Inter Pares, with our coalition colleagues in the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA), welcomes the Honourable Minister of International Trade’s announcement today regarding the creation of a Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Business Enterprise.
The Ombudsperson will have the power to investigate complaints concerning the overseas operations of Canadian companies and issue public reports regarding allegations of harm. The office will make recommendations regarding corporate eligibility for government services and policy and law reform, as well as for redress for those harmed.
Inter Pares has been working on human rights and business since the mid 1990s, when wide-spread liberalization of investment rules in developing countries saw increased presence of Canadian natural resource companies, such as mining, oil and gas, and hydroelectric projects.
“We’d been supporting Indigenous communities in Central America to sustain the ecological stewardship of their rainforests, and communities in Asia for fisheries and sustainable livelihoods,” said Jean Symes of Inter Pares. “Suddenly we were receiving frantic messages that Canadian mining companies were digging up the forests, contaminating waterways, forcing poor people off their land. We were shocked that while our government supported commercial investment overseas, it did nothing to monitor the human rights impacts of that investment.”
Inter Pares, as a member of the CNCA, will continue to hold this process to account by ensuring that the ombudsperson’s office is free from political interference, has the tools necessary to seek the truth, issues recommendations publicly, and monitors those recommendations transparently.
“The credibility of this new office depends on its power to access relevant information,” said David Bruer, co-manager with Ms. Symes of Inter Pares’ Economic Justice program. “The ombudsperson office must be equipped with the tools needed to compel corporate disclosure.”
“Sexual violence against women - especially Indigenous women - has also been associated with Canadian commercial projects overseas,” said Ms. Symes. “This government's feminist foreign policy needs an ombudsperson that will address the violence that has happened in the past, and work to deter it in the future.”
With this ombudsperson office, Inter Pares will continue to work to ensure that Canada becomes a global leader in business and human rights.