes Justice, Mission and Outreach Committees, United Church of Canada
  17. Maquila Solidarity Network
  18. Grandmothers Advocacy Network
  19. Friends of the Earth Canada
  20. Council of Canadians
  21. United for Mining Justice
  22. United Steelworkers
  23. Social Justice Connection
  24. Projet Accompagnement Québec-Guatemala (PAQG)
  25. Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale (AQOCI)
  26. United Church of Canada
  27. Canadian Labour Congress
  28. OPIRG – Toronto
  29. Mining Justice Alliance
  30. CoDevelopment Canada
  31. Peace Brigades International – Canada
  32. Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network (ARSN)
  33. Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
  34. Solidarité Montérégie Amérique Centrale (SMAC)
  35. Above Ground
  36. Editorial Team, Franciscan Voice Canada