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Statement of Priorities and Accountabilities for the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Ms. Sheri Meyerhoffer
Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise
12 York St., Suite 200
Ottawa, Ontario
K1N 5S6

Dear Ms. Meyerhoffer:

I am pleased to provide you with this letter outlining my expectations for the Office of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) for fiscal year 2022/2023.

As per the Order in Council appointment and arm's length status, the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) is responsible for reviewing allegations of human rights abuses arising from the operations of Canadian companies abroad in the mining, oil and gas and garment sectors, for advising Canadian companies on their practices and policies with respect to Responsible Business Conduct (RBC), and for providing advice to the Minister on any matter relating to your mandate. To this end, the CORE is expected to operate in an open and transparent manner with Canadians about its priorities, results, operations, finances and engagements, while respecting its arm's length nature.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the extensive efforts that you have undertaken to establish your office since you took on the important role as Canada's first Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise in April 2019. I am particularly pleased that as of March 15, 2021, your office has been in a position to receive cases related to alleged human rights abuses by Canadian companies operating abroad in the mining, oil and gas, and garment sectors. This is a significant step forward as part of Canada's wider efforts to advance responsible business conduct (RBC), and I was pleased to have your first annual report tabled in the House of Commons and the Senate on February 11, 2022

As you know, my December 2021 mandate letter instructs me to enhance and expand Canada's RBC strategy to make sure Canadian companies uphold the highest environmental and social standards of corporate governance. It also instructs me to provide continued support to the CORE in fulfilling her mandate to investigate allegations of human rights abuses linked to Canadian corporate activity abroad. I look forward to continuing to work with you to advance these goals, as well as Canada's wider RBC strategy. Given the numerous entities involved with these issues, including the CORE, federal departments, and Crown corporations, it is important that the Government of Canada pursue a cohesive, whole-of-government approach to RBC.

RBC is at the juncture of many priorities for Canada, such as the respect for human rights, combatting discrimination and inequality, taking action on climate change, inclusive trade, upholding the rights of Indigenous peoples. Canadian companies with responsible business practices contribute to achieving these objectives by upholding the Canada brand and their own reputations, and bringing sustainable benefits to the countries where they operate. At the same time, Canadians expect that Canadian companies operating abroad reflect the values of our country. This means abiding by all relevant laws, respecting human rights, and adopting best practices and internationally respected guidelines on RBC such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (Guiding Principles) and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (OECD Guidelines).

Through a range of efforts, including the work of your office, the Government of Canada is committed to working with Canadian companies to provide them with the guidance and tools needed to make RBC a cornerstone of their business practices and to advance Canadian values. Our balanced approach to this work is extensive and built on a foundation of legislation in critical areas such as transparency, corruption and forced labour.

In addition to the outreach efforts of your office, Canada's Trade Commissioner Service provides RBC-related guidance to Canadian companies, as does Canada's National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. I ask you to work closely with me and with my Parliamentary Secretary, Arif Virani, on how we can strengthen these offices, in particular on ensuring that stakeholders have access to a resource that supports them on their practices and policies, as well as have access to a complaint process to review possible human rights abuses.

Canada continues to demonstrate leadership on the international stage by our steadfast commitment to advancing human rights, combatting discrimination and inequality and advancing fair, rules-based trade around the world. CORE has a role to play in supporting a stronger, more sustainable and more inclusive recovery and to demonstrate to the world that Canadian companies have a competitive advantage when leading with responsible business practices.

Over the past two years, we have faced unprecedented challenges from grappling with the pandemic, to growing inequality, rising levels of social fragility and increasing human rights concerns. As we look towards recovery, we must not lose sight of the integral role that sustainability and human rights must play to strengthen our economy, make our businesses more resilient, and create an atmosphere that allows Canadian businesses to thrive at home and abroad. 

With those priorities in mind, I am pleased to provide you with the Government of Canada's key expectations for the Office of the CORE in the year ahead.

Performance and accountability

Robust planning and reporting on results enables the evidence-based decision-making that underpins good governance. I request that you develop an annual work plan outlining the proposed areas of focus and activities of your office. I thank you for recently providing me with your 2022-2023 work plan for the period of April 1, 2022 to March 31, 2023. Going forward, I ask that this plan be submitted to me no later than June 30 of each year.

Your annual work plan should include performance indicators for each area of your mandate, with a focus on not only the number of complaints received, but also the number of reviews you have undertaken. It is vital that your work be evidence-based to align to the Government's commitment to results-based decision-making and to demonstrate how you are delivering on your mandate. Your annual work plan should be adjusted regularly to take into account emerging priorities. 

Your annual work plan should also describe your plans for outreach with Canadian companies. Engagement with new exporters and small-and medium-sized enterprises should be a focus of this activity, as these businesses typically have limited resources and can often benefit most from RBC awareness and engagement.

Achieving results

I also expect you to submit an annual report to me outlining your achievements in the Fall, no later than November 1st of each year. This annual report should include qualitative and quantitative measurements of how the CORE has delivered on each aspect of its mandate, with reference to objectives and performance indicators set out in the work plan.

Both your work plan and annual report will be important in disclosing your office's activities, outreach, planning and engagements for your office, as well as transparency, accountability, and in determining future priorities. These will assist in demonstrating the Government of Canada's commitment to delivering on the results that your office was established to achieve.

Working collaboratively and fostering a cohesive Government of Canada approach to RBC

The office of the CORE operates at arm's length from the Government of Canada, reflected in the Order-in-Council which created your office. Nevertheless, RBC is a responsibility of many, with multifaceted angles, and it is through working collaboratively and transparently that we can deliver on the results Canadians expect. RBC touches on the mandates of many federal departments. To this end, I ask that you engage regularly with and consult with officials in Global Affairs Canada and other relevant government departments as required in carrying out your work so that we may foster a cohesive and collaborative approach to RBC.

Communicating effectively

Communicating effectively with stakeholders is a vital element of your work. Further, all communication from your office must reflect Treasury Board Guidelines under Canada's Official Languages Act. All federal offices, including arm's length entities, must at all times reflect and respect Canada's Official Languages Act, which sets out the right of Canadians to communicate with and receive services from federal institutions in the official language of their choice, whether it be French or English.

As my special advisor, I would like you to provide me with regular advice and updates on matters related to your important mandate. In this regard, I would like to arrange bi-monthly meetings between my office and yours, in addition to your monthly meetings with Canada's Chief Trade Commissioner and regular meetings with the Deputy Minister of International Trade. These meetings are an opportunity for us to work together to advance Canada's interests with respect to RBC. 


With your arm's length office now fully operational and resourced per budget of $4.3 million per annum, as Canadian businesses chart a course towards recovery and renewed growth, I know that the CORE will prove to be a valued resource for civil society and for Canadian companies as they look to achieve greater prosperity through trade that is responsible, competitive and sustainable. This Statement of Priorities and Accountabilities letter will provide transparency on the work the CORE is engaged in to stakeholders and civil society, in order to fulfill its mandate.

By maximizing collaboration with partners, pursuing a clear work plan, and adhering to a robust reporting framework, I am confident that the CORE will also play a decisive role in advancing human rights on the global stage, and help more companies translate RBC practices into a competitive advantage, while also contributing to a more sustainable and inclusive post-pandemic global economy.

I look forward to working with you in the coming years to advance Canada's RBC leadership, and to promote the many benefits that strong RBC practices can provide to Canadian companies operating abroad.


The Honourable Mary Ng, P.C., M.P.

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