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17 Jan 2018

Amol Mehra & Heather Cohen, Int'l Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR)

The newest corporate watchdog: Canada announces an Ombudsperson for corporate accountability

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Canada's Minister of International Trade, the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, announced the creation of an independent ombudsperson to investigate human rights abuses linked to Canadian corporations abroad. The Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) will be authorized to investigate allegations of human rights abuses arising from Canadian corporate activity abroad initially in the mining, oil and gas, and garment sectors, with the expectation to expand within a year to other industries... CORE is to be advised by a new multi-stakeholder Advisory Body on Responsible Business Conduct, which the Minister also announced today. It will be led by Professor John Ruggie and will include members from both industry and civil society groups. The Advisory Body will be responsible for developing a set of guiding principles to assist the CORE in its operations as well as advising the Canadian government more generally on responsible business conduct by Canadian companies operating abroad.

... Canadian corporations from both the extractive and apparel sectors have been linked to human rights abuses that extend from forced labor to community attacks to issues in their supply chains. Moreover, Canadian citizens have been calling on the government to implement an ombudsperson for more than ten years and in the previous federal election, all but one of Canada’s major political parties committed to creating the office... Canada is the first country in the world to create an ombudsperson for responsible business conduct abroad and its announcement today serves to put it on the map of jurisdictions evidencing a commitment to addressing corporate accountability... While the CORE certainly seems to be empowered to act for the protection of human rights, its effectiveness will be measured by the extent to which it employs the tools at its disposal, including revocation of trade support when sanctions are warranted.