Canada has international human rights obligations to protect, respect and fulfill human rights, including protecting against human rights abuses by Canadian companies operating overseas. Yet there is at present no legal framework in Canada that sets out companies’ obligations to respect human rights throughout their global operations and supply chains, nor that defines corporate liability for harms caused as a result of their business activities.
A growing number of jurisdictions worldwide are acknowledging the failure of voluntary initiatives to curb corporate abuse, and have either enacted or are currently examining legislation to hold companies legally accountable when their operations cause harm. The CNCA, along with 34 other civil society organizations from across Canada, is calling on the government to learn from these experiences abroad and enact comprehensive and mandatory human rights due diligence legislation that:
- requires companies to identify, prevent, and mitigate human rights abuses arising from their global operations.
- applies throughout the entirety of a company’s business operations and supply chains. Legislation must apply to both companies headquartered in Canada and globally headquartered corporations doing business in Canada.
- is comprehensive in scope, encompassing the full range of internationally recognized human rights.
- includes meaningful consequences for non-compliance, including liability for harm and effective enforcement mechanisms.
Due diligence legislation, if properly designed and implemented, will drive change in preventing and addressing adverse human rights impacts, contribute to a more level playing field for Canadian businesses, and ensure Canadian companies can attract and maintain investment. Such legislation would complement developments in Canadian common law that also help to address the significant legal barriers faced by foreign victims seeking to access justice in Canadian courts for overseas abuse linked to Canadian companies and supply chains.