Responsible business conduct abroad – Questions and answers

Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (Ombudsperson)

What is the mandate of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE)?

  • As stated in the Order in Council, the mandate of the CORE is to:
    • Promote the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
    • Advise Canadian companies on their practices and policies with respect to responsible business conduct.
    • Review allegations of human rights abuses arising from the operations of Canadian companies abroad in the mining, oil and gas and garment sectors; offer informal mediation services.
    • Provide advice to the Minister on any matter relating to the CORE’s mandate.

With respect to allegations of human rights abuses by Canadian companies operating abroad in the mining, oil and gas and garment sectors, the CORE can:

  • Receive complaints and initiate a review at their sole discretion.
  • Engage in independent fact-finding or in joint-fact-finding with the parties involved in the review.
  • Report publicly, at their sole discretion, at various stages of a review process and when following-up on recommendations.
     
  • The Minister of International Trade will table the CORE’s annual reports in Parliament. Prior to publication, reports will be shared with all parties to ensure procedural fairness.
  • We invite you to consult the CORE’s website for more information.

When will the Office of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) be operational?

How does the appointment of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) improve Canada’s approach to Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) abroad?

  • Building on Canada’s existing expertise and leadership on Responsible Business Conduct (RBC), the creation of the CORE demonstrates Canada’s continued commitment to RBC, human rights, and inclusive trade that ensures all segments of society can benefit from the opportunities that flow from trade and investment.
  • Canada’s RBC approach abroad is to foster and promote responsible business practices among Canadian companies, seek to catch problems early before they escalate, and offer effective dispute resolution mechanisms to reach solutions.
  • With the specific focus on human rights, the appointment of the CORE provides a strengthened approach to address alleged human rights abuses arising from a Canadian company’s operations abroad in the mining, oil and gas, and garment sectors.
  • Together with Canada’s National Contact Point (NCP) for RBC, Canada now has two complementary mechanisms to promote RBC, to provide advice to Canadian companies and stakeholders, to facilitate dialogue and support dispute resolution for multiple sectors, and address a wide range of issues.

How do the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) and the Canadian National Contact Point (NCP) complement each other?

  • The CORE and the NCP will collaborate to offer appropriate solutions and may refer cases to each other where appropriate, and where parties are in agreement.
  • Since 2000, Canada’s National Contact Point (NCP) under the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (the Guidelines), has been promoting the implementation of the Guidelines, responding to enquiries and facilitating dialogue and mediation for all sectors and a wide range of issues, including, labour issues, human rights, environmental issues and bribery.
  • The CORE was appointed in 2019 with a specific focus on allegations of human rights abuses in the mining, oil and gas, and garment sectors.  The CORE has the unique ability to undertake reviews at her own initiative. The CORE also promotes the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, in addition to the OECD Guidelines, and advises Canadian companies on RBC.

What recourse for remedy is there for allegations of harm resulting from the activities of Canadian companies abroad?

  • Individuals or groups can contact either the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) and the National Contact Point (NCP), to file a complaint or to seek advice and guidance.
  • These dispute resolution mechanisms do not affect the right of any party to take legal action in any jurisdiction in Canada regarding allegations of harms committed by a Canadian company abroad.
  • Please consult the NCP and the CORE’s websites for more information.

What recourse does the Government of Canada have when a company does not cooperate with the dispute resolution mechanisms?

  • The Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) and the National Contact Point (NCP) can recommend the application of trade measures if a company does not collaborate in good faith in the review process.
  • Canada’s trade measures are the denial or withdrawal of trade advocacy support and denial of future Export Development Canada (EDC) financial support.
  • In the CORE and the NCP’s final reports, specific public recommendations to companies could include recommending compensation, an apology, cessation of particular activities, mitigation measures, or corporate policy changes.
  • The CORE and the NCP can also follow-up on their respective recommendations and report publicly.

What recourse does the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Business Conduct (CORE) have when it uncovers wrongdoing abroad?

  • The CORE retains full discretion to undertake independent fact-finding or joint-fact-finding with the parties involved in the review to address allegations of human rights abuses arising from Canadian companies operating abroad.
  • The CORE can make specific public recommendations to companies in its final report.  These could include recommending compensation, an apology, cessation of particular activities, mitigation measures or corporate policy changes.
  • Any evidence of Canadian criminal wrongdoing will be referred to the appropriate law enforcement authority, including to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

What is the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE)’s complaint or review process?

I own a small company with operations abroad. How can I ensure my business operations follows best practices for responsible business conduct?

  • All Canadian companies operating abroad, regardless of size, are expected to respect human rights, all applicable laws and international standards, to operate transparently and in consultation with host governments and local communities, and to work in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.
  • Companies should operate in a manner consistent with recognized business and human rights standards including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
  • The Government of Canada provides guidance and resources to support Canadian companies to make informed decisions and operate responsibly abroad. Companies are invited to connect with a Canadian Trade Commissioner at one of the regional offices across Canada or in the country where they are operating to learn more. The Responsible Business Conduct Abroad web page also provides various resources and tools to help companies implement responsible business practices.