Canadian Government Reneges on Promise to Create Independent Corporate Human Rights Watchdog

Montreal, April 8, 2019  – The Government of Canada failed today to appoint an independent Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) with real powers to investigate abuses and redress the harm caused by Canadian companies operating abroad.

Canadian companies operating overseas have been associated with widespread and egregious human rights abuses including forced labour, rape and murder.

After fifteen months, mining-affected communities and Canadian voters are still waiting for the government to fulfill its electoral promise of creating an independent ombudsperson office with the power to investigate, which was what also announced in January 2018.

Instead, it unveiled a powerless advisory post, little different from the CSR Counsellor position that previously existed and was abolished because it was deemed ineffective. Canada needs an ombudsperson to help prevent Canadian complicity in corporate abuse and help ensure Canadian mining and garment supply chains respect human rights. 

“The new ombudsperson, Sheri Meyerhoffer, will lack the power to act independently as the budget of her office will be directly provided by the Minister of Trade Diversification and will be accountable to the minister. An independent ombudsperson should operate at arms-length from government and have the power to order those under investigation to produce documents and testimony under oath. The position created today does neither,” says Elana Wright, Advocacy Officer for Development and Peace – Caritas Canada.

In the last three years, at least four United Nations bodies have called on Canada to hold Canadian companies to account for their actions. As recently as June 2018, the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights called for the creation of an ombudsperson’s office in Canada to help stop abuses.

“The government must take decisive action to stop corporate abuse. That was the promise made in January 2018. That is the promise that must be kept. It is imperative that the government puts people before profits and at the end of the five-week consultation period, that the new ombudsperson has the tools to perform independent investigations,” adds Ms. Wright. 

Development and Peace has been campaigning for an independent ombudsperson for the last ten years on behalf of communities in the Global South suffering from human rights abuses by Canadian mining companies and its members have collected over half million signatures in support of this mechanism for strengthening corporate social responsibility.