What is retaliation?
Anyone who claims their human rights may be at risk of retaliation. The CORE’s approach is focused on retaliation that happens because people work with us.
Retaliation is any action or treatment that harms 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
- took 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.
There are many ways to retaliate. More than one kind of retaliation can happen at the same time.
These are some kinds of retaliation, with examples:
- verbal – threats, intimidation, harassment including racial and sexual harassment
- physical – assault, forced disappearance, causing death
- material – damage to a person’s property or a community’s environment
- economic – causing someone to lose their job, denying someone the chance to work or to be promoted, or starting legal action against someone as a way to tie up their time and resources
- social – hurting someone’s reputation, causing others to shun a person
- virtual – using social media to threaten, harass, or spy on someone or to damage their reputation
- CORE’s approach to retaliation
- Information for Canadian companies
- Information for individuals and communities
What puts someone at risk of retaliation?
There are 3 things that can put a person at a higher risk of retaliation:
- where they live
- where they work
- who they are
How does where someone lives affect their risk of retaliation?
There are 3 main reasons for this:
- the country or region where they live has high rates of retaliation
- they live in a remote area
- the government where they live does NOT support human rights
Countries or regions with high rates of retaliation
Statistics show that retaliation happens more in some places than in others. For example, in 2019 many frontline defenders reported that the risk of retaliation is higher in Latin America. The risk of retaliation is often greater in countries or regions experiencing conflict, violence or where there is a lot of corruption by people in positions of power. Our Retaliation Risk Assessment Tool asks specific questions about the country or region where the CORE is being asked to help. These questions help us to assess the risk of retaliation.
In some remote areas, it is harder to contact police or other helping organizations. Community groups in these areas get less attention than such groups do in cities. People living in remote communities can be at higher risk of retaliation.
Systemic discrimination and power imbalances can make the relationship between indigenous communities and police even more difficult. Indigenous people may not trust the police to protect them Indigenous communities that live in remote areas can be at even higher risk of retaliation.
Areas where the government may NOT support human rights
Sometimes governments do NOT support human rights. Sometimes they are NOT strong enough to do so. The government or police may NOT be well organized. They may NOT have the resources to stop or to punish people who retaliate. All of these factors can put people at a higher risk of retaliation.
Example: Carlos is a leader in his Indigenous community in Colombia. A Canadian company began to operate a mine nearby. Soon after, he and his neighbours started to have health problems and saw problems with their crops and animals. They think the mine is polluting their water. Carlos met with his community and together they decided to file a complaint to the CORE. A trade union helped them. After the Canadian company learned of the complaint, people working for the company began to threaten those in the trade union. Carlos and his community worry about what might happen to them.
How does where someone works affect their risk of retaliation?
Hiring practices are different from workplace to workplace and around the world. Some people are hired to work regular hours for long periods of time. Others may be hired on short-term contracts or as day labourers. The risk of retaliation is higher for people with less job security.
How does who someone is affect their risk of retaliation?
There are many personal characteristics that can put someone at higher risk of retaliation. These include:
- place of origin
Each of these traits may put someone at risk of certain kinds of retaliation, or certain results from retaliation.
Example: A woman works for a Canadian oil and gas company in Libya. She complains to the CORE that she has been sexually harassed at work. After she files her complaint, the sexual harassment gets worse. A male co-worker threatens her with physical harm and the work crew shuns her. This increases the risk to her health and safety in her workplace.
Everyone has more than one of the personal characteristics on the list. The way these combine can affect our lives differently. The ways that these come together in each person is called “intersectionality.” For some people, their intersectionality can put them at a higher risk of retaliation.
More information – What is intersectionality?
Example: A person does garment work at home for a major supplier of a Canadian company. They complain to the CORE that they are not given proper protective equipment. This person is elderly, Indigenous, and does not speak the language that most people in the area speak. These characteristics can put them at a higher risk of retaliation after they file a complaint.
Who might be a target of retaliation?
Any person, organization, or community, that has contacted CORE may be a target of retaliation. The risk also includes others who are connected to them such as these:
- human rights defenders
- family members
- neighbours and community members
- translators and other people who provide services
- organizations, including trade unions and civil society organizations
Who might retaliate?
When we know who might retaliate, we can take steps to assess the risk of retaliation and reduce it.
Canadian companies can think about who may be involved in retaliation. This will help them to take steps to stop retaliation throughout their supply chains.
Many people may be involved in retaliation. This includes people who are named in a complaint. It includes those who think they might be affected in a negative way by a complaint or the follow-up from it. These are some of the people who might be involved in retaliation.
- company workers
- company supervisors or managers
- company senior personnel
- subcontractors or contractors of the Canadian company
- community members or groups
- members of local or national government
- members of security forces. This can include local police, or the security personnel hired by a Canadian company.
Sometimes people encourage others to retaliate for them. They may even hire someone to do this. This means that the target of the retaliation may not see this person as a threat. They may NOT take steps to reduce the risk of retaliation.
Governments or police may be involved in retaliation in these 4 ways:
- they do NOT take any action when a retaliation may be criminal
- they are involved in corruption with companies that may be in business with a Canadian company
- they take part in surveillance
- they use force against people who exercise their human rights, including the right to peaceful protest
We recognize that third parties such as state security or police forces may play a role in retaliation. However, we focus on what Canadian companies can do to stop retaliation against individuals or communities who contact us.
Report a problem on this page
- Date Modified: