OTTAWA, Nov. 14 2014 /CNW/ - The Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA) is deeply disappointed that the federal government is not establishing an independent Ombudsman to investigate human rights complaints involving corporate activity abroad, as part of the five-year review of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Strategy announced today.
Over 95,000 Canadians wrote to Parliament in the past year to call for the creation of an extractive-sector Ombudsman, through the CNCA's Open for Justice campaign. Last month, a private member's bill to create such an Ombudsman, Bill C-584, received support from all opposition parties in Parliament but was voted down by the government.
"The Government of Canada's CSR Strategy failed, and will continue to fail, because it doesn't allow for independent investigation of corporate activities abroad or any remedy for local communities or workers who are harmed by irresponsible corporate conduct," said Ken Neumann, Canadian National Director of the United Steelworkers.
"While it's positive that the government strategy now acknowledges companies have a responsibility to respect human rights, there are no new mechanisms to ensure compliance but more of the same voluntary approach and self-regulation," said Ian Thomson of KAIROS Canada.
Despite public calls for substantial reform, International Trade Minister Ed Fast announced today that the Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor is being retained. Canadian mining companies have not cooperated with the CSR Counsellor's grievance mechanism process since it was launched in 2010, choosing instead to walk away and effectively shutting down any review of their conduct. It is not clear how the government's new approach of threatening to remove a few limited government services, such as letters of recommendation or a spot on a trade mission, will compel companies to act more constructively.
According to Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada: "Industry and civil society have so little respect for the CSR Counsellor's Office because it's totally ineffective. The solution is not to force companies to participate in an ineffective process, but to make it more meaningful by establishing real powers of fact-finding, public reporting and remediation."
"Ultimately, it is the most vulnerable communities adversely impacted by Canadian companies who will pay the highest price because they have no genuine recourse when their human rights are violated," said Josianne Gauthier of Development and Peace.
CNCA had hoped the government would make substantial reforms to its CSR Strategy for the International Extractive Sector this year. The Open for Justice campaign will continue to call for the creation of an extractive-sector Ombudsman and legislated access to Canadian courts for non-nationals harmed by Canadian companies abroad.
The Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA) brings together human rights, international development, social justice and environmental NGOs, faith groups and labour unions to advocate for mandatory corporate accountability standards for Canadian extractive companies operating abroad, especially in developing countries.
SOURCE: Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability
For further information: Ian Thomson, CNCA Chairperson, [email protected], 613-235-9956 ext. 222; Bob Gallagher, United Steelworkers, [email protected], 416-434-2221; Kelly DiDomenico, Development and Peace, [email protected], 514-257-8710 ext. 365