Opening Statement of Sheri Meyerhoffer, Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) to the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade (CIIT)
February 13, 2023
View the recording of the Ombud appearance before the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade.
Thank you, Madam Chair, and the Honourable members of this committee for your invitation to appear today. I look forward to your questions.
I would like to acknowledge that I am joining you today from the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabek People. Respect for Indigenous rights is closely linked to the work of my office and to your study of environmental and human rights considerations, given that Canadian mining operations overseas frequently take place in remote areas, often on or alongside Indigenous land. My team and I recognize and honour the enduring relationship of the Algonquin Peoples and Indigenous Peoples around the world to their traditional territories.
Before providing my remarks, I would like to say a few words about my mandate. I am the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise, or the CORE, as my office is referred to. I have a mandate to promote respect for human rights and responsible business conduct by Canadian garment, mining and oil and gas companies operating abroad. My Office also provides a complaint mechanism for individuals and communities who believe their human rights are negatively impacted by Canadian garment, mining or oil and gas operations outside of Canada.
Canada is a leader on the world stage, including among G7 and OECD partners. Canada is also a leader when it comes to mining, with a significant global mining footprint. This means that Canadian mining companies have the potential to impact human rights and the environment around the world.
My first remark is that Canada’s Responsible Business Conduct Abroad Strategy is clear: our government expects Canadian mining companies to respect Canadian standards for human rights and environmental protection, regardless of where they are doing business. Responsible business conduct or RBC includes respect for human rights and the environment.
Canadian mining companies also have a duty to respect the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises. These two documents provide internationally recognized and respected guidance for human rights and environmental protection. This includes human rights and environmental diligence or HREDD.
My second remark is to reiterate the CORE’s support for mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence legislation in Canada. We believe that mandatory due diligence legislation that applies to all sectors and that covers all human rights will advance corporate respect for human rights and help prevent human rights and environmental abuses from taking place.
It will require companies to identify and address human rights and environmental risks; and put in place prevention and remediation measures - reducing the potential for harm to workers, communities and the environment. It will also reduce company costs, both financial and reputational. It will enhance Canada’s leadership in protecting human rights and the environment wherever Canadian companies do business.
My third and final remark is that Canada has the capacity to strengthen effective redress for human rights and environmental harms arising from the operations of Canadian mining companies outside of Canada by providing the CORE with the power to compel documents and witnesses.
I referred earlier to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Those principles recognize the duty on states including Canada to ensure effective access to remedy for impacted individuals and communities.
The CORE currently has the power to conduct investigations, engage in mediation and, when appropriate, make remedial recommendations to Canadian companies and others. We have a duty to report publicly and to follow up on our recommendations. These powers can have a positive impact.
However, the CORE does not have the power to order Canadian companies to produce documents or witnesses. With these additional powers, the CORE would have a greater positive impact. Specifically, a CORE with powers to compel would
- Improve access to effective remedy for impacted individuals and communities who do not have access to relevant information and who may face retaliation for exercising their rights;
- Incentivize Canadian companies to voluntarily participate in the CORE’s complaint process including the use of consensual dispute resolution such as early resolution and mediation;
- And lastly, demonstrate that Canada is meeting its obligation to ensure that access to remedy is part of corporate accountability for human rights and the environment.
Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise
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