The Struggle for a Canadian Ombudsperson
Leer la versión en español de este contenido: La Lucha por la Defensoría Canadiense por los Negocios y las Empresas Responsables.
After more than a decade of grassroots efforts from the part of civil society, labor unions, and religious groups—including KAIROS and network members—the Government of Canada announced the creation of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Business Enterprise (CORE) and the Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Body on Responsible Business Conduct Abroad (Advisory Board) in January 2018. According to the announcement, the office of the CORE would be independent and investigate allegations of human rights abuses connected to Canadian companies operating abroad; the Advisory Board’s purpose was to, among other things, advise the Government on corporate social responsibility and human rights.
In April 2019, the Government announced the appointment of the Ombudsperson and revealed that the CORE would have no investigatory powers, effectively breaking its promise. The Government’s backtracking and unwillingness to use the Inquiries Act to grant the CORE investigatory powers led to the mass resignation of all fourteen civil society and labor union representatives of the Advisory Board over the summer of 2019.
The CNCA supported an e-petition that called upon the House of Commons to empower the CORE and enact mandatory human rights due diligence legislation to strengthen the rules of business and and uphold human rights. After the e-petition received more that 6,000 signatures, the CNCA, in the fall of 2020, held a virtual rally to symbolically deliver the e-petition to the House of Commons. In November 2020, it was revealed that the Government of Canada had made the decision to renege on its promise to grant the CORE investigatory powers.
The CORE's office announced that it opened in the spring of 2021. Since, it does not have investigatory powers, KAIROS recommends that any organization, community, group, or individual thinking about filing a complaint with CORE, first consult the Canadian Network for Corporate Accountability's (CNCA) "Approach With Caution" document.
KAIROS continues to advocate and call for the Government of Canada to address corporate misconduct in the extractive sector through an independent Ombudsperson with the full powers to investigate allegations of human rights and environmental abuses overseas.
KAIROS is a member of the CNCA, which works tirelessly to ensure that Canadian mining, oil and gas companies respect human rights and the environment when working abroad. The CNCA advocates for policy and law reform, monitors government policy and provides advice to ensure that both government and business uphold Canada’s international human rights and environmental commitments.