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CORE’s approach to retaliation

We take retaliation seriously. This includes the threat of retaliation.

We are NOT a court. We can NOT make people or companies carry out our recommendations. Nor can we protect complainants or others from retaliation if they have filed a complaint with us or taken part in the complaint process.

However, we can offer other options.
We work with local and international groups to do 2 things:

We base our approach to retaliation on best practices, consultation, research, and guidance from agencies such as Global Affairs Canada.

More informationWhat is retaliation?

We approach retaliation in 4 steps:

  1. Assess
    We assess the risk of retaliation before we work with people and communities. We want to know how we may increase the risk or retaliation by being and working in a place where there has been a complaint.

    If a person or community wants to file a complaint or take part in our review process, then we work with them first to assess the risk of retaliation.

    To assess the risk of retaliation, we ask the kind of questions you can find in our Retaliation Risk Assessment Tool . We do this throughout our review, but we always talk to the complainant before we do this.

  2. Reduce
    We work with local and international groups to do 2 things:

    • put measures in place to reduce the risk of retaliation
    • keep track of those measures and report on how they are working

    These groups may be in the best position to assess their own situation and tell us what kind of measures may help them. Before we put any measures in place, we try to have their free, full, and informed consent.

    People should NOT overestimate the power we have for dealing with retaliation. We are NOT an enforcement agency. That is why we urge complainants and others to think about their own safety and take steps to reduce their own risks.

    More information

    We may keep some information confidential when it is about those who file a complaint. We may help people to keep their identity secret, to help reduce the risk or retaliation from Canadian companies and others.

    More information

  3. Respond
    When we learn that retaliation has happened, we work with others such as these to deal with the issues:

    • Canadian diplomatic offices
    • human rights organizations from Canada and from other countries and regions
    • local community groups that work with human rights and public rights organizations
    • groups that act on behalf of human rights defenders

    The most important thing is the safety of those affected by retaliation. We stay in contact with those who are affected, or organizations that represent them, if it is safe to do so.

    If we think that the retaliation may be a crime, then we may tell the Minister of International Trade. We may also recommend that they refer the matter to the police. With help from others, we may try to work with the Canadian company linked to the retaliation. Where possible, we will ask a complainant first before taking these actions.

    There may be times when we decide NOT to work with certain people or communities. We may decide to stop working with people we have started to work with. These decisions depend on 2 things:

    • the kind of retaliation that is happening
    • what those affected by the retaliation want

    We will ask a complainant if they want to go ahead with the complaint when there is retaliation or the risk of retaliation.

    We keep track of measures that are put in place to respond to retaliation, and how they are working.

  4. Report

    If there is retaliation or the threat of retaliation, then we may report on it publicly at any time, and the threat of retaliation. We report publicly by posting a report on our website.

    We will only report on retaliation and what has been done about it if these people agree:

    • the complainant
    • any person or community that is affected by the retaliation
    • the people and organizations who represent anyone affected by the retaliation

    When we discover that retaliation has taken place, we may conclude that a Canadian company linked to the retaliation is NOT acting in good faith. We can recommend that the Minister of International Trade take measures against that company. This can include these things:

    • stop trade support to the Canadian company
    • NOT give trade or financial support to the company in the future
    • refer the matter to police if the behaviour seems to be criminal

This table shows who can help to stop retaliation and how

The COREIndividuals, organizations, and communitiesCanadian companies

Work with Canadian diplomatic offices and others to assess risk.

Tell us about the retaliation and how it affects you.

You do NOT need to tell us who you are.

Tell us what you know about the retaliation and your concerns.

Do NOT hold back information. If you do, then we may conclude that you are NOT acting in good faith.


Try to keep confidential information safe and protect anonymity.

Work with others to find ways to reduce the risk of retaliation. This includes our work with individuals, organizations, and communities

Take steps to reduce your own risk.

Take a “zero tolerance” approach to retaliation. Get those you do business with to do the same.

Use best practices to keep information about complainants safe.

Work with CORE to keep track of what is happening and to reduce the risks.


Work with others. Think about how our response and involvement may affect people and communities.

Make a public statement if needed.

Contact the Canadian company involved.

Contact local organizations.

Do NOT act alone.

Tell us or someone you trust what is happening, when it is safe to do so.

Tell CORE about the risk of retaliation and the retaliation itself as soon as you can.

Use best practices to act quickly to prevent more harm.


Watch what happens. Keep track of different responses to the retaliation to see how well they work.

Take more action if needed.

Report on the situation publicly.

Tell us or someone you trust about what is happening and about your safety. Keep us informed.

Track your response to the retaliation and report on it.

Work with CORE and others who are responding to the retaliation.

Note: We want to recognize the work of the Inter-American Development Bank. It created the Guide for Independent Accountability Mechanisms on Measures to Address the Risk of Reprisals in Complaint Management: A Practical Toolkit, 2019. This toolkit helped us to develop our 4-step approach to retaliation: assess, respond, reduce, and report.

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