Information for Canadian companies
If you are the owner, operator, or manager of a Canadian company that meets these criteria then this information is for you:
- your company operates outside Canada
- your company works in the garment, mining, or oil and gas sector
- your company controls companies that meet the above 2 criteria
Note: When we say that your company controls another, we mean that it does so directly or indirectly. For us, that may mean your company plays a key role in controlling your contractors, subcontractors, and companies in your supply chains.
More information – What is a Canadian company?
You must take steps to stop retaliation against individuals, organizations, and communities that file a complaint with us about:
- your company’s activities
- the activities of any company your company controls
This is based on 2 documents:
If your company is suspected of abusing human rights, then you must co-operate, in good faith, in processes to address any harm caused. These processes include our compliance and dispute resolution processes.
IMPORTANT: If anyone connected to your company retaliates against anyone connected to a complaint to us about your company then we may consider that your company has NOT acted in good faith.
What is retaliation?
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
- 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 threats of retaliation.
If retaliation is connected to your company, then your company may be asked to fix the harm caused.
More information – What is retaliation?
Fear of retaliation is one of the main reasons that people do NOT file human rights complaints.
While CORE’s approach to retaliation focuses on individuals and communities, Canadian companies face risks when they do not prevent or stop retaliation.
There are 2 main things you need to know about retaliation:
- what risks you face if your company is involved in retaliation, or if it looks like it is involved in retaliation
- what you can do to reduce the risk of retaliation or stop it from happening
Risks for Canadian companies
These are some of the kinds of risks that your company faces if it is involved in retaliation or looks like it is involved in retaliation:
- operational – anything that affects the day-to-day running of the company such as roadblocks, strikes, work slowdowns, and protests
- legal – lawsuits, criminal investigations, other legal procedures that take up the company’s time and resources
- reputational – bad publicity, harm to business relationships including with suppliers, service providers, clients, employees, and customers
- economic – loss of investment or support from government, investors, and business partners; loss of market share
What Canadian companies should do
Follow the same 4-step approach that we have developed for ourselves about the risk of retaliation:
More information – Core’s approach to retaliation
Think about your company, and all the companies you do business with:
- your subsidiaries
- other companies your company may control directly, or indirectly, including contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers
These are all possible sources of retaliation.
Think about the ways that retaliation could begin. For example, you may not intend to play a role in retaliation. You may not tell someone to retaliate. However, you could unknowingly cause retaliation by telling business partners or others that a complaint to us could hurt your interests.
Think about the culture in your workplace and in the workplaces of companies you control. Are workers who are concerned about their human rights seen as troublemakers or disloyal? This kind of workplace culture may lead workers to fear retaliation if they speak up. You can NOT reduce or stop retaliation if you do NOT know about it.
It can be hard to reduce retaliation in operations outside Canada because supply chains are complex. It can be difficult to get information about what is really happening in other places. Still, you are responsible for reducing the risk of retaliation from your company and any companies your company controls. One way to do this is by making sure your business partners know what you expect of them.
These are some of the tools you can use to help to reduce or stop retaliation.
- Make sure that contracts and codes of conduct for suppliers require them to identify, report, and correct retaliation all along the supply chain.
- Let everyone know that your company will NOT tolerate retaliation from anyone you do business with.
- Train your staff. Train your business partners. Make sure they know how to choose companies that will NOT engage in retaliation.
- Create a workplace culture that encourages workers to speak up about their human rights concerns. Make sure they know that retaliation is NOT allowed.
- Create a business culture where contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers can share ways to prevent or stop retaliation.
- Recognize business partners who prevent or stop retaliation. Give them awards, certification, or preferred business status.
- Keep track of how well business partners handle retaliation. Did they respond quickly and effectively? Report on their successes.
- Make sure your business partners know that you will NOT be part of frivolous or vexatious legal proceedings that are designed to obstruct public participation.
- Put a system in place that lets you identify and respond to retaliation quickly and effectively.
It can be hard to stop retaliation in operations outside Canada, particularly when it is done by supply chain partners. Here are some strategies to help you.
|Better practice||Practices to avoid|
|When you give us information||Tell us about any concerns, risks, or other information linked to retaliation. This shows your good faith.||Do NOT hold back information. If you are worried about sharing sensitive or confidential information, then talk to us. We will work with you to try to find a solution.|
|When you share information about a complaint or review||Create ways to protect information about a complaint or review. Include how to save sensitive information, and where and with whom to talk about the complaint. Apply the “need to know” principle.||Avoid making statements that could cause others to retaliate. This includes suggesting that bad things could happen if a complaint or human rights issue link to your company should become public.|
|Tell workers, contractors and business partners what you expect||Make a clear, public statement of “zero tolerance” for retaliation. Let everyone know that your definition of retaliation includes threats.||Be careful NOT to retaliate indirectly. Do NOT get others to retaliate for you. Do NOT hint that bad things will happen if others do NOT take steps to protect your interests.|
|Monitor what is happening||Set up ways to watch for and respond to the risk of retaliation in your company. Give those you do business with a reason to do the same. If we get a complaint, we may work with you to set these up.||Do NOT ignore or downplay risks. This includes silencing or punishing those who speak up in your company or supply chain. Act quickly to reduce retaliation risks when you find them.|
|Respond and follow up||Set up ways to respond, report, and follow up quickly and regularly. When there is a complaint, work with us to take specific actions, and report, and follow up on them. Think about contacting the local police if the retaliation may be criminal.||Avoid taking a “wait and see” approach. Do NOT assume that the police or other authorities know what is happening.|
|Continue to work with us||Work with us to stop retaliation even if you think the allegations in a complaint are NOT true.||Continue to work with us to prevent retaliation even if you are angry about the complaint, or upset because the complaint is NOT moving forward.|
When we work with retaliation, 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
We may consult with these groups to help us to decide what measure to take, including formal diplomatic measures or working with the OHCHR – the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights .
More information – What does the CORE do to help Canadian companies respect human rights?
We report publicly on what we find when we discover any retaliation. This includes these:
- if your company has taken part in retaliation
- if a company controlled by your company has taken part in retaliation
- if your company has failed to work with us to address a claim of retaliation
In our report, we make recommendations to the Minister of International Trade. These are some of the measures we can recommend:
- taking trade support away from your company
- refusing to give trade support to your company in the future
- refusing to give financial support to your company in the future
If it looks like the retaliation may be a crime, we can ask the Minister to refer the matter to the police.
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