Canada is poised to become a leader in responsible business practices and human rights protection (corporate accountability). We are pleased that the Minister of International Trade has indicated a commitment to demonstrate global leadership in business and human rights and is actively engaging the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA) on the creation of an extractive ombudsperson. But it is essential for the ombudsperson to have strong investigatory powers.
You can help to make it happen, by contacting the minister to let him know that you support an ombudsperson's office with teeth.
United Church people across the country have been calling on the Canadian government to protect the dignity of human life and the sacredness of creation by creating an independent human rights ombudsperson with the power to hold Canadian mining companies responsible for their overseas operations. They have met with, called, and written to their members of Parliament and the minister of trade. They are doing this in response to United Church partners who have also clearly called for the creation of the ombudsperson.
A United Church partner in the Philippines, writing to Prime Minister Trudeau, stated:
The creation of the new ombudsperson office is important not only for our organization, but for indigenous peoples and other communities affected by Canadian mining projects in the country, in bringing the human—and indigenous peoples’—rights violations committed to the attention of the Canadian government.
Nearly a decade has passed since industry and civil society leaders recommended [PDF on pdac.ca] that the Canadian government create such an office. More than 100,000 Canadians and hundreds of civil society organizations from Canada and abroad have since added their voice to the call for an ombudsperson.
In 2015, the federal Liberal Party, New Democratic Party, Green Party and Bloc Québécois each committed [PDF on cnca-rcrce.ca] to creating a human rights ombudsperson for the extractive sector. People and organizations around the world are calling on Canada to hold our companies to account; do your part to make Canada Open for Justice.
- Contact your member of Parliament and the minister of international trade, the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, to let them know that
- you support the leadership shown by the government in working to create an extractive sector ombudsperson
- it's critical that the extractive sector ombudsperson's office have robust investigatory powers. This is a minimum requirement for an effective office. (See sample letter available under Downloads, below.)
- Request a meeting with your MP and ask them to relay your concerns to Minister Champagne. (See talking points available under Downloads, below). Ask your MP to take a picture with you, and then post it on social media with a few words about your meeting. Use the hashtags #UCCan, #Power2Investigate, and #Open4Justice.
- Share what you are up to. (No action is too small, and it’s vital that we hear what’s happening!) E-mail Christie Neufeldt ( cneufeldt [at] united-church.ca ) or tweet @JusticeUCC.
Earlier this year, United Church partner The Christian Council of Zambia wrote to Prime Minister Trudeau “to appeal to [his] good office to strongly encourage and support the government of Canada to affirm the creation of the office of Human Rights Ombudsperson, being fully aware of the presence and influence of Canadian mining companies operating around the world and in particular in Africa.”
Canada, as home to half of the world’s mining and mineral exploration companies, should be a leader in corporate accountability in the extractive sector. Canadian law has not kept pace with the globalization of the mining industry.
Currently, the Canadian government addresses reports of extractive-sector violations with two mechanisms: the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Counsellor, and Canada's Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's National Contact Point (OECD NCP). With both of these mechanisms, the participation of the extractive-sector companies is voluntary and complaints are never made public. These ineffective mechanisms do not address the problems that harm communities, and repeated human rights violations occur.
An independent Human Rights Ombudsperson would investigate allegations and make recommendations to the mining companies and the Canadian government. This Ombudsperson would be independent of political or corporate influence and accountable to Canadians through public reporting. They would play an important role in protecting human rights internationally and improving the performance and reputation of Canada’s extractive sector.
For the ombudsperson to be effective, it is essential for the position to have the following traits (see the infographic “Criteria for an Effective Ombudsperson” [PDF on cnca-rcrce.ca]):
- Independence, integrity, and fairness
- Be empowered to conduct effective investigations
- Be required to report publicly
- Publicly reports recommendations for remedy
- Engages in monitoring and follow-up
The federal government, however, is proposing to create an extractive sector ombudsperson that does not have strong investigatory powers. This is concerning because one of the principal functions of an effective ombudsperson is to investigate allegations of human rights abuse or environmental damage and form an opinion on whether companies are causing or contributing to harm. They would also make public recommendations of actions that could be taken by companies or the Canadian government to stop abuses, provide remedy to victims, or prevent future harm.
Send your letters or e-mails to:
Hon. François-Philippe Champagne
Minister of International Trade
Francois-Philippe.Champagne [at] parl.gc.ca
Hon. Gerry Ritz
Conservative Party of Canada
Gerry.Ritz [at] parl.gc.ca
New Democratic Party
Tracey.Ramsey [at] parl.gc.ca
Gabriel.Ste-Marie [at] parl.gc.ca
Elizabeth.May [at] parl.gc.ca
For more information, contact: