The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne,
Minister of Trade,
House of Commons, Ottawa
Dear Minister Champagne
When the federal budget became public on March 22, 2017, I was very disappointed to see nothing budgeted towards a Human Rights Ombudsperson for Canada’s international extractive sector. Not only was this commitment made by the Liberal Party of Canada during the 2015 election campaign, but ignoring this issue allows for continued suffering at Canadian extractive projects around the world.
Letters from around the world have been sent to Prime Minister Trudeau about this matter, and Prime Minister Trudeau’s response is clear: corporate accountability matters fall under your purview as the Minister of International Trade, François-Philippe Champagne.
Canada is home to more than half of the world’s largest mining and exploration companies as well as many medium to large-sized oil & gas companies. Many of these companies operate in the developing world. A 2009 report, commissioned by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, found that of 171 high profile conflicts involving mining companies over the previous decade, Canadian companies were involved in four times as many incidents as their closest peers in Australia and the UK. A 2016 report of the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project at Osgoode Hall Law School documented 100 incidents of violence associated with Canadian extractive companies operating in Latin America between 2000 and 2015. This included 44 deaths, 30 of which the researchers described as “targeted”.
This is unacceptable, and has been able to go unchecked for far too long.
Existing mechanisms such as the CSR Counsellor’s Office and the OECD National Contact Point have proven themselves toothless and ineffective. I strongly encourage you to use the draft model legislation prepared by the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (www.cnca-rcrce.ca) as a blueprint for the creation of an extractives human rights ombudsperson office. The model bill would create an office that investigates human rights allegations and recommends remedial action, is independent of political or corporate influence, and is accountable to Canadians through public reporting.
I have been in touch with my local member of parliament and now I am asking you directly to create a human rights ombudsperson.
I look forward to hearing about your plans to make Canada open for justice.