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UN tells Canada: time for action on business and human rights

OTTAWA, June 1, 2017 – United Nations experts are urging the Canadian government to step up efforts to prevent and remedy human rights abuse by corporations.

“Rights without effective remedies do not mean much in practice,” warned members of the UN’s working group on business and human rights in a statement issued today at the close of a 10-day fact-finding mission to Canada. Among a slate of recommendations, they urged the government to strengthen access to remedy in Canada for people and communities affected by Canadian businesses worldwide.

“The UN focused on Canada’s extractive sector and drew attention to the frequency of reported attacks on human rights defenders — including harassment, criminalization, and killings — in relation to Canadian projects,” said Jean Symes of Inter Pares.

“This report echoes what UN committees have been saying for years: that Canada must do more to fulfill its human rights duties in relation to Canadian business activity abroad,” says Emily Dwyer, coordinator of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA). The coalition of civil society organizations has long campaigned for the creation of an ombudsperson to investigate abuses linked to Canadian mining, oil and gas companies overseas.

Such an ombudsperson could fill the significant gap that exists between existing mediation mechanisms and the courts, say the UN experts in their report. They recommend that the office be independent and well resourced, with the power to investigate allegations and issue enforceable orders.

“The government must pay heed to the working group’s clear message: the time for talk is over; the time for action is now,” says Karyn Keenan, director of Above Ground.

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