Global Affairs Canada creates Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise

On 17 January 2018 the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of International Trade, announced the creation of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE). The office will be within Global Affairs Canada and is mandated to investigate allegations of human rights abuses linked to Canadian corporate activity abroad.

According to the announcement, the CORE will focus first on mining, extraction, and garment sectors, expanding the ambit of its work over time to other sectors. The establishment of the CORE is to be followed by the creation of a multi-stakeholder Advisory Body to advise the Government and the CORE on responsible business conduct abroad.

The CORE is intended to have the authority to undertake independent investigations into abuses, and is also intended to support the adoption by Canadian business of international best practices in accordance with, inter alia, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises

Public and judicial scrutiny of the overseas operations of Canadian companies – particularly in the mining sector – has been increasing, partly as a result of a series of high profile claims brought against Canadian mining companies such as Nevsun, Tahoe Resources, and Hudbay Minerals. A 2016 report by the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project of Osgoode Hall Law School reported at least 44 confirmed deaths, more than 400 injuries, and over 700 cases of criminalization by Canadian companies overseas during the period 2000-2015, but found fewer than 25% of deaths and barely 12% of injuries were reported, with no consistent corporate or government oversight.

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