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11 Jul 2019

Alastair Sharp, National Observer

Advisors quit corporate accountability panel due to lack of investigatory powers of Ombudsperson

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"Advisors quit, accusing Trudeau government of dithering on corporate watchdog," 11 July 2019

All the civil society and labour union representatives on a panel appointed by the Trudeau government to provide advice about corporate accountability have resigned, leaving only industry representatives and the government at the table with a lone academic... The seven members and their alternatives, representing labour unions and other civil society groups, publicly quit their advisory roles on Thursday, complaining that the government had failed to fulfill a promise to create an independent watchdog to investigate allegations of overseas human rights abuses against Canadian companies... The office of Jim Carr, the minister for international trade diversification and chair of the panel... [said] “While consensus on these issues remains elusive, dialogue between civil society and industry is critical to progress and walking away from that dialogue is a step backwards and regrettable."

John Ruggie, a human rights and international affairs professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, who was honorary chair of the body, told National Observer that “betrayed” might be too strong a word for what had occurred... [He said that] the mandate of the CORE ombudsperson, a role Sheri Meyerhoffer was named to fill in April and which should become operational in the coming months, is an improvement on the Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Counsellor, since appointments are for a five-year period “with a reasonable budget” that includes staff.He said the initial idea that the ombudsperson would have the authority to investigate under the Inquiries Act would have been a major step forward, but “somehow didn’t work out, for reasons that government lawyers will have to explain.”