Information for individuals and communities
Your safety is our top priority
You may worry that if you file a complaint with us, those you name in your complaint may retaliate against you. We understand this. We want you to know that your safety is important to us.
What is retaliation?
Retaliation is any action or treatment that has a negative effect on a person because they have done any of the following:
- contacted the CORE
- filed a complaint with the CORE
- helped someone else to file a complaint
- taken part in the complaint process
- acted as a witness or provided information about a possible human rights abuse
We take retaliation seriously. This includes the threat of retaliation.
Retaliation may affect your safety and well-being and the safety and well-being of others. We will work with you and others to assess your risk of retaliation and try to reduce it.
You can be at a higher risk for retaliation depending on who you are, where you work, and where you live. There are many kinds of retaliation and threats of retaliation.
Retaliation can affect people and communities in different ways
These are some ways retaliation can affect you:
- physically – harm that causes pain or damage to your body for any amount of time
- socially – damage to your reputation, conflict in the community, mistrust, shunning
- psychologically – fear, stress, anxiety, powerlessness, or other harm to mental health
- economically – loss of wages, crops, or livestock, damage to property, costly medical care, lawsuits meant to tie up your time and money
We think about how our work may increase your risk of retaliation. We do this before we do any of these things:
- visit your community
- contact you and others involved in your complaint
- take any steps to resolve your complaint
We want to hear from people and communities who are affected by possible human rights abuse and those who represent them. We know that you are in the best position to know and assess your risk. We use your information to make decisions about what can keep you safe.
How we approach retaliation
We approach retaliation in 4 steps.
1. Assess the risk of retaliation
We start by working with you and others to assess the risk of retaliation.
We start this early in the process:
- before we decide to work with you if you or your community is at risk
- as soon as you contact us if you ask to file a complaint
We look at the region where you live and the sector where you work to assess the risk of retaliation. We also talk to you about your personal situation.
More information – CORE’s approach to retaliation
2. Reduce the risk of retaliation
We do NOT have the power to protect you or your community from retaliation. You should NOT overestimate the power we have to deal with retaliation. We are NOT located in your community, and so we have no power to step in. You must think about your own safety and reduce your own risks as much as you can.
We will work with you and your community to come up with ways to reduce your risk of retaliation. We will try to find safe ways to deal with staying in contact, travelling, and getting information. We will also work with you to find ways to protect witnesses, interpreters, and others.
As we do this, we will keep in mind all the things that can raise your risk of retaliation:
- your gender
- your race
- your ethnicity
- your age
- your sexual orientation
- if you have a disability
- where you live
- where you work
Keeping information about you confidential
One way to reduce your risk of retaliation is to keep information about you and those connected to you confidential.
We will do everything we can to protect confidential information that you give to us. But we can NOT promise it will always remain confidential.
More information – ”How does the CORE protect a person’s information?”
You can ask to file an anonymous complaint
Filing an anonymous complaint means that you can file a complaint without giving us your name. However, we will still need to have a way to contact you.
We protect information about you
As long as we work with you, we try to protect information about you. The first time we talk to you about your complaint, we ask if you want to file an anonymous complaint. We will also ask if you want us to protect information about you. Finally, we will talk about the safest way for us to stay in contact with you.
We need your consent to proceed
Consent means that you agree to let us go ahead with our complaint process. We ask for your consent every time we take a new step in the process. You can take your consent away at any time.
When you ask to file a complaint, we talk to you about possible risks of retaliation. We do this to make sure that we have your informed consent before we take any steps.
This means that from the first time we talk to you, we will do 4 things:
- explain what we are doing and why
- tell you that you can stop the process for a while, or end it at any time
- check to make sure that you understand the information we have given you. We do this by getting you to ask questions and tell us your concerns. We will try to adjust our process, if we need to, to meet your needs
- work with you to assess your risk if you are afraid of retaliation
Keeping yourself and others safe
These are 11 things you can do to increase your safety:
- Tell us everything you know that might be important to your safety.
- Be careful about who you tell about your complaint or about your contact with us. Ask yourself these questions:
- Can I trust this person?
- Could they tell someone else?
- Think about where you save private information. This includes your communications with us or documents about your complaint. Ask yourself these questions to help you to decide where to keep your information:
- Could someone easily see this information or know where to find it?
- Is there a safer place to keep this information?
- Think about where and how you talk about your human rights concerns. Ask yourself these questions to help you decide the safest way to talk about this subject:
- Could someone easily hear my conversation?
- Could someone easily see the person I am meeting with?
- Is there a more private place where I could have this conversation?
- Could I change where I meet people? Could we arrange to arrive at our meetings separately?
- Think about the risks you face when you talk openly about your concerns about a Canadian company and your contact with us.
- Assess your own risk. For example, think about when you may be most at risk of assault. Ask yourself these questions to reduce your risk of harm:
- Where is an assault most likely to happen?
- Who might assault me?
- Think about the risk you take when you do these things:
- speak out against people you think are retaliating against you or may do so
- take action against these people. If you are not sure of the risks you may face, contact us or an organization you trust to talk about what to do.
- If you are contacting us using a telephone or mobile, then try to make sure you are in a safe and private place. You may want to add or change the password on your mobile.
- Try to keep your computer and telephone in a safe place – one where they will NOT be easy to find.
- If you are working with us through email, thentry to do these things:
- get a new email account that does NOT include your name
- use an email account that you do NOT use for other things
- avoid opening emails if you do NOT know who sent them
- Avoid instant messaging and Internet communication tools like Skype. These are less private than telephone calls. Also, malware can take screenshots from your smartphones.
More information – Front Line Defenders
If someone retaliates against you or someone who is connected with you, then tell us or an organization you trust. Tell us as soon as you can, or as soon as it is safe for you to do so.
What we will do
When we learn that retaliation has happened, we work with others to put the right measures in place. These include groups like these that deal with human rights complaints:
- Canadian diplomatic offices abroad
- multilateral organizations
- regional or national human rights bodies
- local organizations that work with human rights
- public rights organizations
With your consent, we work with these groups to get as much information as we can about what happened. We will ask these questions:
- Has retaliation happened already? What happened? Is it still happening?
- If NOT, what is the risk that it will happen?
- Is there an urgent need to respond?
If you want to communicate with us, then we will talk with you directly. If you decide that it is NOT safe to talk with us directly, then we will try to talk with people and organizations that represent your interests. We will talk to them about what we can do to help you. These are some of the things that we might do:
- tell the police
- tell the Canadian company what is happening and ask it to use its influence to stop the retaliation
- tell a public rights organization in your region
- make public reports about the retaliation
- start an independent review
- recommend that the Canadian government take trade measures against the Canadian company involved
- put your complaint on hold for a while
You can count on us to do these things
- check to see if we believe it is safe for us to contact each other
- try to contact you on a regular basis. If it is NOT safe for us to contact each other, then we will contact people or organizations who represent your interests
- get your consent, or that of the people or organizations that represent your interests, before taking any steps to resolve your complaint
- keep track of how we have responded to the retaliation. We will continue to do this until the retaliation appears to have stopped
We can post a report about retaliation on our website. This report can include these things:
- how well steps to reduce retaliation have worked
- recommendations we have made to end the retaliation
If the retaliation appears to be a crime, then we can recommend that the Minister of International Trade refer the matter to the police.
If a Canadian company has retaliated after learning that someone has complained to us, then we can ask the Minister of International Trade to take trade measures against the company. This can include these things:
- taking away trade support
- refusing to give trade support in the future
- refusing to give financial support in the future
When we post a report about retaliation on our website, we protect your identity and that of people and communities affected by the retaliation. We only include the names of those involved if they agree. We may protect the name of the Canadian company depending on the circumstances.
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