Unions Welcome Canadian Ombudsperson for Human Rights

Canada’s unions are welcoming the federal government’s announcement that it will appoint an ombudsperson to ensure Canadian corporations respect their human rights obligations abroad.

Hassan Yussuff
Canadian Labor Congress

The new position, formally titled the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE), was announced by François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of International Trade.

The ombudsperson will be mandated to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by Canadian mining, energy, and textile companies operating abroad.

The ombudsperson’s mandate will expand to include other industries over time.

“Today’s announcement comes after a decade of hard work by unions and by our allies, and will finally help ensure that Canadian corporations are compelled to respect their human rights obligations abroad,” said Canadian Labor Congress President Hassan Yussuff.

About 1,500 Canadian-owned mining and exploration companies operate in over 8,000 properties in more than 100 countries around the globe.

Many have been accused of grave human rights abuses including murder and gang rape, or forcing workers into life-threatening labour conditions.

Just weeks ago in November, two workers were murdered while on strike at a Canadian-owned mine in Mexico.

Human rights abuses are present in the textile industry as well.

The collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh in 2013 left 1,100 workers dead and thousands more injured.

“All of us want Canada to be a human rights leader around the world,” Yussuff said. “We don’t want to find out that the products we buy are contributing to human rights violations and abuses elsewhere. The Canadian government actively promotes and supports these companies abroad with loans, loan guarantees and insurance and diplomatic trade support – all of that should be contingent on respecting human rights.”

Yussuff said that the creation of a strong and independent human rights ombudsperson is also important given calls by the G7 and G20 on all member countries to create and strengthen mechanisms to fulfill their commitments under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.


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