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27 Jan 2020

Karyn Keenan, Cambridge University Press

Commentary: Canada's New Corporate Responsibility Ombudsperson falls far short of its promise

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In 2013 the CNCA launched its Open for Justice campaign to demand an extractive sector ombudsperson... The ombudsperson is intended to support Canada in the fulfilment of its international human rights obligations, including... remedy when... abuse occurs. The office is also meant to support companies in meeting their responsibility to respect human rights... In January 2018, the government announced that it would establish the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE). The office would be multisectoral, focusing initially on mining, oil, gas and garment companies, eventually broadening... to include all economic sectors... [T]he government announced the appointment of Sheri Meyerhoffer... and released the office’s long-awaited order-in-council in April 2019. Civil society expressed profound disappointment... From the CNCA’s perspective, the office... lacked several defining features of an ombudsperson, including investigatory powers and independence... In September 2019, the government responded to this criticism and issued a new order-in council for the office. The provision on corporate complaints was removed... the revised document remains silent on the issue of investigatory powers... Communities and individuals impacted by Canadian companies look to... the Canadian Ombudsperson... to impartially determine and report the truth. Without independence and the power to get at the facts, the new ombudsperson has little to offer these constituencies.