Testing Canada's Commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility

OTTAWA, Feb. 28, 2014 /CNW/ - Canadian civil society groups today released six key questions to assess the Government of Canada's five-year review of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy, which is set for release shortly.

The five-year review has been seen as an opportunity for Canada to reboot the widely criticized CSR strategy launched in 2009 as Building the Canadian Advantage. The Review will test the degree to which the Government of Canada acknowledges that Building the Canadian Advantage has failed to ensure that all Canadian extractive companies adhere to internationally recognized human rights and environmental standards no matter where they operate. The Review will demonstrate whether the Government of Canada will deepen its commitment to promoting Canadian corporate and commercial interests with CSR approaches that appear to promote good corporate practice and respect for human rights, but that do not actually provide effective tools and mechanisms for workers and communities to hold companies to account when they are involved in wrongdoing.

Six questions to ask when the Review is made public:

  1. Independent Ombudsman.
    • Does the Review acknowledge the ineffectiveness of the Office of the CRS Counsellor for the Extractive Sector, where companies repeatedly walked away from the process?
    • Does the Review recommend the creation of an independent ombudsman with powers that go beyond ineffective voluntary mediation, including
      • the power to undertake independent investigations, regardless of a company's willingness to participate, and
      • a mandate to issue recommendations to both companies and the Government of Canada?
  2. Access to Canadian Courts.
    • Does the Review recognize that the government has a responsibility to send a clear message to Canadian extractive companies they can be held to account if they disregard internationally recognized human rights and environmental standards?
    • Does the Review indicate the government will clarify the legitimate role of Canadian courts to hear civil suits against Canadian companies brought by groups who allege they have been harmed by the negligence of Canadian companies? Clear access to Canadian courts for non-citizens will mean that Canadian companies with inadequate operational policies for human rights and the environment can be held to account for harm caused.
  3. Free, Prior and Informed Consent.
    • Does the Review move the Government of Canada toward full recognition of the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent for Indigenous peoples as a central feature of a revamped strategy?
  4. Transparency, Taxation and Secrecy Jurisdictions.
    • Building on the Government of Canada's commitment to transparency and mandatory reporting of payments by corporations to governments, does the Review address the fundamental importance of taxes to host governments in creating shared benefits of resource development by eliminating the use of secrecy jurisdictions (so called 'tax havens') to dodge taxes by Canadian companies?
  5. Stakeholder Dialogue.
    • Does the Review comment on the failed Center for Excellence in CSR, and consider mechanisms for full and open engagement and consultation on business and human rights by government, civil society, and extractive companies?
  6. Rewarding good behaviour.
    • Does the Review include mechanisms to ensure that Canadian government departments avoid complicity in environmental and human rights abuses by instituting robust and transparent mechanisms that condition Canadian government support received by extractive companies on respect for human rights and environmental sustainability?

Background information

About the CNCA
The CNCA unites environmental and human rights NGOs, faith groups, labour unions, and research and solidarity groups across Canada who are advocating for federal legislation to establish mandatory corporate accountability standards for Canadian extractive companies operating abroad, especially in developing countries.

  • CNCA's submission to the Government of Canada CSR Strategy Review can be found at: http://cnca-rcrce.ca/cnca-submission-to-the-goc-csr-strategy-review/
  • The CNCA launched a nation-wide campaign on October 22, 2013, the Open for justice campaign, calling on Members of Parliament, and all Canadians, to take action to ensure that victims of Canadian corporate abuse abroad can access justice in Canada. This call to action addresses two key barriers to justice: weak out-of-court mechanisms, and obstacles to suing in Canadian courts. For more information see: http://cnca-rcrce.ca/category/action/

SOURCE Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability

For further information:

Doug Olthuis
(CNCA Steering Committee member)
United Steelworkers
(416) 859-9953 (Mobile)

Jean Symes
(CNCA Steering Committee member)
Inter Pares
(613) 563-4801

Ian Thomson
(CNCA Chair)
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
(613) 235-9956