As a member of the Canadian Network for Corporate Accountability, The United Church of Canada is greatly encouraged by the Honourable Minister of International Trade’s January 17 announcement regarding the creation of a Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Business Enterprise.

Write a letter to Minister Champagne to show public support for the creation of a credible and effective ombudsperson’s office with independent and strong investigative powers. These powers are essential for the ombudsperson to prevent and redress human rights abuse by Canadian companies overseas.

Take Action

  1. Write to the Francois-Philippe.Champagne [at] parl.gc.ca (Minister of International Trade), thanking him for his announcement, and express your support for a fully independent ombudsperson with the power to compel documents. Copy your member of Parliament. You can find your MP’s e-mail or postal address by entering your postal code on the Parliament of Canada website. 
  2. If you see an article about the ombudsperson in your newspaper, write a letter to the editor expressing your support for the creation of a credible, effective, and independent ombudsperson’s office with strong investigative powers. (See Letters to the Editor Guide, available under Downloads, below.)
  3. If your letter gets published, send a copy to the Francois-Philippe.Champagne [at] parl.gc.ca (Minister of International Trade) and your member of Parliament. You can find your MP’s e-mail or postal address by entering your postal code on the Parliament of Canada website.
  4. Share your letters to the editor with us by e-mailing Christie Neufeldt ( cneufeldt [at] united-church.ca ). It’s vital that we hear what’s happening and can encourage others.

Background

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 do 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] the Canadian government create such an office. More than 600,000 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 Quebecois 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.

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.

Up until now, the Canadian government has addressed 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 was voluntary and complaints were 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 autonomous from Global Affairs Canada, and report to the Canadian public rather than to a minister. They would play an important role in protecting human rights internationally and improving the performance and reputation of Canada’s extractive sector.

The human rights ombudsperson will independently investigate complaints concerning the overseas operations of Canadian companies and will issue public findings regarding allegations of harm. The office will make recommendations for redress, regarding corporate eligibility for government services, and with respect to policy and law reform.

For more information, contact:

Christie NeufeldtProgram Coordinator, Public Witness416-231-7680 ext. 4078
1-800-268-3781 ext. 4078
cneufeldt [at] united-church.ca