Language selection


Operating Procedures for the Human Rights Responsibility Mechanism of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE)

Table of contents

1. Mandate of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise

1.1 The mandate of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise is established by Order in Council 2019-1323 (“Order in Council”) and can be generally described as follows:

1.2 The CORE takes a broad and purposive approach to the interpretation and application of the provisions in Order in Council, in keeping with the nature of the human rights and obligations that underlie its mandate, and its role in representing the public interest in the protection of human rights including preventing human rights abuses.

1.3 In the event of discrepancies between these Operating Procedures (“OPs”) and the Order in Council, the Order in Council will take precedence.

2. Definitions

The following definitions apply in these OPs:

“admissibility criteria” are the elements that describe an alleged human rights abuse that is within the CORE’s mandate.

“arbitration” is a process in which an impartial decision-maker decides on the parties’ dispute outside of the courts; arbitration can be binding or non-binding.

Canadian company” is an entity that is incorporated or formed by or under an Act of Parliament or of the legislature of a province, or that is otherwise formed in Canada, that operates abroad in the garment, mining, or oil and gas sectors, and includes an entity that it controls and that operates abroad in the garment, mining, or oil and gas sectors.

For the purposes of the definition of Canadian company,

a Canadian company controls an entity if it controls that entity, directly or indirectly, in any manner; and a Canadian company that controls an entity is deemed to control any entity that is controlled, or deemed to be controlled, by the entity.

Canadian NCP” is the Canadian National Contact Point, an interdepartmental committee created in accordance with the OECD Guidelines.

“Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise” refers to the Office of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise.

complainant” is the individual, organization or community who files a complaint, or the person who does so on behalf of an individual, organization or community.

frivolous” describes a complaint that clearly has no merit, a complaint that on its face cannot succeed.

“garment sector” includes all of the processes involved in the manufacture of clothing and footwear including making the raw materials (for example, fabric and leather), distribution, use, and disposal.

“human rights abuse” is an adverse impact on an internationally recognized human right including an action that removes or reduces the ability of an individual or community to claim their human rights.

“independent fact-finding” is the process by which the Ombud determines on their own the relevant questions, collects and reviews the relevant information, examines the allegations of human rights abuse, documents and establishes the relevant facts and circumstances.

internationally recognized human right” includes, but is not limited to, any of the human rights referred to in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rightsand the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“joint fact-finding” is a process to obtain agreement on the relevant questions, how and what information will be gathered and from whom, and how that information will be used in a review.

“mediation” is an informal, voluntary process in which a neutral third party assists participants in resolving a dispute .

“mining sector” includes exploration, extraction, transport, handling, smelting, refining and alloying, manufacturing and remediation in relation to minerals or other geological material.

Minister” is the Minister of International Trade.

OECD Guidelines” are the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises

“Ombud” is the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise, special adviser to the Minister for International Trade, appointed by Order in Council 2019-0300.

“Ombud-initiated review” or “own initiated review” is a review of an alleged human rights abuse that is commenced by the Ombud without the filing of a complaint.

“oil and gas sector” includes exploration, extraction, processing, transport and remediation.

respondent” is the “Canadian company” named in a complaint.

“review” includes information gathering and fact-finding

for the purposes of determining whether a human rights abuse occurred or is occurring.

UN Guiding Principles” are the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

“vexatious” describes a complaint made for an improper purpose or based on information that is deliberately falsified or misrepresented, or a complaint filed solely to annoy, embarrass, harass or harm.

3. Introduction

3.1 These OPs provide information and guidance about the operation and process of the CORE’s Human Rights Responsibility Mechanism (HRRM).

3.2 The CORE may amend the OPs from time to time and will consult with stakeholders before making significant changes.

The Human Rights Responsibility Mechanism

3.3 The HRRM is initiated by either a complaint, a review commenced by the Ombud or a request for informal mediation services.

3.4 The HRRM includes the dispute resolution processes provided for in the Order in Council such as mediation, independent fact-finding, joint-fact finding, recommendations and reporting; as well as ombud good practices such as problem-solving through information-sharing, dialogue and facilitated negotiation.

3.5 The CORE will implement the HRRM in a predictable, flexible, fair and transparent manner having regard to the circumstances of the parties, the nature of the matter, the positions of the parties, any requirements related to confidentiality or anonymity, resources and the caseload of the CORE. The effectiveness criteria for non-judicial grievance mechanisms set out in Principle 31 of the UNGP are guiding principles for the CORE.

3.6 The CORE is committed to dispute resolution processes that address power imbalances and are inclusive having regard to characteristics such as race, gender, ethnicity and age, and the intersection of those characteristics. The CORE will consider ways to address additional barriers to access faced by individuals and communities at heightened risk of violence, vulnerability or marginalization, in particular, Black and Indigenous individuals and communities.

3.7 If an individual requires accommodation of needs related to disability and/or any other characteristic to participate in the HRRM, they can contact the CORE to talk about possible accommodation measures.

Informal Mediation Services

3.8 Section 4(e) of the Order in Council provides that the Ombud may offer informal mediation services without the filing of a complaint or an Ombud-initiated review. These services may include providing parties to a human rights dispute with access to a roster of mediators established by the CORE or assisting parties in convening a mediation.

3.9 An offer of informal mediation services by the Ombud will depend on factors such as whether the human rights dispute appears to be within the CORE’s mandate, the nature and severity of possible adverse impacts on human rights, whether providing informal mediation services is likely to assist in preventing or stopping a human rights abuse, the availability of other services to the parties, and the resources and caseload of the CORE.

3.10 Before deciding to provide informal mediation services, the CORE will consider whether other elements of its mandate including engagement and providing advice to a Canadian company are more appropriate to apply.

4. Communication and Time Lines

4.1 The working languages of the CORE are English and French, Canada’s official languages.

4.2 Where possible, communications with the CORE including documents provided to the CORE should be in English or French. If a translation of a document is provided to the CORE, the source document should be provided, where possible.

4.3 The CORE may decide to accept communications including documents in languages other than English or French. Time lines for any process in the HRRM may be longer where communications are in languages other than English or French.

4.4 The Ombud may set time lines for any step or action in the HRRM and will adopt a flexible approach, as appropriate.

4.5 The CORE will take all reasonable steps to keep participants informed of next steps, time lines and delays.

5. Filing a Complaint

5.1 There is no required format for making a complaint. A complaint may be made using the online form, by email to, by telephone at 343-203-5060 or by postal mail to the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise at following address: 125 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, ON Canada K1A 0G2.

5.2 An individual, organization or a representative may contact the CORE on an anonymous or confidential basis before making a complaint to ask questions about how to make a complaint and other information about the complaint process.

Required information

5.3 A complaint should include the following information:

5.4 Notwithstanding 5.3.1, the CORE may proceed with a complaint made anonymously including where there is a serious risk of retaliation or other harm to the complainant or someone involved with the matter.

5.5 Where a complaint is made on behalf of an individual, organization or community, the CORE may require the complainant to show that the individual, organization or community consents to the complaint being made on their behalf.

Admissibility Criteria

5.6 The Ombud will decide at the intake stage whether a complaint is admissible.

5.7 A complaint will be considered admissible when the Ombud is satisfied there is sufficient information regarding the following admissibility criteria:

5.8 A decision by the Ombud that a complaint is admissible is not a decision on the merits of the complaint.

Acknowledgement of Receipt of a Complaint

5.9 The CORE will make every reasonable effort to acknowledge receipt of a complaint by email within ten (10) working days.

5.10 Where a complainant does not provide an email address or has requested not to be contacted by email, the CORE will make every reasonable effort to mail a letter to the complainant within ten (10) working days of receiving the complaint.


5.11 Intake is an informal process during which the CORE will respond to inquiries about the HRRM and gather information about a complaint.

5.12 Where it is clear that a complaint is not within the mandate of the CORE, the CORE will inform the complainant, explain why the complaint is not within the mandate of the CORE, and will attempt to refer the complainant to another body for assistance.

5.13 Where it appears that a complaint may be within the mandate of the CORE, the complainant will be contacted by telephone or email regarding the complaint or such other communication method requested by the complainant.

5.14 The CORE may communicate with the complainant during intake to understand the complaint, identify missing information and ask for additional information.

5.15 If there is not sufficient information in the complaint for the CORE to determine admissibility, the complainant will have a reasonable opportunity and timeline to provide additional information before a decision is made to close the file. If the complainant obtains additional information after the file is closed, the complainant may re-submit the complaint, the file will be re-opened and the complaint re-considered.

5.16 With the consent of the complainant, the CORE may communicate with the Canadian company named in the complaint to obtain information relating to the admissibility criteria in order to decide whether the complaint is admissible.

5.17 The CORE will make every reasonable effort to complete the intake process within thirty (30) working days of receiving a complaint.

6. Decision on Admissibility of Complaint

6.1 The Ombud will make a decision regarding the admissibility of a complaint before completing the intake process and may decide that some or all of the allegations in the complaint are admissible.

6.2 The Ombud will inform the complainant in writing (where possible) of their decision regarding admissibility, and will inform the respondent and provide the respondent with a summary of the admissible allegations at the same time or as soon thereafter as possible. The complainant is required to keep the complaint and the Ombud’s decision confidential until the respondent is informed.

6.3 In any event, the Ombud will provide the respondent with a summary of the admissible allegations before beginning an initial assessment of the complaint or reporting publicly on the complaint.

7. Refusal to Proceed with a Complaint

7.1 The Ombud may refuse to proceed with a complaint at any time for reasons including the following:

7.2 With respect to 7.1.2, the Ombud will not refuse to proceed with a complaint solely because there are parallel proceedings. The Ombud will decide whether to proceed with a complaint having regard to relevant factors including whether the complainant has standing in the other forum, whether the complainant can reasonably access the other forum in light of considerations such as vulnerability, cost, and timeliness, and whether effective remedy is likely to be available in the other forum.

7.3 The CORE will inform a complainant of the reason for the refusal to proceed with a complaint. If the Ombud decides not to proceed with a complaint after informing the respondent of the complaint, the CORE will also inform the respondent of the reason for their refusal to proceed with the complaint. Where possible, the CORE will communicate these decisions in writing.

7.4 Where the Ombud decides not to proceed with a complaint before the respondent is informed of the complaint, the CORE may, if it is in the public interest, share information about the allegations with the respondent without identifying the complainant, or the individual, organization or community on whose behalf the complaint was made.

8. Initial Assessment

8.1 The CORE may undertake an initial assessment of a complaint including, where appropriate and with the complainant’s consent, to engage in problem solving through information sharing, dialogue and facilitated negotiation.

8.2 Where a complaint is not resolved at the initial assessment stage, the CORE will work with the parties to decide how the complaint will proceed including whether the parties agree to mediation.

8.3 If the parties do not agree to mediation, the CORE will begin a review of the complaint.

8.4 The CORE may prepare an initial assessment report, and disclose and publish the report in the manner set out in sections 15 and 16 of these OPs. Where an initial assessment report is not prepared, the Ombud will publicly report on the results and outcome of the initial assessment in the first report on the matter or in their Annual Report.

8.5 In any event, the Ombud will not report publicly on a complaint until an initial assessment is completed.

8.6 Where the CORE undertakes an initial assessment, they will make every reasonable effort to complete the initial assessment within ninety (90) working days.

9. Mediation

9.1 Consistent with their role as an ombud’s office, the CORE will strive to:

9.2 Mediation is available at any stage of the complaint process at the Ombud’s discretion and with the agreement of the parties.

9.3 The CORE will adopt a flexible approach in moving between mediation and review processes, while respecting any confidentiality the parties agree will attach to mediation or joint fact-finding.

9.4 The Ombud may offer mediation to the parties to a complaint or the subjects of an Ombud-initiated review at any time including to prevent a human rights-related dispute from escalating or to stop a human rights abuse, to support joint fact-finding, or to facilitate the co-development of remedies for alleged human rights abuses.

9.5 Where the parties agree to mediation, they will be required to sign an agreement to mediate that will provide for any confidentiality.

9.6 Where the parties to a complaint or the subjects of an Ombud-initiated review agree to mediation, the CORE may engage a mediator, depending on relevant factors including resources, caseload and the circumstances of the parties.

9.7 Where the CORE does not engage a mediator, they may assist the parties in identifying a mutually agreed upon mediator.

9.8 The CORE may attend a mediation as an observer and will respect any confidentiality agreement signed by the parties.

9.9 If the parties resolve a complaint or dispute, or reach an agreement regarding issue in dispute, facts or remedies through mediation, the Ombud, with the consent of the parties, may make public the agreement or the substance of the agreement including through a report. The CORE will consult with the parties regarding how and when the agreement will be made public. If the parties do not consent, the Ombud may report publicly on the agreement in a manner that does not identify the parties, including through a report.

9.10 If the parties reach an agreement through mediation, the Ombud will monitor the implementation of any terms of settlement and may assist the parties with implementation as requested or required.

10. Review Initiated by the CORE

10.1 The Ombud may initiate a review of an alleged human rights abuse within their mandate and will do so based on published criteria that guide the choice of human rights issues for Ombud-initiated reviews.

10.2 When the Ombud decides to initiate a review, they will prepare a Notice of Ombud-initiated Review and provide the appropriate Minister(s) and any Canadian company, individual, organization or community named in the Notice, with a copy of the Notice at least ten (10) working days before posting the Notice on the CORE website.

10.3 The Notice of Ombud-initiated Review will contain sufficient information regarding each of the admissibility criteria at section 5.6 of these Procedures.

10.4 At the outset of an Ombud-initiated review, Terms of Reference will be prepared including describing the scope of the review. The Terms of Reference will be published on the CORE’s website.

10.5 The Ombud will decide how to conduct the Ombud-initiated review and will communicate information regarding the conduct of the review, as appropriate.

11. Conduct of a Review

Participation by the Parties

11.1 Parties to a complaint review and subjects of an Ombud-initiated review are expected to fully participate in the review including by providing the Ombud with relevant information and documents and making witnesses available on reasonable notice, according to the time lines established by the Ombud.

11.2 Where a Canadian company does not participate actively in a review including refusing to provide relevant information and documents, the Ombud may draw appropriate negative conclusions or adverse inferences during fact-finding.

11.3 Where a party’s refusal to provide information or documents or to make a witness available is based on relevance, the Ombud may provide the parties with a reasonable opportunity to address the relevance of the Ombud’s request. The Ombud will consider the parties’ positions and will make an independent decision.

Joint Fact-Finding

11.4 Where the parties or participants in a review agree to joint fact-finding, then in accordance with section 7(b) of the Order in Council, the Ombud will start a review with joint fact-finding.

11.5 For greater clarity, all parties must agree to joint fact-finding in order for the Ombud to start a review with joint fact-finding.

11.6 Joint fact-finding may be used to identity factual issues in dispute, agree on how to gather information, agree on required expertise, participate in or oversee information gathering and analysis, seek agreement on facts, or to use agreed facts to develop remedies.

Independent Fact-finding

11.7 If joint fact-finding is not possible or is limited, the CORE may use independent fact-finding. Independent fact-finding may include interviewing the parties, witnesses suggested by the parties and others, and inviting submissions from the parties.

11.8 The CORE may seek assistance with independent fact-finding including from experts and host country governments, carry out different types of research, conduct interviews, undertake country visits, and ask for submissions from industry associations, civil society organizations, and other interested persons.

Interim Reports

11.9 Where applicable, the Ombud may prepare interim reports during a review and, in any event, will publicly report on ongoing reviews every twelve (12) months.

12. Requirement to Act in Good Faith

12.1 All parties or subjects of a review are required to act in good faith during HRRM processes including any follow-up or implementation of recommendations or terms of settlement.

12.2 The requirement to act in good faith includes the requirement to keep personal and business sensitive information confidential, to respect confidentiality requirements related to the HRRM, and to refrain from providing false information to CORE and from publicly misrepresenting the process.

12.3 The decision of a party not to participate in joint fact-finding or mediation will not be relevant in considering whether they are acting in good faith. However, once a party has decided to participate in joint fact-finding or mediation, their conduct during the process may be relevant to a consideration of whether they are acting in good faith.

12.4 The Ombud may consider a party to a review or a subject of an Ombud-initiated review who does not actively participate in the review without reasonable explanation, including providing relevant information and documents, making witnesses available on reasonable notice, and responding within the time lines established by the Ombud, not to be acting in good faith.

12.5 The requirement on a Canadian company to act in good faith includes not retaliating or engaging in any act of reprisal against an individual, organization or community who makes a complaint, has a complaint made on their behalf, or participates in the HRRM.

12.6 Refusal without reasonable explanation by a Canadian company to implement a recommendation made by the Ombud may be relevant to a consideration of whether the Canadian company is acting in good faith.

12.7 If the Ombud considers that a Canadian company has not acted in good faith during a review including a follow-up to a review, the Ombud may make recommendations to the Minister on implementing trade measures including:


12.8 Retaliation is any action or treatment that has a negative impact on an individual because they have contacted the CORE, filed a complaint or participated in the HRRM. Retaliation may include attempts by a Canadian company to identify a complainant or witness who has decided to participate anonymously in the HRRM, threats or intimidation, harassment including racial or sexual harassment, and smear campaigns in the workplace, the community or on social media.

12.9 The CORE takes retaliation including the threat of retaliation very seriously.

12.10 The CORE will work to assess and reduce the risk of retaliation for individuals and communities who contact the CORE and HRRM participants, and may publicly report on retaliation considering whether doing so may increase the retaliation or the risk of further retaliation.

12.11 In light of Guiding Principle 13 of the UN Guiding Principles and the broad definition of Canadian company in the Order in Council, a Canadian company may be asked by the Ombud to use its leverage to influence the behavior of an entity it controls directly or indirectly who is the respondent to a complaint. Where the Canadian company does not know of the existence of the complaint, the Ombud may ask the complainant if they consent to disclosing the existence of the complaint to the Canadian company.

12.12 Where the retaliation appears to be criminal in nature, the Ombud may recommend to the Minister that the matter be referred to law enforcement authorities.

13. Recommendations

During the Course of a Review

13.1 During the course of a review, the Ombud may:

13.2 Notwithstanding subsections 13.1.3 and 13.1.4, the CORE may continue to deal with those aspects of the complaint that relate to alleged human rights abuse, if the complainant wishes to proceed.

When a Review is Terminated or Completed

13.3 When the Ombud terminates or completes a review, they will prepare a report and may include recommendations to any person including recommendations:

13.4 The Ombud may attach timeframes, reporting requirements and other conditions to any recommendation in order to support implementation of the recommendation.

13.5 The Ombud may follow up on recommendations made after a review is terminated or completed and will report publicly including on implementation and non-implementation of the recommendations, additional steps needed to cease and/or remedy the human rights abuse or prevent a similar human rights abuse, and any reprisal for making the complaint and/or participating in the review.

13.6 In following up and reporting on the implementation of recommendations made to a Canadian company, the Ombud will consider whether the Canadian company is acting in good faith in implementing the recommendations (see 12.6).

13.7 Where the Ombud considers that a Canadian company is not acting in good faith in implementing one or more recommendations, the Ombud may make recommendations to the Minister on implementing trade measures.

14. Termination of a Review

14.1 The Ombud may terminate a review of a complaint at any time including for one or more of the following reasons:

14.2 The Ombud may publish a final report setting out the reason(s) for terminating the review and may include recommendations to any person.

15. Requirement to Submit and Publish Reports

15.1 The Ombud will provide reports to the Minister for International Trade ten (10) working days before the report is published on the CORE’s website.

15.2 The Ombud will provide any report relating to the extractive sector to the Minister of Natural Resources Minister for International Trade at the same time.

15.3 All reports will be published in English and French on the CORE’s website.

16. Opportunity to Comment on Report

16.1 If it appears to the Ombud that information in a report may have an adverse effect on any person including those who are the subjects of a review, the Ombud will:

16.2 For the purpose of s. 16.1, where the potential adverse effect of information in a report relates to the timing of public disclosure of that information, the person raising the adverse effect may make submissions to the Ombud regarding the timing of disclosure. The Ombud will consider the question of timing of disclosure as part of the public interest including timely access to remedy for impacted individuals and communities.

16.3 Notwithstanding 16.1, whether or not it appears that the information in a report may have an adverse effect on a complainant, the Ombud will give the complainant an opportunity to comment on the facts in a report before the report is published. The conditions described in 16.1 will apply.

16.4 Where the Ombud gives a person an opportunity to comment on the facts in a report, the person must do so in writing within thirty (30) calendar days or any other time line established by the Ombud.

16.5 Any person who is provided with an opportunity to comment on the facts in a report is required to keep those facts confidential until the Ombud publishes their final report.

17. Coordination with the Canadian National Contact Point and the NCP Network

17.1 An individual, organization or community may choose to raise allegations regarding an alleged human rights abuse by a Canadian company operating abroad in the garment, mining, or oil and gas sectors to the CORE, the Canadian NCP or, if the allegations relate to the activities of a Canadian company in another adhering country, the national contact point of that country.

17.2 If the CORE receives a complaint regarding an alleged human rights abuse outside the garment, mining, or oil and gas sectors, the CORE will inform the complainant that the Canadian NCP may have responsibility for the treatment of the matters raised. The CORE will suggest that the complaint be submitted to the Canadian NCP, or will obtain the consent of the complaint to forward the complaint to the NCP.

17.3 If the CORE is engaged in a review regarding allegations that took place or are taking place in a country where a national contact point is established, the CORE will advise the country NCP and the Canadian NCP that a review is taking place. Where the CORE seeks the cooperation of the country national contact point in the review, the CORE will seek to enter into a cooperation agreement with the country national contact point including providing for the sharing of information relevant to the review, as appropriate including in light of any requirements relating to confidentiality or anonymity.

18. Referral to Arbitration

18.1 At any time during a review, the Ombud may recommend to the parties that the matter be referred to arbitration.

18.2 If the parties agree to arbitration:

19. Statistics

19.1 The CORE will collect statistics relevant to the exercise of their mandate including the number of matters relating to the OECD Guidelines and the UN Guiding Principles, by nature of alleged human rights abuse, sector and region, and the race, ethnicity, gender and other characteristics of HRRM participants.

19.2 These statistics will be analyzed in order to understand trends related to the CORE’s mandate, identify barriers to accessing the HRRM, provide a basis for the continuous improvement of the HRRM and make recommendations to the Minister to strengthen the CORE’s mandate.

19.3 The Ombud will publish these statistics including in their annual report to the Minister in such a way that individuals and communities are not identified or identifiable without their consent.

20. Confidentiality

20.1 Consistent with their role as an Ombud, the Ombud will strive to carry out their mandate in a transparent fashion and will generally share relevant information including with the parties or subjects of a review.

20.2 Notwithstanding 20.1, the CORE is subject to the Privacy Act and the Access to Information Act.

20.3 All personal information collected and used by the CORE is protected in accordance with the Privacy Act . The Privacy Act prohibits the CORE from using or disclosing personal information without the consent of the individual to whom the information relates, except in accordance with the Act.

20.4 If an access request is received under the Access to Information Act, the relevant records will be processed, exemptions from disclosure applied, and consultations held in accordance with the Act. The Access to Information Act includes a number of exemptions, including exemptions relating to personal information and confidential business information. Exemptions are applied on a case-by-case basis.

20.5 Information held by the CORE provided by third parties, including confidential information provided by Canadian companies, may be subject to a request for access under the Access to Information Act. If a request for access to information supplied by a third party is received and there is doubt about whether the information is exempt from disclosure under subsection 20(1) of the Act, consultations with the third party will take place in accordance with the Act, before a decision is made whether or not to release the information.

20.6 The Ombud may enter into non-disclosure agreements binding the CORE, including to protect commercially sensitive information. However, any obligation in the non-disclosure agreements to keep information confidential is subject to federal laws including the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.

Report a problem on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, please contact us.

Date Modified: