Canada: UN experts urge govt. & business to better protect indigenous rights & human rights defenders, and improve access to remedy

Following a ten-day visit to Canada, the UN Working Group on business and human rights has released a statement urging the Canadian authorities and business sector to strengthen their efforts to prevent and address adverse human rights impacts of business activities, at home and abroad. Vice-chairperson of the Working Group, Surya Deva, stated that the "government and businesses must integrate indigenous peoples' rights into their policies and practices governing the exploitation of natural resources." The delegation also stressed the importance of protecting human rights defenders and environmentalists from harassment and violence and the need for the government to strengthen access to remedy for victims of rights abuses. In addition, the delegation welcomed the Canadian government's efforts and leadership in promoting human rights and gender equality.

Get RSS feed of these results

All components of this story

Article
13 June 2017

UN Working Group visits Williams Lake, Aboriginal people say there's still work to be done

Author: Greg Sabatino, The Williams Lake Tribune

"UN Working Group visits Williams Lake," 6 June 2017. 

Following a meeting in Williams Lake on the Mount Polley mine breach, a United Nations Working Group on business and human rights... called for meaningful consultation and engagement with indigenous peoples... First Nations chiefs, dignitaries and members of the public urged for more regulations... Xeni Gwet’in chief Roger William told the Tribune following the meeting at the Thompson Rivers University,... "Canada has said they look after Aboriginal people and look after their land but that’s not quite true. There’s work to be done.” William said he believes concerns surrounding the breach have not yet been addressed accordingly, [stating]... "There’s a company that’s breached and there’s been no charges.”... Surya Deva, vice-chairperson of the workingroup [said],... “It is imperative that both government authorities and businesses show leadership and take a clear stance that attacks on individuals and communities will not be tolerated.”

Read the full post here

Item
7 June 2017

Official statement of UN Working Group at end of Canada country visit

Author: UN Working Group on business & human rights

Statement at the end of visit to Canada by the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights, 1 June 2017

In relation to business and human rights specifically, efforts in Canada to promote the corporate responsibility to respect human rights...have primarily focused on human rights abuse in the extractive sector and on business operations of Canadian companies abroad. This is illustrated by the 2009 CSR Strategy for the Canadian International Extractive Sector, which was updated in 2014, and the ongoing advocacy of Canadian civil society... The extractive sector was a particular area of focus during our visit, because of the importance of this sector to Canada’s economy, and the industry’s global footprint... We believe that there is greater room for both federal and provincial governments, industry associations and companies, to consider their activities both domestically and overseas through a human rights lens... The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre identifies Canada as one of the top three countries with companies connected to reported cases in its database of threats to human rights defenders... We heard from many stakeholders that Canada should encourage more robust human rights due diligence from extractive companies and should begin to address issues such as human trafficking/modern slavery and other human rights abuses in global supply chains.

[sections of statement address: ExtractivesCorporate respect for human rights overseas including role of Global Affairs Canada & Trade Commissioner, human rights due diligence, export credit, trade missions/trade privileges, provincial trade & investment offices; Corporate respect for human rights in Canada including engagement with indigenous communities, impact assessments, Mount Polly dam breach, labour issues such as living wage & disability discrimination; Women's human rights & business; Access to effective remedies including CSR counsellor, OECD National Contact Point, proposed ombudsperson, courts, Westray amendments; Human rights defenders & civil society space; Policy coherence; Role of other stakeholders in implementing Guiding Principles; National Action Plan]

Read the full post here

Article
7 June 2017

Law Professor criticizes UN Working Group statement on Canada for remaining silent on climate change

Author: Sara Seck, Law at the End of the Day (Canada)

"The Canadian Country Visit of the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights, and US President Trump’s Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement: Trains passing in the night? Reflections on the events of June 1, 2017," 2 June 2017

The UN Working Group [on Business and Human Rights'] statement on its visit to Canada is silent on climate change. While the statement is clearly a reflection of the issues raised by Canadians during the visit, the absence of any reference to climate change and human rights is also evidence... deep silos... between... international law on business and human rights and international climate law...[T]he Working Group highlighted indigenous rights issues within Canada...[as well as] referenc[ed] allegations that peaceful protestors and human rights defenders are subject to arrest and harassment... It is striking that this...focused upon the extractive industry, in light of the arrest of peaceful protestors at... a hydro-electric dam project... during the visit of the Working Group, resulting in the imprisonment of an Inuit grandmother...This is an issue of immense importance in the Canadian context given the devastating impact of climate change on northern indigenous communities...therefore [it is]...ironic that the Working Group statement on the Canadian country visit is silent on climate change, given that it was released on the same day that President Trump announced the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris climate agreement.

Read the full post here

Article
6 June 2017

Canada human rights plans fraught with peril, say experts and activists

Author: Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

"We still do not have the laws and policies in place to hold our mining companies to account for their human rights performance when they leave the country,"... Alex Neve, the secretary general of Amnesty International Canada,...said, "It's a significant shortcoming and would really undermine what is at the heart of the ministers' vision."... Phil Robertson, the deputy Asian director of Human Rights Watch, said,...In countries such as Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia, "there are still ongoing issues with vulnerable minorities,"... Well-intentioned Canadians need to be wary, he said, of "assurances that everything is sorted, the land is completely free to be used" because that might not be the case. Luis Fernando Monroy... was part of group protesting the environmental impact the Canadian mine was having on his rural southeastern Guatemalan community, the disruption of rural life in the indigenous area and a lack of consultation.... Monroy said,... "We don't need these big companies coming in saying they're bringing development when really what's happening is destruction."

Read the full post here

Article
6 June 2017

UN experts urge Canada to step up on business-related rights abuses

Author: MiningWatch Canada

The United Nation Working Group on business and human rights urg[ed] federal and provincial authorities, as well as the business sector, “to take a tougher line” to prevent and address adverse human rights impacts of the extractive sector both at home and abroad... Ugo Lapointe, Canada program coordinator for MiningWatch Canada, [states,]... "[T]he UN experts took note of a significant structural problem... the ‘free entry’ system... [that] allows for mining titles to be unilaterally acquired and for mining exploration work to be carried out on Indigenous lands without prior information, consultation and consent.”... Indigenous peoples have raised this issue to the UN working group and for over a decade in Canada... MiningWatch also presented to the UN Working Group on findings based on years of human rights field assessments at Barrick Gold mines in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Tanzania... finding serious problems with the design and implementation by Barrick Gold of operational-level grievance mechanisms for victims of criminal acts such as assault, killings, and sexual violence by mine security and police guarding these mines. [For previous responses by Barrick Gold on these issues, see the following: June 2016, December 2015October 2015, March 2014]

Read the full post here

Item
5 June 2017

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

Author: Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability

“Rights without effective remedies do not mean much in practice,” warned members of the UN’s working group on business and human rights...The working group 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)... [This] coalition...has long campaigned for the creation of an ombudsperson to investigate abuses linked to Canadian mining, oil and gas companies overseas.

Read the full post here

Article
1 June 2017

Taking Care Of Business - And Human Rights

Author: Oxfam Canada, Huffington Post

The [Canadian] government is making efforts to restore Canada's place on the world stage...what hasn't changed yet is how [it holds]...Canadian companies accountable, both at home and when they operate overseas...Mining companies headquartered in Canada have been implicated in human rights violations around the world, some involving egregious abuses like sexual violence, forced displacement and extrajudicial killings...Women are [often] paid less than men...the wage gap is even more accentuated for racialized, Indigenous and immigrant women...Oxfam Canada highlighted five actions that the Canadian government can take to demonstrate leadership on business and human rights [during a meeting with members of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights]... Provide access to justice... Protect human rights defenders... Ensure all Canadian businesses respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples... Fight women's economic inequality... Negotiate strong human rights protections...into Canada's trade agreements and foreign investor protection agreements...

Read the full post here

Article
1 June 2017

Human Rights Watch submission to UN Working Group on overseas operations of Canadian extractive companies

Author: Human Rights Watch

Canada - arguably the global mining industry's most important hub - needs to develop mechanisms that pay close attention to the human rights records of Canadian companies when they operate abroad...[Human Rights Watch] has urged the Candian govt. to establish an ombudsperson’s office with a mandate to independently investigate and publicly report on human rights problems involving Canadian extractive companies...Human Rights Watch recommends the UN Working Group ask the Canadian govt. to explain the reasons for the delay in...establishing an independent mechanism to investigate Canadian extractives companies operating abroad and...to confirm whether and when an independent ombudperson's office will be established...Human Rights Watch [also] asks the Working Group to call upon the Canadian government to introduce a regulatory framework for the govt. to sanction and publicly report on Canadian companies that fail to meet minimum human rights standards in their overseas operations...[refers to Barrick Gold & Nevsun] 

 

Read the full post here

Article
30 May 2017

From dialogue to accountability: A call for Canadian leadership on business and human rights

This week members of the United Nations Working Group on business and human rights wrap up a 10-day visit to Canada. The selection of Canada as one of just two countries the group will visit this year was opportune, given the particularly high risk of social and environmental harm associated with extractive industry projects and Canada’s global dominance in mining. To eradicate the serious harm often linked to mining, oil and gas development, Canada will need to play a major role in closing the governance gap... As a region, Latin America has seen at least 85 cases of local socio-environmental conflict involving Canadian mining companies, some of which receive political or financial support from the Canadian government... Canada’s government has not, to date, presented a clear, credible plan for how it will fulfill its legal duty to protect against and redress human rights abuse by Canadian multinationals... The government is expected to announce the creation of an ombudsman office to investigate alleged wrongdoing by extractive firms operating abroad – a move that all but one of Canada’s main political parties committed to support... Beyond this, Canada must do more to prevent business-related human rights abuse before it occurs. In step with the move towards mandatory due diligence underway in Europe, it should require companies to assess and mitigate risks of human rights abuse throughout their global operations and supply chains... Finally, it’s crucial that Canada withhold public support from companies that violate human rights. [refers to Talisman, China Gold]

Read the full post here