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.
Canadian companies operating overseas have been associated with widespread and egregious human rights abuses including forced labour, rape and murder.
Fifteen months ago, the government announced that it would create an independent office with the power to investigate. Instead, it unveiled a powerless advisory post, little different from what has already existed for years. It is clear that Canada needs an ombudsperson to help prevent Canadian complicity in corporate abuse and help ensure Canadian mining and garment supply chains respect human rights.
An ombudsperson operates at arms-length from government and has the power to order those under investigation to produce documents and testimony under oath. The advisory position created today does neither.
“Individuals and communities harmed by Canadian mining companies still have no one to turn to for help,” said Emily Dwyer of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability. “An ombudsperson in name only is not an ombudsperson. It is simply more of the same approach that has already been proven empty and ineffective.” The government announced that it has commissioned a review of the options of providing the advisor with investigatory powers.
“Fifteen months into this process, news of a review is outrageous. We don’t need more studies,” added Dwyer. “We need action.”
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.
“The advisory role announced today has no real powers and will not operate at arm’s length from government -free from any political or corporate interference,” said Dwyer. “The government must take decisive action to stop corporate abuse. That was the promise made in January 2018. That is the promise that must be kept.”
[Published on 8 April 2019]