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e-2564 (Business and trade)

Initiated by Martin Blanchet from Edmonton, Alberta

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the House of Commons

  • Canadians believe in freedom from discrimination, harassment, intimidation, violence, rape, murder, and environmental destruction, and we expect Canadian corporations overseas to respect these ideals;
  • The activities of Canadian mining, energy, garment and other industries, and their suppliers, have been linked to human rights abuses and environmental damage across the world;
  • Human rights and environmental defenders, especially Indigenous peoples, women and other marginalized communities face increasing harassment, intimidation, criminalization and even murder in standing up to powerful corporations;
  • The Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise, lacking the power to compel testimony or the submission of documents, cannot effectively investigate allegations of human rights abuse linked to Canadian companies’ global operations and supply chains; and
  • Voluntary measures have proven ineffective in preventing human rights abuses, environmental destruction, land grabbing, the theft of resources, loss of territory and other abuses by corporations.
We, the undersigned, citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the House of Commons to take concrete measures to strengthen the rules for businesses and uphold human rights, including:
1. Empowering the Office of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise with independence and the power to investigate human rights abuse allegations; and
2. Enacting a comprehensive human rights due diligence law that compels businesses to respect the most current international human rights standards across the entirety of their global operations and supply chains and holds them liable for harms caused by or on behalf of their operations.

Response by the Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Rachel Bendayan

Office of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE)

Canada is committed to leading by example and promoting democracy, human rights and environmental protection both at home and abroad. The establishment of the CORE highlights this commitment. The Government of Canada has a multi-faceted approach to helping Canadian companies mitigate social and environmental risks. Canada’s network of diplomatic missions abroad actively promotes responsible business practices and creates opportunities for relationship building through conferences, workshops and other activities involving companies, representatives of host governments, civil society organizations, and community representatives. Global Affairs Canada provides funding and undertakes roughly 50 responsible business conduct (RBC) related projects around the world annually. Furthermore, Trade Commissioners within Canada’s network of missions abroad regularly provide RBC-related guidance to Canadian businesses.

The Government of Canada works with a wide range of stakeholders, including Canadian businesses and civil society organizations, to promote responsible business practices and encourage inclusive economic growth and shared values in the markets where Canadian companies are active. Canadian companies active abroad benefit from Canada’s strong and competitive international reputation. They are expected and encouraged to uphold our standards of responsible business conduct, and to be accountable for their activities abroad.

On April 8, 2019, Ms. Sheri Meyerhoffer was appointed to the CORE position following an open, transparent, and merit-based selection process. The mandate of the CORE is to promote RBC standards, advise Canadian companies on their RBC-related policies and practices, and review allegations of human rights abuses arising from the operations of Canadian companies abroad in the mining, oil and gas and garment sectors. To fulfill this important mandate, the Ombudsperson has the ability to take initiate a review on her own initiative, undertake joint or independent fact-finding, make recommendations, follow up on the implementation of those recommendations and report publicly throughout the process. The office is in the process of being established and is expected to be operational soon.

The CORE complements Canada’s National Contact Point (NCP) for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, which is the Government of Canada’s other dispute resolution mechanism that applies to all sectors including human rights, employment, environment, disclosure and anti-bribery.

We expect Canadian companies to collaborate with the CORE in good faith, and those that do not cooperate with the CORE will be subject to trade measures. These include the withdrawal of Government of Canada trade advocacy support, including the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS), and future financial support from Export Development Canada. Canada’s approach to RBC uses voluntary mechanisms because they can be efficient, accessible, and effective means of promoting RBC. The success of this approach has been demonstrated by offices like the NCP.

Human Rights

The Government of Canada believes that greater engagement and closer bilateral ties with countries, including economic ties, are effective ways of promoting Canadian values and interests, including human rights and diversity. This engagement is essential in order to keep channels of communication open for frank exchanges on these important issues. Canada has been and continues to be a global leader in advancing human rights in Free Trade Agreements. It has sought to address human rights issues, where relevant, throughout different provisions and chapters of an agreement, including in labour, investment, gender, and Indigenous peoples.  Since 2009, the preamble in most of Canada’s Free Trade Agreements reaffirm the Parties’ commitment to respect the values and principles of democracy, and to protect and promote the fundamental freedoms of human rights, as identified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or similar international standards such as the UN Charter.  More recently, Canada has also sought to include human rights related provisions in Free Trade Agreements with respect to gender equality and Indigenous peoples, to address barriers they face which limit or distort trade.  This includes dedicated chapters on Trade and Gender and Trade and Indigenous peoples, as well as gender and Indigenous-responsive provisions throughout its Free Trade Agreements.

Global Affairs Canada is supporting other federal departments that are exploring measures to restrict or prohibit the importation of goods made with forced and child labour. The Government of Canada launched public consultations in spring 2019 with a range of stakeholders on possible measures to address labour exploitations in supply chains. This was done in response to the 2018 report by the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development (SDIR), entitled, A Call to Action: Ending the Use of all Forms of Child Labour in Supply Chains.  Various international models are being discussed with stakeholders at this time to consider lessons learned, best practices, and whether or not elements of these models could be appropriate for the Canadian context.  Depending on the model, legislation could mandate businesses operating in a certain jurisdiction to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for human rights (including labour rights) violations in their operations and supply chains. Consultation results, as well as international best practices, are being used to inform options that could be achievable in the Canadian context.

Open for signature
May 4, 2020, at 3:22 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
September 1, 2020, at 3:22 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Heather McPherson (Edmonton Strathcona)
October 19, 2020 (Petition No. 432-00122)
Government response tabled
December 2, 2020
Photo - Heather McPherson
Edmonton Strathcona
New Democratic Party Caucus