National Contact Point annual report 2020
As an adherent to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises, Canada has a National Contact Point (NCP) for Responsible Business Conduct. The NCP works to promote awareness of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (OECD Guidelines) among stakeholders and assist in furthering the implementation of the OECD Guidelines by companies, including through preventing and minimizing negative impacts of their activities on the societies in which they operate. The NCP is one of two mechanisms for dialogue facilitation as part of the Government of Canada's approach to responsible business conduct, along with the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE).
This 2020 report aligns with the required annual questionnaire that the Canadian NCP submitted to the OECD in January 2020 (based on the calendar year) in fulfilment of Canada's adherence to the OECD Guidelines. The information in this report was current as of 31 December 2020. During the year under review, the NCP's activities focused on specific instances (i.e. cases brought to the NCP involving companies regarding their implementation of the OECD Guidelines); and on promotion and outreach, both within and outside of Canada. The NCP has actively worked on updating its procedures and governance in response to the Peer Review, and expects to implement changes in early 2022.
It is important to note that efforts on the part of the Canadian NCP to fulfill its promotional mandate were significantly hindered as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the realities of virtual working. Despite these challenges, Canada's NCP continued to support and actively engage with the OECD and the global Network of NCPs.
2. Institutional arrangements
Canada's NCP is an interdepartmental committee composed of officials from the following eight Federal departments: Global Affairs Canada (GAC), Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC), Finance Canada (FIN) and Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC). Canada's NCP has three non-governmental Social Partners, namely, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCC), the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), and the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN).
Each of the member departments comprising the NCP brings specific expertise related to their mandated areas of responsibility. Representatives from the respective departments are thus able to provide informed advice on a broad range of issues covered by the Guidelines. The NCP is chaired by a senior representative at GAC, the Director General, Trade Portfolio Strategy & Coordination. A senior representative of NRCan, the Director General, Policy and Economics Branch, Lands and Minerals Sector, is the Vice-Chair. The NCP Secretariat is located in GAC and for most of 2020 was operated by two full-time staff members and a student. GAC provides the human and financial resources for the NCP Secretariat to support the NCP mandate. NCP member departments provide in-kind support.
3. 2020 Stakeholder Workshops: Procedural & Governance Review
Between September 15 and 17 2020, with the assistance of an external facilitator, the NCP held three workshops with stakeholders from business, academia and civil society, respectively. The purpose of the workshops was to consider the recommendations of the 2019 OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises National Contact Point Peer Review Report on how to improve the effectiveness of the Canadian NCP. The workshops were designed to engage stakeholders in confirming and identifying new areas for improvement and exploring opportunities for broader representation from stakeholder groups.
While these meetings were originally scheduled to take place in March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the consultations were postponed until September and moved to a virtual forum.
The feedback was compiled by the facilitator in a report, together with recommendations on how to address the OECD Peer Review. The NCP work to develop a revitalized procedural and governance structure with the aim of improved transparency and stakeholder engagement is underway, with the first phase of procedural changes slated for implementation in early 2022.
4. Outreach and promotion
Promotion of the OECD Guidelines, the Due Diligence guidance documents and the NCP mechanism are key activities of the Canadian NCP achieved through a variety of tools and activities in different fora.
During the year under review, and in accordance with its core mandate, Canada's NCP co-organized and/or participated in a variety of responsible business conduct-related events with a view to raise awareness of the NCP mandate and promote the Guidelines and due diligence guidance to academia, businesses, Indigenous groups, non-governmental organizations, trade unions, and government officials.
On June 11, 2020, the NCP Committee met as a whole, and then separately with its Social Partners (the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Confédération des syndicats nationaux). The discussions focused on the implementation of the OECD Peer Review recommendations, including the proposed review of the NCP's institutional structure and procedures. The groups also explored opportunities for collaboration on promotion, capacity building and outreach activities.
The NCP also engaged in outreach to new and familiar NGO stakeholders, including labour and business communities, to follow up on the Peer Review and map out opportunities for future directions. To this end, the NCP met with the National Aboriginal Trust Officers Association for the first time in February 2020 to discuss the mandates and work of our respective organizations, including the OECD Guidelines and due diligence guidance. Further engagement took place around the three stakeholder workshops held in September 2020 referenced above.
In 2020, GAC undertook the evaluation of its 2014 – 2019 Strategy, "Doing Business the Canadian Way: A Strategy to Advance Corporate Social Responsibility in Canada's Extractive Sector Abroad" (CSR Strategy), of which the NCP is an integral pillar. Notably, the information collected for the evaluation underscored the findings of the 2019 Peer Review of Canada's NCP, which noted among other issues, a lack of formal involvement of external stakeholders and social partners, a perception of a lack of impartiality, and no formal reporting requirements to parliament. Work began to renew the five-year Strategy with the drafting of a discussion document, which was used as part of a broader public consultation in March of 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these consultations, like the NCP Stakeholder Workshops, had to take place virtually. In order to be aligned with the Responsible Business Conduct Strategy renewal process, and to ensure a comprehensive approach, the NCP's planned institutional structure and procedures review workshops were pushed back into the fall of 2020.
Part of the NCP's domestic promotion mandate includes academic institutions. For example, on April 8, 2020, the NCP Secretariat was invited to participate as a virtual guest lecturer at a business class at Algonquin College. The NCP Secretariat gave a talk on responsible business conduct, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, Due Diligence and the broader work of the NCP on case management to a class of approximately 25 engaged business students.
Within Global Affairs Canada, one of the key promotional partners for the NCP is Canada's Trade Commissioner Service (TCS). The TCS interacts directly with companies abroad via Canada's network of embassies, consulates and other offices. As part of their outreach to companies operating abroad, and regular interactions with other stakeholder groups, Trade Commissioners and other embassy officials actively promote key responsible business practice standards such as the OECD Guidelines, as well as the use of dialogue-facilitation mechanisms offered by the NCPs in the host country and Canada's NCP.
For example, the NCP led a horizontal departmental capacity building session on January 29, 2020 targeting trade commissioners and international development staff, in order to better equip them in their respective roles in the promotion of responsible business conduct and explaining the work of the NCP and the CORE.
In support of the work of the TCS, the NCP also undertook several specific interventions and presentations, including on the OECD Guidelines and due diligence guidance, in trade shows and conferences. These included the Mining Indaba Conference (January 2020), and the 88th annual Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) Conference (March 2020).
Finally, during the year under review, Canada continued to support and promote the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals at relevant events with civil society partners and with other governments. At the Annual OECD Forum on Responsible Mineral Supply Chains in April Canada, the Netherlands, Germany and a range of civil society organizations launched a Stakeholder Statement on Implementing Gender-Responsive Due Diligence and ensuring the human rights of women in Mineral Supply Chains.
Support to the global network of NCPs
Canada attended two OECD-led annual meetings of the Network of NCPs and the two meetings of the OECD Working Party on Responsible Business Conduct (WPRBC). The NCP participated in discussions on the NCP and OECD Guidelines at the OECD Global Forum on Responsible Business Conduct (June 2020).
Canada's NCP participated in peer learning activities with other NCPs to exchange knowledge on best practices, share lessons learned on effective case management, communication and promotion, and on the challenges facing NCPs in the fulfilment of their mandate. During one of this year's Network of National Contact Points meetings, Canada gave a brief presentation on building stakeholder trust (June 2020). Lastly, for the fifth consecutive year, Canada provided financial support to the OECD to advance responsible business conduct and the Action Plan aimed at strengthening the Network of NCPs in the amount of $200,000 (CAN).
As a follow-up event to the WPRBC, the OECD also hosted a Policy Makers Round Table event for governments to discuss developments on due diligence regulation. Canada participated in this event and the Chair of the NCP spoke to Canada's Responsible Business Conduct strategy review, legislative proposals impacting responsible business conduct, the Canadian-US-Mexican Free Trade Agreement, and the expanded use of responsible business conduct within Export Development Canada. This event allowed Canada to learn from what other countries are doing in the space of responsible business conduct due diligence and gain greater insight as to the barriers and opportunities within due diligence guidance and regulation.
5. Policy coherence
Canada considers that policy coherence on responsible business conduct requires practical collaboration across government in order to achieve meaningful outcomes. In addition to liaising with member departments on their respective advancement of responsible business practices, the NCP Secretariat engaged with various offices within Global Affairs Canada on cross-cutting issues such as business and human rights, governance, international diplomacy, trade, and international development to promote synergies, complementarity and consistency in Canada's approach to responsible business conduct and in promoting the Guidelines and the NCP.
The Canadian NCP also participated in the Interdepartmental Director General Community of Practice (CoP) on Responsible Business Conduct meetings, which were initiated in early 2020. The Chair of the Canadian NCP convened these meetings to facilitate discussions around responsible business conduct issues among director generals from a broad range of federal government departments involved in this work. The third such CoP meeting took place in November 2020, where among other items on the agenda discussed were COVID and responsible business conduct, the ongoing governance review of Canada's NCP and the Responsible Business Conduct Strategy renewal process.
The Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE)
On April 8, 2019, the Government of Canada announced the appointment of Ms. Sheri Meyerhoffer as the first Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise with a mandate to consider allegations of human rights abuses arising from the operations of Canadian companies abroad in the mining, oil and gas and garment sectors.
Over the course of 2020, the NCP started work with the CORE to develop an information notice for stakeholders, to explain how the two mechanisms collaborate and how to choose where to file a complaint. The NCP provided the CORE's office with information on how the NCP operates and is structured, to assist them with the development of their own procedures. To this end, the NCP provided comment on the CORE's draft operating procedures.
6. NCP specific instances
The NCP received two new specific instances (cases) in 2020. As of December 2020, the Canadian NCP had yet to make a decision as to whether to provide its good offices for either of those requests for review. In addition, the NCP followed up and concluded one specific instance received in 2016 following mediation. A brief summary of this case is provided below.
Follow-up on specific instances
Imperial Metals Corporation and the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council
On December 23, 2016, the Canadian NCP received a request for review from the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, located in Juneau, Alaska, United States, alleging that Imperial Metals and its subsidiary Red Chris Development Company had not observed the general policies, and the disclosure, human rights and environment provisions of the Guidelines in its operations in Canada. The NCP engaged with both parties and concluded that some of the issues raised by the Notifier in the request for review warranted mediation. The NCP offered mediation to the parties on these issues on 20 March 2018. The chapters of the Guidelines cited by the Notifier were General Policies (II), Human Rights (IV), and Environment (VI). The NCP also found the chapter on Disclosure (III) to be of relevance. The parties accepted the NCP's offer and met in November 2018. Unfortunately, the parties were unable to come to an agreement through mediation. A draft Final Statement was shared with both parties in December 2019 for review.
The NCP followed up with the parties in 2020 on the NCP's recommendations and the final statement was published on the NCP's website in May 2020:
Canada's National Contact Point Final Statement - Imperial Metals Corporation and Southeast Alaska Conservation Council
The NCP considers this specific instance to now be closed.
Annex 1: Key 2020 NCP promotional activities
January 10: The NCP Chair held the first GAC DG Community of Practice meeting to discuss responsible business conduct related work – Headquarters.
January 23: Outreach with client on company community engagement and responsible business conduct - Headquarters.
January 29: Outreach with development staff on Guidelines promotion - Headquarters.
January 30: Trade Commissioner Services training at Indaba on responsible business conduct, NCP and the Guidelines – Cape Town, South Africa.
February 7: Meeting with other government departments on ethical procurement - Headquarters.
February 11: Meeting on responsible business conduct issues, took place with the National Aboriginal Trust Officers Association (NATOA) – Headquarters.
February 12: The NCP Chair held the first Interdepartmental DG Community of Practice meeting to discuss responsible business conduct related work – Headquarters.
February 13: Meeting on responsible business conduct, took place with members of the apparel industry - Ottawa.
March 1-3: Representatives of NCP and Global Affairs participated in the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) Conference - Toronto.
March 12: Roundtable session for the renewal of the Responsible Business Conduct Strategy - Gatineau.
March 13-19: Phone interviews with stakeholders for the renewal of the Responsible Business Conduct Strategy - Virtual.
April 8: The NCP was a virtual guest lecturer on responsible business conduct, due diligence and the Guidelines at a business class at Algonquin College - Ottawa.
May 19: The NCP participated in the Global Forum meeting (part I) - Virtual.
June 11: NCP Committee & Social partners' meetings. Two meetings took place. One was attended by the NCP Committee and the Social partners and the second one by the Committee only - Teleconference.
June 17: The NCP Chair held the second GAC DG Community of Practice meeting to discuss responsible business conduct related work – Virtual.
June 17: The NCP participated in the Global Forum meetings (part II) - Virtual.
June 25: The NCP Chair held the second Interdepartmental Community of Practice meeting to discuss responsible business conduct related work – Virtual.
September 15-17: The NCP held three virtual stakeholder workshops with members of civil society, academia, Indigenous groups and the business community to solicit feedback on the NCP governance and procedures review. These workshops were postponed from the spring and moved to a virtual forum due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and alignment with the public consultations on GAC's Responsible Business Conduct strategy renewal.
October 16: The NCP met with senior officials from a Canadian-based garment company to provide input on their vendor code of ethics. The Guidelines, general responsible business conduct principles and the work of the NCP were also discussed – Virtual.
November 2-3: The NCP participated in the OECD Working Party on Responsible Business Conduct meetings – Virtual
November 5: The NCP Chair held the third GAC Director General Community of Practice meeting on responsible business conduct related work - Virtual
November 10: The NCP Chair held the third Interdepartmental Community of Practice Meeting to discuss responsible business conduct related work - Virtual
December 8: The NCP participated in the OECD Working Party on Responsible Business Conduct - Virtual
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