FAAE Committee Report
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Full Government of Canada Response to the Twenty-second Report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, “A Race to the Top : Improving Canada’s Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy to Safeguard Human Rights in Latin America
The Government of Canada has carefully reviewed the Report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development and thanks its members for the opportunity to participate in the hearings leading up to the tabling of this report. The Government of Canada expresses its appreciation to the Committee and the Subcommittee on International Human Rights for the considerable attention its members devoted to this important issue. It also thanks the officials and representatives of governmental organizations, Canadian mining industry associations, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United Nations, as well as academic experts and human rights defenders from Latin America for their expert and first hand testimony which has helped provide a comprehensive picture of the challenges and complexities of responsible resource extraction in Latin America.
The Committee’s Subcommittee on International Human Rights examined the human rights impact of resource extraction firms in Latin America, particularly amongst Canadian mining companies and their subsidiaries, and provided recommendations to the Government of Canada that would enhance sustainable natural resources management and responsible business practices in Latin America. The Committee’s report, tabled on January 29, 2019, made six broad recommendations to the Government of Canada to pursue its international trade, diplomatic, and development efforts to address the systemic causes of weak natural resources governance and judicial system capacity in extractive host countries in Latin America. It was also recommended to the Government to strengthen Canada’s existing Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Strategy and its non-judicial dispute resolution mechanisms, including through the now appointed Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (Ombudsperson).
The footprint of the Canadian extractive sector is significant in Latin America, in particular in the mining sector. Two-thirds of Canadian mining assets are located outside of Canada, 56 percent of which are in Latin America. The assets of Canadian mining companies are estimated to $93 billion (2017) in Latin America. Canadian companies operating expenditures are mainly incurred in countries of operation that have trickle down positive effects on the socio-economic well-being of host communities, with the bulk of spending going to employees’ wages and benefits, suppliers of goods and services and government taxes and royalties. Companies also spend significantly on community and philanthropic initiatives to improve access and the quality of health, education and transportation services, supporting local livelihoods and economic development activities for host communities.
The Canadian mining industry operates in a legal and policy environment that is amongst the most advanced of all major mining jurisdictions. Canadian companies are mandated by the Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act (ESTMA) to disclosure all payments of over $100,000 made to foreign governments, and many have adopted high reporting and monitoring standards that are unique in the world, such as the Mining Association of Canada (MAC)’s Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) and the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC)’s E3 Plus Framework, that many advocates in other countries would likely wish to see adopted by their own national industry. Five other country mining associations, including Argentina, have now adopted TSM, and many other foreign mining associations are considering doing the same.
While extractive activity brings considerable benefits to host country governments and communities in terms of local tax revenues, job creation and economic spillovers, the presence of extractive companies can also affect the livelihoods and the natural environment of local communities, in particular among vulnerable and marginalized groups and communities, such as Indigenous peoples and women dependent on land, agriculture and forestry. It has been well documented by the United Nations, the Organization of American States, civil society organizations and representatives of Indigenous peoples that communities and individuals, in particular women and Indigenous human rights defenders, which oppose extractive activities are also increasingly targets of intimidation, harassment, criminalization, violence and killings in relation to their work as activists. Some instances of such opposition are against the operations of Canadian extractive companies. The Government Response acknowledges these challenges and recognizes the complex nature of local governance and community dynamics that often exist, and the importance of addressing the human rights concerns that are associated with extractive operations. Such issues, when not properly mitigated, affect the overall reputation of Canada’s extractive industry at home and abroad, in particular in Latin America, and by extension, harm the reputation of Canada as a whole.
The Government broadly agrees with the recommendations of the Committee’s report. It proposes to consider the recommendations within the framework of Canada’s diplomatic, international trade and international assistance activities. The Response provides a comprehensive overview of the Government of Canada’s efforts in Latin America to combat corruption and impunity, strengthen the capacity of host governments, communities and in particular, vulnerable groups such as women and Indigenous peoples, to sustainably and responsibly manage their natural resources while mitigating the negative impacts; and promote responsible business practices amongst Canadian extractive companies operating there while offering the option of non-judicial dispute resolution mechanisms.
Recommendation 1 – Reducing Negative Impacts of Resources Extraction Projects and More Evenly Distributing their Benefits
RESPONSE: The Government of Canada agrees with this recommendation.
Supporting responsible natural resources governance, with a focus on equitable sharing of benefits and addressing economic exclusion of women, Indigenous peoples, and other marginalized groups and communities, is part of Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP). The FIAP commits Canada to increasing the economic leadership and empowerment of women at all levels, supporting women’s leadership and decision-making in sustainable natural resource management, and protecting women’s human rights defenders. This is consistent with Canada’s trade diversification strategy, focused on inclusive trade and investment, so that all can benefit from increased economic development.
Canada engages in numerous global, regional, and bilateral initiatives to promote transparency, accountability, and non-discrimination in natural resources governance. Canada’s approach is a combination of actions that support policy advocacy to: promote best practices for responsible natural resource governance; foster the inclusion of representatives of Indigenous peoples and of civil society organizations representing women and traditionally marginalized groups as part of these initiatives; and strengthen the capacity of governments, communities, and other stakeholders to effectively oversee and mitigate the potential negative impacts of natural resource extraction.
Canadian companies are mandated by the Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act (ESTMA) to disclose all taxes and royalty payments to foreign governments. These payments can contribute to a sizable portion of a host country’s national revenue and, by extension, the financing of host government expenditures on social programs. To ensure transparency and effective accounting for these payments, Canada is a supporting country in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which requires the disclosure of information on resource extraction, revenues to governments, and benefits to the public. There are five EITI implementing countries in Latin America. The EITI seeks to strengthen public and corporate governance, promote understanding of natural resource management, and provide data to drive transparency and accountability. In each of the 51 countries that are implementing the EITI, it is supported by a coalition of government, companies, and civil society. Part of Canada’s approach within the EITI is fostering inclusion of civil society organizations representing women and traditionally marginalized groups as part of these coalitions.
In addition, through financial support for the World Bank’s Extractives Global Programmatic Support (EGPS) multi-donor trust fund, Canada has contributed to improved gender analysis and project design in the World Bank’s lending portfolio. The EGPS is helping resource-rich developing countries reduce poverty and pursue long-term, sustainable and equitable growth.
Canada is a member and core funder of the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development (IGF), which supports 63 countries, including many in Latin America in using natural resource wealth to invest in sustainable development and mitigate negative impacts. The IGF helps member governments optimize the benefits of mining to achieve poverty reduction, inclusive growth, social development and environmental stewardship. IGF guidance on artisanal and small-scale mining, local content, and taxation has helped member governments develop policies to mitigate environmental and social impacts of extractive activities and promote equitable sharing of benefits. Canada also participates in the Conference of Mines Ministries of the Americas, where we inform and encourage policy-making of governments in Latin America to adopt sustainable mining practices and standards.
The Government of Canada also provides $20 million via the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to the Canadian Fund for the Extractive Sector in Latin America and the Caribbean (CANEF), which seeks to support countries in managing natural resources through evidence‑based decision-making and improved regulations. CANEF activities contribute to strengthening the regulatory and institutional frameworks and improving infrastructure information management. CANEF specifically contributed to the Human Rights Policy for Mining and Energy in Colombia. The Government of Canada also supports the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) to implement the Sustainable and Inclusive Communities in Latin America (CISAL) initiative in Peru and Colombia to strengthen the capacity of local governments to manage complex social, economic and environmental issues associated with mining activity, while promoting economic growth and diversification that equally benefits women and men.
In Colombia, Canada supports the Building Extractive Sector Governance initiative that aims to increase transparency and use of extractive sector information by communities and Indigenous peoples; and increase the economic benefits of the extractive activities for women and men in host communities. In Peru, Canada has contributed to various initiatives to strengthen Peru’s natural resource governance capacity, collaborating for instance with Peru’s Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) to develop a Communication and Relations Toolkit for Responsible Mining Exploration . In Mexico, the Embassy of Canada supports the dissemination of Canadian best practices in sustainable mining legislation, practice, and management, assisting Mexico’s efforts to improve the sustainability of its mining sector, including through a reform of its mining law.
Canada’s diplomatic and international trade efforts to promote responsible business practices and shared benefits in the extractive sector complement the delivery of both Canada’s Feminist Foreign Policy and Feminist International Assistance Policy. As a member of the Voluntary Principles Initiative, Canada promotes dialogue, risk assessment, and accountability in security policies and deployments in the extractive sector in order to reduce risks of human rights abuses. For instance, the Embassy of Canada in Guatemala facilitated a working group on the Voluntary Principles in 2018 where it encouraged open and constructive dialogue on mining issues among all stakeholders, including government officials, local communities, civil society organizations and mining companies to prevent conflict, promote CSR principles, and contribute to the safeguarding of human rights.
Voices at Risk: Canada’s guidelines on supporting human rights defenders provides practical advice for Canadian officials abroad and at Headquarters and is a how-to guide for supporting human rights defenders, including women, Indigenous rights defenders, and land and environmental rights defenders. Part of this approach includes speaking out in defence of democratic institutions such as a free press, civil society, and national human rights institutions, each of which has an important role to play in documenting social conflict and the actions and policies of national and local governments. As part of Canada’s support to human rights defenders, Canada’s diplomats monitor political, economic and social developments in their countries of accreditation and engage in public and private advocacy to promote human rights and the rule of law. Missions regularly use diplomatic channels to raise specific cases with local authorities. Missions may discuss protection measures, encourage investigations, and seek updates on ongoing investigations. This includes engaging stakeholders on the importance of welcoming diverse points of view, and listening and responding to grievances in a peaceful and constructive manner.
Over the years, Canada has also supported numerous human rights groups and national institutions in Latin America, such as Peru’s National Office of Dialogue and Sustainability and Ombudsperson office ( Defensoria del Pueblo), strengthening among other things their capacity to document and address conflict proactively, and facilitating dialogue between public and private sector stakeholders with the aim of preventing and managing disputes and social conflicts, including in the extractive industry.
Recommendation 2 – Ending Impunity for Human Rights Abuses by Prioritizing Good Governance
RESPONSE: The Government of Canada agrees with this recommendation .
As evidenced during the Sub-Committee’s work, longstanding social norms, structural inequalities and discriminatory social, political, legal and economic systems contribute to persistent and systemic corruption, crime and impunity challenges in Latin America. Canada’s Feminist approach recognizes that full and equal participation by all members of society, regardless of gender, is necessary to address persistent inequalities and foster the transformational change that is required to find sustainable solutions. To this end, Canada supports a range of initiatives that seek to address corruption and impunity, and related issues, from several angles.
The Government of Canada’s International Assistance programming is oriented toward advancing Inclusive Governance as one of six action areas outlined within the Feminist International Assistance Policy. The aim of this action area is to promote good governance and foster societies where individuals, the state, civil society and the private sector interact to make decisions and allocate resources – nationally and locally – in ways that improve human rights and reduce inequalities, particularly for the most marginalized and vulnerable, in all their diversity. Programming may, for example, seek to: improve the gender-responsiveness of justice and law enforcement institutions by building the capacity of state and non-state actors to reform laws, and strengthen the judiciary, police, prisons, and juvenile justice system; ensure justice services reach people in their communities by building the capacity of state and non‑state actors to extend inclusive and gender-responsive formal and informal justice services to under-served regions; and, increase awareness of existing laws and legal services amongst the most vulnerable people, particularly women, children, and youth.
More specifically, Canada supports local and regional civil society, where appropriate, to increase the adoption and exercise of accountability standards and laws by governments including supporting and promoting regional coordination on matters of regional scope.
For example, the International Governance, Accountability, and Performance Initiative, implemented by the Canadian Audit and Accountability Foundation, began in March 2018 and will be implemented over seven years. In partnerships with the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, this project will ensure more accountable and effective governance by strengthening the capacity of Auditors' General offices and parliamentary oversight bodies in selected Latin American, Asian, and Sub-Saharan African countries. This project empowers women by building the skills and leadership capacity of female auditors, helping to position them for senior management roles in audit institutions, and incorporates a gender lens on audit functions in these partner countries. The project also leverages Canadian expertise and value-added from provincial Auditors' General offices.
In Central America, Canada has been a leading supporter of efforts to increase the rule of law, reduce impunity, and improve access to rights, especially for women and indigenous communities. As such, Canada was a key contributor to the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) and the OAS Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH).
Canada’s Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program (ACCBP) also offers support to certain States in responding to situations of a criminal nature. The ACCBP is designed to address transnational security threats with the objective of enhancing the capacity of key beneficiary States and government entities to prevent and respond to threats posed by international criminal activity. Since 2009, the Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program (ACCBP) has contributed more than $19 million to bilateral projects in Mexico, with a current focus on training judges and lawyers in the context of the ongoing reform of Mexico’s criminal justice system.
In addition to International Assistance, Canada recognizes that tackling corruption also requires building an environment within which responsible business practices can thrive. A stable, open, transparent, and predictable investment environment is important to Canadian companies, but also to local governments and stakeholders. Canada supports a range of activities which contribute to the global fight against corruption, and serves to strengthen local capacities to manage natural resources revenues and relationships with stakeholders involved in natural resource extraction. This can, in addition, broaden the local development benefits that extractive sector investment can bring to a community and country.
Canada engages on this issue multilaterally at the OECD, the G7 and the OAS. In 1997, Canada signed the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, and adopted the following year the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (CFPOA) to implement Canada’s obligations under the OECD Convention. On a bilateral basis, Canada includes CSR provisions in all Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements and Free Trade Agreements signed since 2010, including with Colombia, Chile, Peru, Honduras, the states parties to the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (CPTPP), and with the U.S. and Mexico. These provisions call on the signatory countries to encourage enterprises operating within their territories/or under their jurisdiction to voluntarily incorporate internationally recognized CSR standards into their practices and internal policies, in areas such as labour, the environment, human rights, community relations, and anti-corruption.
Canada also works with partner governments in regional mechanisms to advance anti‑corruption efforts. At the 2018 Summit of the Americas, governments adopted the “Lima Commitment: Democratic Governance against Corruption”, which sets a clear agenda for the region’s fight against corruption. The summit outcome document, adopted by consensus, commits to a number of priorities, including: strengthening democratic institutions for the prevention of and fight against corruption; protecting human rights, freedom of expression, and safe spaces for those exposing, investigating and denouncing corruption; and, promoting women’s leadership and empowerment as an enabler in the fight against corruption. Canada continues to support the Mechanism for Follow-Up on the Implementation of the Inter‑American Convention against Corruption (MESICIC) within the Inter-American system.
Recommendation 3 – Maintaining the Preventative Role of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor
RESPONSE: The Government of Canada agrees with this recommendation .
The extractive sector CSR Counsellor was established in 2009 as part of the Government of Canada’s first CSR strategy for the Canadian extractive (mining, and oil and gas) sector. The Strategy was updated in 2014 and refocused the role of the CSR Counsellor’s to: promote CSR guidelines to the extractive sector; advise extractive sector companies on the implementation of CSR performance standards and guidelines; and prevent, detect and resolve disputes at their early stages. The CSR Counsellor’s office sunsetted in May 2018. Building on Canada’s existing expertise and leadership in responsible business conduct, the Government announced, on January 17, 2018, the creation of a Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (Ombudsperson) to strengthen Canada’s approach to responsible business conduct for Canadian companies doing business and operating abroad.
The former CSR Counsellor’s role to promote human rights and responsible business conduct and provide advice to industry has been folded into the Ombudsperson’s mandate. The Ombudsperson is guided by internationally respected norms, namely the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Once operational, the Ombudsperson will proactively promote the implementation of these internationally-recognized responsible business conduct guidelines and the adoption and implementation of responsible business conduct best practices by Canadian companies abroad operating in the mining, oil and gas and garment sectors. This can include promoting the application of human rights due diligence to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for salient human rights risks, and meaningful engagement with local communities, including Indigenous peoples, and at-risk groups such as women, children, and human rights defenders. In discharging its mandate, the Ombudsperson will collaborate with the Trade Commissioner Service, engage industry, small and medium sized enterprises and various stakeholders to raise awareness in Canada and abroad of the Government of Canada’s expectations. The Ombudsperson will also share information on available tools and resources related to responsible business conduct and mitigation of risks in the mining, oil and gas and garment sectors.
The Government has learned a great deal from the experience of the CSR Counsellor and recognizes the value in the proactive and preventative role of such a position to ensure international standards for responsible business conduct are understood and incorporated in corporate activities abroad in order to identify, prevent and mitigate responsible business conduct challenges, including bribery and corruption.
Recommendation 4 – Critically Evaluating Past Performance of Canada’s Extractive Sector CSR Strategy
RESPONSE: The Government of Canada partially agrees with this recommendation.
The Government of Canada launched the enhanced 2014 CSR Strategy for the Extractive Sector Abroad with a commitment to review it in 2019. In response to this requirement, an evaluation of the Strategy will be conducted this year in accordance with the Treasury Board Policy on Results. The evaluation will provide evidence-based findings and recommendations to the Government regarding the implementation of the Strategy and results achieved since 2014-15 across the Strategy’s four pillars: promoting international CSR standards and guidelines; fostering network and partnerships at missions abroad; strengthening the overall environment for CSR; and providing dialogue facilitation and dispute resolution through non judicial mechanisms (CSR Counsellor, Canadian NCP). The evaluation will consider the Sub-Committee’s recommendation to assess the relevance and effectiveness of the Government of Canada endorsed CSR standards which the Canadian extractive industry is expected to implement, as well as the trade measures/consequences to incentivize companies to collaborate in good faith with the above-mentioned dispute resolution mechanisms. The evaluation will seek inputs from key stakeholders in Canada and abroad, with the view to seek a comprehensive perspective from government officials, industry, civil society, academia, multilateral institutions, and host communities. Ultimately, the evaluation will seek to determine whether the CSR Strategy has effectively improved the awareness and implementation of responsible business practices in Canada’s extractive sector abroad, and will inform the upcoming renewal of the CSR Strategy and Canada’s approach to responsible business conduct abroad.
While there is no one authoritative account for human rights concerns related to the extractive sector, the Government understands the spirit of this recommendation, that there is place for on-going monitoring and advice when there are issues of human rights allegations arising from Canadian operations abroad. The Office of the CSR Counsellor served as one point of reference for monitoring and advising on extractive issues, including on human rights concerns. This role will now be subsumed by the Ombudsperson. More broadly, the monitoring of issues is done through engaging with communities and companies via our missions abroad and at Headquarters, following public civil society reporting and media alerts and ensuring that advice regarding best practices and recourse or referral to dispute resolution is provided to companies and communities or individuals as appropriate.
Recommendation 5 – Prioritizing Awareness of Canada’s CSR Mechanisms
RESPONSE: The Government of Canada agrees with this recommendation.
Promoting Canada’s dispute resolution mechanisms constitutes a key component to the CSR Strategy for the Extractive Sector Abroad and to the Government’s approach to encourage companies, communities and individuals involved in a dispute to resolve their differences, and to provide recommendations for Canadian companies to adopt and improve their business practices where needed.
Canada's National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises (Guidelines) is mandated to promote awareness of the Guidelines as they relate to the social, economic and environmental impacts of companies’ activities on the communities in which they work. Flowing from the Guidelines, the NCP covers all sectors and several issues including disclosure, human rights, employment relations, bribery and environmental standards.
Established in 2000, the Canadian NCP is a committee of seven Federal departments that includes Global Affairs Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, Employment and Social Development Canada, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, and Finance Canada. Canada’s NCP currently has three non‑governmental Social Partners, namely the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Labour Congress, and the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (Québec).
The NCP also responds to enquiries and offers a forum for constructive dialogue (dialogue facilitation and mediation) aimed at supporting the business community, civil society organisations, communities and other concerned parties to resolve issues relating to the implementation of the Guidelines in specific instances (cases). Of the twenty cases reviewed by the NCP since its creation, most have been in the extractive sector, including four involving allegations from communities in Latin America.
In response to the recommendations made by the OECD NCP Peer Review undertaken in 2018, Canada’s NCP will work on strengthening and formalizing engagement with the broader civil society by considering expanding its Social Partner members to include representation from civil society and academia. The NCP has also developed a more robust promotion plan to increase awareness and understanding of the NCP process and outline complementarities with the Ombudsperson. The NCP organizes an annual forum bringing together stakeholders and will work closely with several Federal government departments, missions abroad, industry and civil society stakeholders to better address the concerns and priorities of Canadian companies, and vulnerable and marginalized affected communities in Latin America.
The NCP also supports the proactive agenda of the global network of OECD NCPs through participation in peer reviews, learning events, collaboration with other NCPs in the review of specific instances (cases), and collaboration with the global stakeholder groups representing international business communities, labour and civil society organizations. Canada continues to work with the newly established NCPs in the Americas, including Chile and Peru, to help build their capacity and support requests involving Canadian companies.
The Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (Ombudsperson) is mandated to: review complaints related to allegations of human rights abuses arising from a Canadian company’s operations abroad in the mining, oil and gas and garment sectors; undertake joint fact-finding and independent fact-finding; make recommendations; follow-up on the implementation of those recommendations; and report publicly throughout the process. The Ombudsperson will also promote the implementation of the United Nation Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on responsible business conduct, and advise Canadian companies on best practices. Raising awareness of the services offered will be a key element in the Ombudsperson’s ability to complete her mandate. Furthermore, Canada‘s network of diplomatic missions and trade commissioners abroad have played and will continue to play an important role in promoting the office of the Ombudsperson, the services it will offer in Canada and the role it could play for Canadian companies abroad and the impacted communities including in Latin America.
The Ombudsperson will determine how best to conduct outreach and promote responsible practices with stakeholders. We expect the Office will reach out to key stakeholders and associations in the mining, oil and gas and garment sectors that have, or have dealings with, Canadian company operations abroad.
As part of its role in supporting the establishment of the Office of the Ombudsperson, the Government of Canada will propose an outreach plan for the Ombudsperson’s first 100 days in office. This plan will include outreach and awareness-raising with industry, civil society organizations, and groups working on behalf of local communities. Future outreach will be targeted to countries of interest which include those developing countries where of the operations Canadian companies in resource extraction are most concentrated.
The Ombudsperson may also undertake in-country visits to get a better perspective of Canada’s corporate presence abroad and the complexities around the operations where human rights abuse may have been alleged. Canada’s network of diplomatic missions will play an important role in connecting the Ombudsperson with Canadian companies on the ground, host-country national human rights institutions, local communities, and civil society organizations representing women and marginalized groups as well as representatives of Indigenous peoples.
Recommendation 6 – Appoint a Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise
RESPONSE: The Government of Canada agrees with this recommendation .
On January 17, 2018, the then Minister of International Trade announced the creation of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (Ombudsperson) as a new initiative to strengthen Canada’s approach to responsible business conduct for Canadian companies operating abroad. The Governor in Council appointment process to select the Ombudsperson was guided by an open, transparent, and merit-based approach. A Notice of Appointment Opportunity (a job posting) inviting applicants to apply for the Ombudsperson position was published on the Governor in Council Appointments website. It was widely distributed through social media and informal stakeholder channels and prominent Canadians with expertise in the field demonstrated interest for the position.
The Government was pleased to announce on April 8, 2019 that Ms. Sheri Meyerhoffer was appointed as the first Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise. The Ombudsperson is mandated to review allegations of human rights abuses arising from a Canadian company’s operations abroad in the mining, oil and gas and garment sectors, with the ability to undertake joint fact-finding and independent fact-finding, make recommendations, follow-up on the implementation of those recommendations, and report publicly throughout the process. At the same time that the Government implements this important new initiative, the Government is assessing whether additional tools are required to engage in credible and effective review of alleged human rights abuses.
Ms. Meyerhoffer will serve full-time for a term of up to five years. The Government is working to ensure that the Office of the Ombudsperson be operational as soon as possible to deliver on its important mandate. Ms. Meyerhoffer is a highly qualified lawyer with more than 30 years of experience in the extractive, international development and human rights sectors. She has represented Canadian and international organizations abroad, has extensive experience in the oil and gas industry, and has demonstrated leadership in development programming with a particular focus on gender and indigenous groups. Ms. Meyerhoffer understands the challenging environment of doing business abroad and will strive to bring consensus among parties and stakeholders to facilitate dialogue and dispute resolution involving Canadian companies operations abroad.
As ably evidenced in the Committee’s work, responsible natural resources extraction can be a complex and challenging endeavour for companies operating in foreign jurisdictions and for host governments and communities that face issues over governance, rule of law, and capacity to address deep rooted social and economic inequalities, and to combat corruption and impunity. These challenges can also exist even though Canadian extractive companies are operating within very stringent and high global standards.
Through its trade, international assistance, and broader diplomatic efforts, the Government of Canada will continue to support responsible natural resources governance, with a focus on equitable sharing of benefits and addressing economic exclusion of women, Indigenous peoples, and other marginalized groups and communities, while promoting and protecting human rights, and pursuing an inclusive approach to trade and investment that benefit from economic development.
Moving forward to establish the Office of the Ombudsperson, and to evaluate and renew its CSR Strategy and approach to responsible business conduct abroad, the Government of Canada will continue to set high expectations for Canadian extractive companies operating in Latin America and elsewhere, to respect human rights, and to operate lawfully in a sustainable manner, and to work in consultation with host governments and communities. It will also continue to provide advice, promote responsible business best practices and strengthen the awareness and effectiveness of its dispute resolution mechanisms.