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Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade appearance before the Subcommittee on International Human Rights (SDIR) on Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) – Briefing material


Table of contents

Scenario Note (including Motion)

Appearance before the House Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development (SDIR) On the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) March 23, 2021

Meeting scenario

Committee membership & interests

Committee study of CORE

Other committee work

Committee Member Biographies

Peter fonseca, Chair (LPC—Mississauga East – Cooksville, ON)

GAC-Related Key Interests

Parliamentary roles

Fonseca was a member of the Canadian Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CCOM) from December 2018 to March 2019. He was also a member of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association (CANA) from September 2018 to March 2019, and the Canada-China Legislative Association (CACN) from December 2016 to March 2017.

Notable committee memberships  


MP Fonseca was first elected to the House of Commons in 2015. Prior to entering federal politics, Fonseca was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and served in Premier Dalton McGuinty’s cabinet. MP Fonseca was born in Lisbon, Portugal and immigrated to Toronto with his family in 1968. He graduated from St. Michael's College School and attended the University of Oregon, gaining a Bachelor of Arts on an athletic scholarship. He also holds a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Windsor. He worked as a senior performance management consultant for the Coach Corporation and ran an importing and distributing company in Portugal.

Issue specific background

MP Fonseca chaired SDIR meeting on February 23, 2021 and did not ask the witnesses any questions. He led the SDIR press conference on November 12, 2020, on the topic of Uyghur Muslims, during which the Subcommittee condemned the persecution of Uyghur Muslims by the Government of China and recognized that the CCP’s actions constitute genocide. During Ambassador Rae’s appearance before FAAE on November 19th, 2020, MP Fonseca focused questioning on the conditions facing refugees in camps in Myanmar and Bangladesh and asked how COVID-19 was being addressed, given these adverse conditions.

Kenny Chiu (1st Vice Chair) (CPC—Steveston-Richmond East, ON)

Key interests

Parliamentary Roles 

MP Chiu is a member of the Canada-China Legislative Association (CACN), and the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group (CAIL).

Notable committee membership 


MP Chiu was elected to the House of Commons in September 2019. He emigrated to Canada from Hong Kong in 1982. MP Chiu is a Software Engineer by training and studied computer science at the University of Saskatchewan. He served as a school trustee in Richmond, BC from 2011 to 2014.

Issue specific statements

At SDIR on February 23, 2021, MP Chiu asked Ms. Meyerhoffer if she believed CORE’s mandate should be expanded. He also pointed out that many federal departments are overburdened and asked how CORE would work to ensure timeliness of their reports given that they may need information from these departments. MP Chiu was interested in how CORE plans to maintain communication with stakeholders in order to make sure that international human rights are respected. He also asked what CORE was doing to proactively stop potential foreign government interference.

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe (2nd Vice-Chair) (BQ—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC) 

Key interests

Parliamentary Roles 

MP Brunelle-Duceppe is currently serving on 18 Parliamentary Associations and Interparliamentary Groups such as the Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association (CAAF), the Canada-China Legislative Association (CACN), the Canada-Germany Interparliamentary Group (CADE), and the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association (CAEU). He is currently the Vice-Chair for the Canadian Branch of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie (CAPF).

Notable committee membership


MP Brunelle-Duceppe was elected to the House of Commons in 2019. MP Brunelle-Duceppe is a former technician, screenwriter and director in the film industry and former factory employee. He has been involved with politics since working on the political campaigns of his father, former party leader Gilles Duceppe, as a teenager.  

Issue specific statements

At SDIR on February 23, 2021, MP Brunelle-Duceppe stated that investigative power was essential for CORE and asked how outcomes would change if CORE truly had this power. He also asked about CORE’s online portal for human rights abuses as he was concerned that reports would be made but that CORE would not be able to make significant progress without the ability to undertake a proper investigation.

Iqra Khalid  (LPC—Mississauga – Erin Mills, ON) 

GAC-Related Key Interests

Parliamentary roles

MP Iqra Khalid has been a member of numerous Parliamentary Associations and Interparliamentary Groups since becoming an MP in 2015. Some of these include the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association (CANA), the Canadian Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CCOM) and the Canadian Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (UIPU).

Notable committee memberships


MP Khalid was first elected in 2015 and re-elected in 2019. A first-generation Canadian, MP Khalid was born in Pakistan and immigrated to Canada from England in 1998. She received a bachelor’s degree in Criminology and Professional Writing from York University, and earned a law degree from the University of Michigan. Prior to becoming a federal MP, she worked at an immigration firm and as an articling clerk for the city of Mississauga.

Issue specific background

At SDIR on February 23, 2021, MP Khalid asked about the potential challenges that the Government of Canada would face if it tried to implement what the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA) was advocating for. She was concerned about labour laws in other countries and the implications that would result from CORE having the ability to compel documents and witnesses. MP Khalid asked if there was an international framework and if other countries had established Ombudspersons’ offices with the powers that CNCA wanted CORE to have.

Heather McPherson  (NDP—Edmonton Strathcona, AB)

Key interests  

Parliamentary roles 

In the 43rd Parliament, MP McPherson was appointed as the NDP Deputy House Leader, Critic for International Development, Deputy Critic for Foreign Affairs. McPherson is also a member of numerous Parliamentary Associations and Interparliamentary Groups such as the Canadian Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CCOM), and the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group (CAIL). She is Vice-Chair of the Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association (CAAF).

Notable committee memberships 


MP McPherson was first elected to the House of Commons in 2019. Prior to entering federal politics, MP McPherson was a member of the Canadian delegation to the United Nations and the former Executive Director of the Alberta Council on Global Co-operation. MP McPherson has a Master of Education from the University of Alberta and has taught internationally.

Issues specific statements

MP McPherson has been critical of the government’s steps towards creating an independent ombudsperson. At SDIR on February 23, 2021, MP McPherson expressed concern about CORE’s limited accomplishments to date, how victims of Canadian mining companies would find out about the online portal, and that CORE was not fundamentally different than what previous governments had promised. She stated that she tabled a petition because “people within the sector and across the country were enraged” by CORE’s inability to compel testimony.

She spoke about the limited powers of the ombudsperson in the House of Commons on February 19, 2020. She stated, “The Liberal government promised an independent ombudsperson with real powers to investigate abuses and redress harms caused by companies that fly the Canadian flag. Instead the powers of the ombudsman were watered down and the promises made by the government have not been kept”. She also stated, “We need an ombudsperson who has teeth. Canadians need to see action when it comes to this. To say that our businesses are accountable, that they are operating lawfully and responsibly is false. They are not. This is a lie.” During Question Period on February 4, 2020, she asked, “When will the Liberals keep their promise to Canadians, to indigenous peoples, to human rights defenders and to communities around the world and give the ombudsman the power to do the job?”.

Scott Reid   (CPC—Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston, ON)

Key interests  

Parliamentary Roles 

Reid served as Deputy House Leader of the Official Opposition from November 2015 to September 2016. Prior to that, he was Deputy House Leader of the Government from May 2011 to August 2015, November 2008 to March 2011 and from March 2006 to September 2008. Reid also served as the Critic for Democratic Institutions from 2015 to 2018.

Notable committee membership 


Prior to his election to the House of Commons in 2000, MP Reid taught History at the University of Western Sydney in Australia. He also worked as a Chief Constitutional Advisor to Preston Manning. MP Reid is the author of two books: “Lament for a Notion” and “Canada Remapped”, as well as numerous articles. MP Reid, who describes himself as more of a Libertarian than a Conservative, has appeared before parliamentary committees, at both the provincial and federal levels, on issues relating to national unity and democracy. He is a member of the Board of Directors of Giant Tiger Stores Ltd.

Issue specific statements

At SDIR on February 23, 2021, MP Reid has questions about CORE’s specific value added. He wanted to know what kind of advice Ms. Meyerhoffer would provide to Canadian companies abroad that wanted to remain compliant. He asked how this advice would be different since CORE could not establish any new rules. He then asked Ms. Dwyer about why she was recommending that stakeholders exercise cautious when contacting CORE in order to file complaints. MP Reid asked if information shared with CORE was confidential and about specific measures that could be put in place to ensure that individuals contacting CORE would remain safe.

Anita Vandenbeld (LPC—Ottawa West-Nepean, ON)

Key interests

Parliamentary Roles 

MP Anita Vandenbald is currently the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence. She has previously been a member of numerous Parliamentary Associations and Interparliamentary Groups since becoming an MP in 2015 such as the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association (CANA), the Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association (CAAF), and the Canadian Section of ParlAmericas (CPAM).

Notable committee membership


MP Vandenbeld obtained her undergraduate degree from the University of Calgary before completing her Master of Arts in History at York University. She has worked in over 20 countries on inclusive governance and women’s leadership, including with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Democratic Governance Group in New York, managing a multi-partner international network that aimed to promote women's political participation. MP Vandenbeld served as a Senior Advisor with the UNDP in Bangladesh, and with the OSCE Mission in Kosovo. In 2008, she was awarded the Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal in recognition of her work in Kosovo.

MP Vandenbeld served as Resident Director for the National Democratic Institute in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), worked with the OSCE in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and worked with the Canadian Parliamentary Centre on post-conflict democratic development in the Balkans. She also conducted a study on women’s leadership for UNDP in Vietnam and trainings on women’s leadership in Haiti.

Issue specific background

At CORE’s appearance at SDIR on February 23, 2021, MP Vandenbeld drew upon her experience in the DRC ten years ago when she was working with women to draft a statement on sexual violence. She stated that the women she worked with pointed to the mining sector and she wanted to know exactly how CORE’s online portal would be different than what was available in 2011. MP Vandenbeld also wanted to know how CORE planned to help Canadian companies identify warning signs in order to prevent human rights abuses abroad.

Jennifer O’Connell (LPC—Pickering-Uxbridge, ON) 

Key Interests

Parliamentary roles  

MP O’Connell currently serves as a member of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. She was the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance (Youth Economic Opportunity) from August 2018-September 2019. She has previously been a member of numerous Parliamentary Associations and Interparliamentary Groups including the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association, the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group, the Canadian Delegation to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly, and the Canada-Ireland Interparliamentary Group.

Notable committee memberships   


MP O’Connell was first elected to the House of Commons in 2015 and then again in 2019. MP O’Connell graduated from the University of Toronto with an Honours Bachelor Degree specializing in Political Science. She then worked at a law firm specializing in labour law, and became involved in politics while volunteering with community organizations. Prior to becoming a federal MP, MP O’Connell was a City Councillor, Regional Councillor, and Deputy Mayor in Pickering.

Issue specific background  

At SDIR on February 23, 2021, MP O’Connell asked if CORE had established a specific set of criteria which would be used to determine which complaints to investigate. She asked if CORE would be using the “name and shame” mechanism or if there was an alternative approach. She also asked if Ms. Meyerhoffer would be open to the possibility of expanding CORE’s mandate in the future. MP O’Connell stated that the US had faced challenges when trying to compel outside the court system and asked if Ms. Dwyer could point to specific examples around the world where other countries were able to compel information.

Committee Meeting of February 23, 2021 on CORE

Summary of Committee Business - Subcommittee on International Human Rights (SDIR)

Date: February 23, 2021
Time: 6:30pm-8:30pm

Report Prepared By

Tazmin Mitha, Parliamentary Affairs Analyst
T: 343-571-9028

Topic of Meeting

Role of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise

Members in Attendance



In the first hour, the Subcommittee heard from Ombudsperson Sheri Meyerhoffer who spoke about the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise’s (CORE) work to date and the tools available to her office. Ms. Meyerhoffer emphasized CORE’s ability to make public reports, undertake reviews, conduct investigations, and make recommendations to the Minister of International Trade. She explained that her office is concluding its start-up phase which included consulting over 200 stakeholders. Ms. Meyerhoffer spoke about the upcoming launch of CORE’s online complaints portal where grievances can be lodged anonymously from around the world. She concluded by stating that although CORE may require additional resources down the road, she is eager to begin her investigative work and confident her office will be able to help Canada’s efforts to protect human rights abroad.

MP O’Connell (LPC) asked if CORE had established a specific set of criteria which would be used to determine which complaints to investigate. She also asked if CORE would be using the “name and shame” mechanism or if there was an alternative approach. MP Vandenbeld (LPC) asked how CORE’s online portal would be different than what was available in 2011 and how CORE would help Canadian companies recognize warning signs to ensure that they were not violating human rights. MP Gill (BQ) asked for examples of cases that CORE had worked on since its establishment. Without having completed an investigation to date, MP Gill questioned Ms. Meyerhoffer’s confidence regarding CORE having enough resources. MP Gill also asked for CORE’s exact budget and how many people are employed by the office. MP Chiu (CPC) asked if CORE’s mandate should be expanded to give the office more power, how CORE plans to communicate with stakeholders, and what the office is doing to prevent interference from foreign governments. MP Reid (CPC) asked about CORE’s value added when providing advice to Canadian companies who wish to remain compliant. MP McPherson’s (NDP) asked a number of pointed questions including why CORE had not expanded its mandate or conducted any investigations to date. She also asked how victims of Canadian mining companies would learn about the online portal. MP McPherson asked how CORE would obtain information from companies without the ability to compel witnesses or testimony and highlighted that this was a major problem.

The Subcommittee then heard from Emily Dwyer, Coordinator of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA). Ms. Dwyer explained that the CNCA brought together 39 organizations and the voices of millions of Canadians calling for action and the creation of CORE. Ms. Dwyer went on to express serious concerns regarding the office that has been created and outlined a number of problems regarding its limited powers. She stated that Canada has relied on voluntary mechanisms in the past and that these mechanisms have not been effective or gone far enough. She highlighted that without the ability to compel witnesses and documents, CORE is not equipped to effectively help victims of Canadian companies abroad. She ended her remarks by urging the government to honour its previous commitments and obligations to international human rights.

MP Khalid (LPC) asked about the challenges that the government would face in providing the comprehensive measures CNCA was advocating for. She asked if there was an international framework or another country that currently had a such a wide-ranging mandate. MP Reid (CPC) asked if CNCA could share their draft legislation. He also asked why CNCA was telling stakeholders to be cautious when contacting CORE and reporting human rights abuses. He asked if information provided to CORE would remain confidential and about the measures that have been put in place to ensure that victims feel confident and safe when filing reports. MP Chiu (CPC) asked if full CORE’s investigative powers would cause issues with the host country. MP Brunelle-Duceppe (BQ) underscored the importance of investigative powers and asked how things would change if CORE had more power. MP McPherson (NDP) was critical of CORE’s accomplishments to date and asked if it was reasonable that the office has only undertaken consultations since its creation. She asked why this process has taken years if CORE cannot compel witnesses or testimony. MP McPherson asked what could be achieved if CORE had the expanded role and powers that were promised by the government in 2018.

Follow-up Items


Official Transcript

Past Questions from Committee Members

Questions asked at SDIR on CORE – February 23, 2021

Meeting Evidence can be found here.

SDIR members asked Ms. Sherri Meyerhoffer, Ombudsperson, the questions below when she appeared to speak about CORE’s mandate and progress on February 23, 2021. The questions have been grouped by theme. Pages 4-6 include questions that members asked Ms. Emily Dwyer, the Coordinator of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA).

Expansion of CORE’s Mandate

O’Connell (LPC): Will there be opportunities to review your mandate in terms of additional industries as your role grows, as the organization grows, and the need?

MP Kenny Chiu (CPC): Do you believe the CORE mandate should be expanded to include sectors beyond the three that are listed? Do you think we should expand them? What is your view?

MP McPherson (NDP): In terms of human rights due diligence legislation, have you considered how you could make that mandatory as part of your mandate, and how you could, in fact, have that in place, so that you could be holding companies accountable before they undertake human rights abuses and environmental degradation?

Power to Compel

MP McPherson (NDP): You do not have the ability to compel testimony. What is the plan for when you investigate a company and it is not co-operative or interested in sharing its testimony or evidence with you? What will your next step be in that case?

MP McPherson (NDP): I tabled a petition, because people within the sector and people across the country were understandably outraged when the position of the CORE ombudsperson was announced. You did not have the ability to compel testimony, and you did not have independence. Do you feel that you could do your job better if you had the ability to compel testimony, and if you were actually a truly independent office?

MP McPherson (NDP): If they (companies) won't share their information, how do you do that?

CORE Accomplishments

MP Gill (BQ): Given that the office has been in operation since 2019, do you have any examples of cases you handle?

MP McPherson (NDP): I have a few questions for you in terms of what you've been able to accomplish since the CORE was announced in 2018. You were put in place in 2019. In 2019, my understanding was that you would be given the ability to expand your mandate within one year. What happened? Why was that not possible for you to do?

MP McPherson (NDP): So two years in, we now have a situation where you haven’t been able to undertake any investigations to date and you have not been able to expand your mandate. Is that correct?

O’Connell (LPC): Do you have some sort of annual reporting for the investigations or the procedures that you've done, let's say in the course of a year?

Determining Which Complaints to Investigate

MP O’Connell (LPC): What have you designed in terms of how you will determine what complaints to investigate? What are the key points that need to be hit to actually begin that investigation?

MP Kenny Chiu (CPC): I am interested in the amount of investigative work you could be getting, because it's a new office, and in the coming weeks you'll be commissioning the online portal, making it very accessible for people around the world any time, anywhere. Your vetting procedure and protocol must be quite stringent, because otherwise there would be so much work coming to CORE from around the world that it could be quite overwhelming sometimes.

CORE Budget, Staff, Funding

MP Gill (BQ): You said from the outset you feel that you have all the tools required to do your job properly, but I hope that would be re-evaluated based on the concrete work you will do in relation to the complaints you will receive. It is difficult to say right now that you really have all the tools you need, since the work is something new and since it cannot be evaluated right now.

MP Gill (BQ): What budgets and staff are at your disposal to carry out that work? How many people work at CORE right now? What kind of human resources do you have?

Canadian Jurisdiction

O’Connell (LPC): How will you determine a Canadian company in the sense of this globalized world? Is there some thought that has been given, or consultations that were given, to look into that to make sure there aren't loopholes?

MP Chiu (CPC): Are we just implementing Canadian standards in foreign locations?

CORE Tools & Mechanisms

O’Connell (LPC): One of the mechanisms is naming and shaming. Is there a process whereby you don't always name and shame?

MP Reid (CPC): You say “provide advice” and you've referred to this by the term “know and show”. What kind of advice do you provide? How would this be useful either to those who are afraid of having their rights abused or, presumably, to companies that are anxious to remain compliant with both international rules and with the rules that you set out? What value added are you providing in that regard?

Bureaucratic Delays

MP Kenny Chiu (CPC): Many federal government agencies are burdened with a workload that causes significant delays in fulfilling their CORE obligation. How will CORE work to establish and maintain a timeline for action on cases and ensure accountability for deadlines?

Stakeholder Communication

MP Chiu (CPC): How do you plan to maintain a constant communication with stakeholders in the industry to make sure that we constantly raise the bar on international human rights but at the same time do so realistically so that we are not disadvantaging Canadian companies?

MP Chiu (CPC): How do we make sure that this is communicated and also that your procedure and protocols are constantly updated and communicated?

Foreign Government Interference

MP Chiu (CPC): What is CORE doing or going to be doing to pre-emptively dissuade perceived foreign government interference in case acceptance, reports and recommendations?

Gender & Diversity

MP Chiu (CPC): The other area is how you envision CORE's announced gender and diversity strategy being implemented. What real impact would it have on the actions of CORE?

Minister Carr’s External Legal Review

MP Gill (BQ): In 2019, Minister Carr commissioned an external legal review to determine the best way to provide the ombudsman with sufficient tools to carry out credible and effective investigations on presumed human rights violations. The report concluded that, without enforcement powers, CORE would not be as effective as it should be. What do you think about that report's findings?

Online Complaints Portal

MP McPherson (NDP): You said that the online portal is ready to be launched. Will that be launched in the next couple of days, next week, next month? How long until we see that become live?

MP McPherson (NDP): One of my concerns is this: Having a portal is one thing, but how exactly are populations around the world learning about the portal where they can share this information?

MP McPherson (NDP): I just asked how people around the world who are victims of violence from Canadian mining companies would actually tell you about that. How do they know about the online portal that has not been launched but will soon, within weeks, be launched? What are those various channels?

Differences between CORE and the NSP and/or CSR

MP McPherson (NDP): Can you explain to me how this is different from what we've had in previous governments? We had a corporate social responsibility counsellor. We have the NCP. How is this different? What can you do that previous governments couldn't do?

MP Vandenbeld (LPC): How do you anticipate that what you're doing is going to be different from what would have been available back in 2011? This is in terms of when abuses are occurring by Canadian companies directly, and also in terms of helping Canadian companies see the warning signs and be able to do the prevention needed to make sure that their activities don't result in indirect human rights abuses.

Questions that Ms. Dwyer was asked during her appearance

CORE Powers

MP Reid (CPC): You talked earlier about independent investigatory powers. Is that, in your mind, simply a synonym for power to compel testimony and the production of documents, or does it have some additional meaning?

MP Brunelle-Duceppe (BQ): You are talking about the ombudsman's power to investigate. That power is essential, but how will it change things in the context of the many ongoing violations? What would change if we really had that power?

MP Brunelle-Duceppe (BQ): Ms. Meyerhoffer already said that it would be useful to have enforcement powers, but that the office can still have an impact without them. She mentioned the power to recommend that government support be withdrawn. Do you think that power is sufficient?

MP McPherson (NDP): Ultimately, in your opinion, the lobby of the mining companies got into the government and lobbied successfully against any restrictions on their ability to do whatever they want around the world without clear oversight in place. I'd love to hear your answer on what you think she's able to accomplish in terms of her investigative powers.

MP McPherson (NDP): Can you talk a bit about what you would like to see with regard to this ombudsperson position? We talked with the ombudsperson earlier today about human rights due diligence legislation. We talked about what we'd like to see this ombudsperson have, the ability to compel. What could be accomplished? What could we achieve if we had the expanded role for this position, if it had the ability to do what it could?

MP McPherson (NDP): Why didn't we get the ombudsperson we were promised? Why isn't the government living up to the promise they made to Canadians in 2015 and again in 2018? What happened?

MP Chiu (CPC): I'm interested to see what the ideal situation would be, given that, unlike other ombudspersons' offices, the CORE would require.... If we are to have full investigative power, we would have jurisdictional conflict with the host countries. For example, we would be required to have the ability to compel documents and witnesses, etc.

MP Brunelle-Duceppe (BQ): Is this not a glaring problem? It all often starts with a denunciation. If people are unable to denounce abuse, it will be difficult to conduct an investigation or to examine certain cases in depth. Don't you think that's one of the problems?

Online Complaints Portal

MP Brunelle-Duceppe (BQ): Ms. Meyerhoffer talked earlier about a portal where human rights abuses would be denounced. However, she was unable to tell us with much conviction about the ability of the Office of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise to give it a broad scope. I don't think it is enough to have a website in Spanish. Could you give us your opinion on how people should be able to report such abuses to the office?

CORE Budget/Funding

MP Brunelle-Duceppe (BQ): Ms. Meyerhoffer said that she had fewer than 10 people working for her, and she did not specify what her budget is. Am I right to be lacking reassurance in that respect? According to some quick research I did, there are 200 Canadian mining companies in Mexico alone. How do you think we can believe that we have sufficient resources?

CORE Accomplishments

MP McPherson (NDP): Almost three years have gone by, and there have been zero investigations. The ombudsperson spoke to us earlier today about how there was a deep need to consult. Do you think that is a reasonable timeline, considering the urgency of some of the human rights abuses that we've seen by Canadian mining companies abroad?

Cautioning Canadian Stakeholders

MP Reid (CPC): You said you caution stakeholders to be careful regarding approaching the ombudsperson, and it sounds to me like you think it's actually in some cases—I assume, for people who are outside of Canada—unsafe to do so. Could you expand on that?

MP Reid (CPC): Is there a security issue? Presumably the ombudsperson would not be turning this information over and would have a duty to anonymize the information. Is it the case that inadequate protections exist at this point for someone who has come forward?

MP Reid (CPC): What are the appropriate remedies to make sure that one can safely and confidently approach the ombudsperson's office?

Existing Labour Laws

MP Reid (CPC): What about some of the remedies that exist through our securities rules? For a publicly traded Canadian company, a company that trades on the Canadian stock exchange, to issue new shares or float a bond issue, if it is working overseas in the mining sector, it has to meet certain performance standards. These are enforced by Canadian professionals who have professional standards to live up to, and if they don't report accurately, they'll lose their professional accreditations, so they have a very strong interest in doing that. If those reports aren't filed with the securities commissions, then it's impossible to refinance that company, giving a very strong incentive to comply with the rules. Does this model, in your opinion, have any merit, and could it be expanded to cover some of the other areas you're describing, such as indigenous land claim issues?

Challenges for the Government of Canada

MP Khalid (LPC): In your opinion, what are some of the challenges that the Government of Canada faces in fulfilling or providing specifically what you're asking for in terms of the mandate for an organization like CORE?

MP Khalid (LPC): Is there a balance issue between industry and indigenous issues within the frameworks of other countries? Is the issue labour laws within other countries or disputes with labour? What kinds of specific challenges, in your opinion, would a government like the Government of Canada have in establishing that framework with teeth, as you put it?

International Implications & Examples

MP Khalid (LPC): Is there an international framework or a framework that exists within another country, similar to Canada perhaps, that has a similar kind of office set up for corporate accountability?

MP O’Connell (LPC): The U.S. has been challenged and has not been able to implement the ability to compel outside of the court system, and even that is in challenge. Can you point to anywhere around the world...that has been able to compel this information, especially outside a judicial setting?

MP Khalid (LPC): Can you cite or give some examples of other organizations that possess the enforcement powers that you're looking for in CORE?

MP Chiu (CPC): To have a full investigation to see all sides of the picture, you would require access. Therefore, you would need the power to compel documents and also witnesses from perhaps overseas in the host country. Is that correct?

CNCA Draft Legislation

MP Reid (CPC): You mentioned that your organization had done draft legislation and had some position papers. That allows us to treat them as having been entered into testimony.

Key messages

Overarching messages

Core Mandate


Many civil society groups have been critical of the CORE’s limited mandate and continue to press for the CORE to be given the power to compel documents and witnesses. 

CORE Authorities & Powers to Compel Witnesses 

Supplementary messages 


In creating the CORE, a full range of dispute settlement options were considered, including a voluntary mechanism, standalone legislation and appointing the CORE as a commissioner under the Inquiries Act.  Non-judicial mechanisms, like those of the NCP and CORE, are generally considered to be more accessible, faster and cost-effective than other avenues. [REDACTED].  Bringing a complaint to one of these dispute resolution bodies does not preclude a party from pursuing a complaint in other fora. Moreover, Canada expects that Canadian companies will participate in good faith, and Canadian companies have indicated that they will cooperate with the CORE.  If a Canadian company has not acted in good faith during the course of, or follow-up to, the review process, recommendations can be made to implement trade measures, such as the withdrawal of trade advocacy support and recommending to Export Development Canada that they decline to provide future financial support to the company.

Several legal risks were identified with the appointment of the CORE as a commissioner of inquiry, including that the CORE cannot be both a commissioner of inquiry and a special advisor to the Minister; that complaints between third parties may not appropriately fall within the scope of a public inquiry under the Inquiries Act; and jurisdictional issues related to a federal ombudsperson investigating companies that are incorporated and regulated provincially. Justice Canada has confirmed further that the CORE, as a special advisor, cannot be vested with coercive powers.  


Your predecessor, Minister Carr, commissioned an external legal opinion on this issue from Barbara MacIsaac. The advice received, which was consistent with advice previously provided by Justice Canada, was that legislation would be necessary to provide coercive powers. MacIsaac did not offer policy advice regarding the desirability or necessity of such powers for the CORE.   

On September 10, 2019, Minister Carr wrote to key industry and civil society stakeholders stating that he considered that a stand-alone legal framework, including powers to compel documents and witnesses, was required for an effective CORE office.

CORE budget and human resources



CORE Operationality & accomplishments to date 


The CORE has advised that the office opened on March 15 and can now receive cases. [This may need to be updated before the 23rd if CORE launch date changes]

CORE Reporting to Parliament Obligations


The Order in Council (OIC) outlines that (1) The Ombudsperson is to submit an annual report to the Minister on their activities, (2) The Minister is to table a copy of the annual report in each House of Parliament, (3) The Ombudsperson is to publish the annual report after it is tabled in Parliament.   

Differences between the CORE & the CSR Counsellor

Overview of Responsible Business Conduct

Supplementary messages 


Concepts and the language around Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) are constantly evolving. The Department previously focused on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which is defined as voluntary activities undertaken by a company, over and above legal requirements, to operate in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable manner. RBC is about the way a company does business. 

It is about integrating the management of risks to the environment, people and society within the core of business activities. It is defined specifically by the OECD as “the positive contributions that multinational enterprises can make to economic, environmental and social progress and to minimize the difficulties to which their operations may give rise.”

Balanced approach: Prevention & remedy

Supplementary messages


Canada has a balanced approach to RBC, which includes both prevention and access to remedy. 

Prevention is about supporting businesses in taking proactive steps to mitigate RBC risks or impacts.  The Department works with the Canadian business community, civil society organizations, foreign governments and communities, as well as other stakeholders, to foster and promote responsible business practices, and thus support sustainable economic growth and shared values. Canada’s approach offers support to companies through the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS), as well as through early intervention and dialogue facilitation.   

Access to remedy means ensuring that victims of business-related human rights abuses have reasonable access to mechanisms to address grievances. Canada has two voluntary non-judicial dispute resolution mechanisms. Canada’s National Contact Point (NCP) for Responsible Business Conduct, was established in the year 2000 as part of our commitment to the OECD Guidelines and applies to all sectors and a range of activities on due diligence, labour, human rights, environment and corruption. Building on Canada’s long and extensive engagement on RBC, in 2018 the government announced the creation of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) to put focus on human rights in the extractive, oil and gas and textile industries.

NCP & CORE complementarity

Supplementary messaging 


Canada’s National Contact Point (NCP) was created in 2000 and is Canada’s first conflict resolution mechanism. The NCP is mandated to promote the OECD Guidelines on RBC, facilitate dialogue or mediation for all sectors and for a wide range of issues, review complaints, make recommendations and provide follow up on the implementation of those recommendations, reporting publicly at the conclusion of a review. 

The CORE was created in 2019 to strengthen Canada’s approach to Responsible Business Conduct. The CORE’s mandate is outlined in an Order-in-Council and its role 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 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; and provide advice to the Minister. The CORE’s mandate differs from that of the NCP in that the CORE has the unique ability to initiate a review, undertake joint or independent fact finding and report at any time during the course of a review. Both mechanisms are complementary and will cooperate to ensure they offer the appropriate solution to stakeholders.

Integrity Declaration

Supplementary messages 

Renewal of the Responsible Business Conduct Abroad Strategy


Consultations took place over the past year to seek views from a diverse range of stakeholders and inform the update of Canada’s 2014 Responsible Business Conduct Strategy. The Strategy renewal is an opportunity to reinforce Canada’s global leadership as it relates to RBC. The launch of the new Strategy is expected in 2021.

Mandate, Membership & Status of Resignations


The MSAB is comprised of 14-members with representation from industry and civil society.  It was established in 2018 to advise the Government of Canada on the effective implementation and further development of its laws, policies and practices with respect to RBC abroad in all sectors. 

In July 2019, all seven civil society groups (including the Canadian Network of Corporate Accountability (CNCA), Amnesty International, the United Steelworkers and the Association Québécoise des organismes de cooperation internationale) resigned from the MSAB citing disappointment with the CORE’s mandate given it does not include powers to compel witnesses and documents. Options on the future direction of the MSAB are being considered.

Amendments to the Customs Tariff: Prohibiting the Imports of Goods Made with Forced Labour

Supplementary messages


Supply Chain Legislation: The Government response to the 19th Report of the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development (SDIR) entitled, A Call to Action: Ending the Use of all Forms of Child Labour in Supply Chains, was tabled in Parliament in February 2019 and outlined federal government action to eliminate child labour and forced labour through international assistance, trade negotiations, promotion of responsible business practices, and procurement policies.  In the spring of 2019, the Government of Canada, led by the Labour Program of Employment and Social Development Canada, with the support of an interdepartmental working group on global supply chains, conducted public consultations with a range of stakeholders on possible measures to address labour exploitation in supply chains. Various international models of supply chain legislation were discussed with stakeholders to consider lessons learned, best practices, and whether or not elements of these models could be appropriate for the Canadian context. [REDACTED]. 

Senate Bill S-216, An Act to enact the Modern Slavery Act and to amend the Customs Tariff was tabled on October 29, 2020 by Senator Miville Dechêne (Independent Senators Group). A former Bill (S-211 under the same title) was first tabled on February 5, 2020 and has two main components. First, it aims to impose an obligation on certain entities to report on the measures taken to prevent and reduce the risk that forced labour or child labour is used at any step in the production of goods in Canada or elsewhere by the entity or in the production of goods imported into Canada. The Bill also provides for an inspection regime and gives the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness the power to require an entity to provide certain information and take corrective measures. This is often referred to as supply chain transparency or due diligence legislation, or in some other countries as modern slavery legislation. Second, the Bill amends the Customs Tariff to allow for a prohibition on the importation of goods mined, manufactured or produced, in whole or in part, by forced labour or child labour as those terms are defined in the Modern Slavery Act. Global Affairs Canada is working with ESDC`s Labour Program and Public Safety to monitor the Bill as it progresses through the Parliamentary process.

Amendments to the Customs Tariff, which took effect on July 1, 2020, prohibit the import into Canada of goods mined, manufactured or produced wholly or in part by forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory child labour. This prohibition applies to imports from all foreign sources and will be enforced at the border by border services officers. Importers are ultimately responsible for ensuring compliance with the prohibition and are encouraged to work with their foreign suppliers to ensure that any goods being imported into Canada have not been mined, manufactured or produced wholly or in part by forced or compulsory labour.

Xinjiang China – Trade Related Measures

Supplementary messages


On January 12, 2021, in coordination with international partners, Canada announced trade-related measures in response to concerns of human rights violations in the People’s Republic of China involving members of the Uyghur ethnic minority and other minorities within the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang).

Global Affairs Canada has put in place a specialized Integrity Declaration for the Xinjiang region. Beyond receiving a briefing of the risks of doing business in this market, Trade Commissioner clients that are sourcing directly or indirectly from Xinjiang or from entities relying on Uyghur labour; established in Xinjiang; or seeking to engage in the Xinjiang market, are required to sign the Xinjiang Integrity Declaration in order to receive Trade Commissioner services.

The declaration acknowledges that the company is aware of Canadian law with respect to the prohibition of forced labour, recognizes the Government of Canada’s expectations with respect to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and is aware of the human rights situation in Xinjiang. Companies are required to affirm that they are not knowingly sourcing products or services from a supplier implicated in forced labour or other human rights violations and commit to conducting due diligence on their suppliers in China to ensure there are no such linkages.

History of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Counsellor

The concept of an independent Ombudsperson for Responsible Business Conduct was enunciated in the recommendations of the 2007 Advisory Group Report on the National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries.

The Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor was established in 2009 as one of the 4 pillars of the Government of Canada’s CSR strategy announced in March, 2009 (the other pillars included capacity building, promoting CSR guidelines and the creation of a centre for excellence). The initial mandate of the Counsellor was defined by an Order in Council and consisted of reviewing the Corporate Social Responsibility practices of Canadian extractive sector companies operating outside Canada and; advising stakeholders on the implementation of the International Finance Corporation Performance Standards, the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, the Global Reporting Initiative and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. 

To reflect the new CSR strategy, in 2014 the mandate shifted its focus from reaction to prevention, and included the endorsement of two additional international standards, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas. It also recognized the value of industry-wide initiatives promoting good practice, namely Towards Sustainable Mining (Mining Association of Canada) and E3 Plus (Prospector and Developers Association).

Marketa Evans held the position until she resigned in October 2013. In March 2015, Jeffrey Davidson was appointed as Counsellor and occupied the position until May 2018, at the end of his three-year mandate. Both CSR Counsellors undertook outreach and presented at events to promote Responsible Business Conduct. Ms. Evans handled several cases while Mr. Davidson implemented a “country and company screening system” to take a preventive approach to Responsible Business Conduct. 

In September and October of 2017, the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development undertook a study of human rights surrounding natural resource extraction in Latin America. After the conclusion of testimony, in 2018, the Government of Canada announced the creation of the Office of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE). 

Announcement and Press Releases regarding the Creation of CORE

CORE Appointment OIC

Revised OIC

Letter from Minister Carr to Stakeholders

SEP 10 2019

Ms. Emily Dwyer Coordinator
Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability , CNCA;

Dear Ms. Dwyer:

Thank you for your correspondence and for sharing your views on the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise. I regret the delay in replying to you.

The Government of Canada expects Canadian companies operating abroad to respect human rights and all applicable laws , to operate transparently and in consultation with host governments and local comm unities , and to work in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.

Canadian companies abroad benefit from Canada' s strong and competitive international reputation. They are expected to incorporate responsible business conduct (RBC) into their operations and to be accountable for their activities abroad.

With respect to the establishment of the Ombudsperson, on April 8, 2019, I announced the appointment of Ms. Sheri Meyerhoffer to this role, following an open, transparent, and merit-based selection process. The Ombudsperson is mandated to investigate allegations of human rights abuses arising from the operations of Canadian companies abroad, undertake fact-finding, make recommendations, monitor implementation of those recommendations and report publicly throughout the process. The Ombudsperson will initially focus on the mining , oil and gas, and garment sectors. However, Canada's expectations on RBC continue to apply to companies operating abroad in all sectors.

The government also consulted broadly with stakeholders , and sought external advice on what tools were required to engage in a credible and effective review of alleged human rights abuses. After careful consideration of that advice, I have concluded that the most effective way to ensure the Ombudsperson has the tools they need would be to enact a stand-alone legal framework for the office, including stipulating its powers to compel documents , witnesses, and other key testimony . To this end, I have asked my officials to begin the work required to pursue such a legal framework.

Following consultations with stakeho lders, we have also taken the interim step of strengthening the existing legal mandate of the Ombudsperson. A new and strengthened Order in Council defining the Ombudsperson' s mandate was approved last week, and will be published in the Canada Gazette on September 11, 2019.

I believe that the appointment of the Ombudsperson is a meaningful step forward for Canada. This approach reinforces internationally recognized principles with tools , resources, advice and outreach to stakeholders across Canada and in countries where Canadian companies operate.

Thank you for writing. Sincerely,

The Honourable Jim Carr, P.C., M.P.

Liberal Human Rights Caucus Letter to Minister Ng

Tuesday, August 18, 2020.

RE: Office of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE)

Dear Minister Ng,

In the past weeks, Human Rights Caucus has had the opportunity to hear from yourself, from colleagues, as well as from the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) directly on the status of the Office of the CORE, its current powers, and where it could use additional support to carry out its mandate.

CORE Ombudsperson Sheri Meyerhoffer expressed significant concern that without adequate powers to undertake her role and that of her office, the NGO community and their stakeholders will likely not participate in the process. Members of the Liberal Human Rights Caucus share her concern that without granting appropriate authorities to CORE the office may become ineffective.

Specifically, two key points that were raised during these discussions were: 1) Strengthening the independence of the Office of the CORE is essential to the role of an Ombud, including administrative independence in part through increased funding and human resources; and 2) Adding powers, including powers to compel documents and witnesses, would enhance both the potential of CORE’s impact on the conduct of Canadian companies abroad and Canada’s leadership in protecting human rights as part of responsible business conduct.

Jim Carr, when he held the role of Minister of International Trade, “…concluded that the most effective way to ensure the Ombudsperson has the tools they need would be to enact a stand-alone legal framework for the office, including stipulating its powers to compel documents, witnesses and other key testimony” (2019).

Enclosed is Ms. Meyerhoffer’s excellent presentation to the Human Rights Caucus for your consideration.

Within the fabric of Canada’s human rights work internationally, there exists an opportunity now for Canadian leadership to develop an effective, independent institution to promote and protect responsible business conduct.


Hon. John McKay
Member of Parliament

Sven Spengemann
Member of Parliament

Gary Anandasangaree
Member of Parliament
Scarborough–Rouge Park

Anthony Housefather
Member of Parliament
Mount Royal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith
Member of Parliament
Beaches–East York

Patrick Weiler
Member of Parliament
West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast–Sea to Sky Country

Tony Van Bynen
Member of Parliament

William Amos
Member of Parliament

Iqra Khalid
Member of Parliament
Mississauga–Erin Mills

Marcus Powlowski
Member of Parliament
Thunder Bay–Rainy River

Parliamentary Petition e-2564

On May 4th, 2020, MP Heather McPherson (NDP – Edmonton Strathcona) opened petition e-2564 for signature, and it closed on September 1, 2020 with 6130 signatures.

The petition was presented to the House of Commons on October 19, 2020. The petition called upon the House of Commons for the following items:

Parliamentary Petition e-2820

On September 1, 2020, MP Heather McPherson (NDP – Edmonton Strathcona) opened petition e-2820 for signature, and it closed on December 30, 2020 with 1050 signatures.

The petition was presented to the House of Commons on February 25, 2021. The petition called upon the House of Commons for the following items:

Canada’s Human Rights Policy (e.g. Voices at Risk)

Supplementary messages


The 2019 edition of Voices at Risk: Canada’s Guidelines on Supporting Human Rights Defenders was updated to include specific guidance for human rights defenders belonging to identifiable groups that face discrimination in various contexts, including but not limited to women, LGBTQ2 individuals, Indigenous peoples, land or environmental defenders, persons with disabilities, youth, individuals who defend freedom of religion or belief, journalists, and defenders in online and digital contexts.

The 2019 edition reflects Canada’s feminist foreign policy as well as an understanding that human rights defenders may experience numerous and concurrent forms of discrimination, harassment and marginalization. The Voices at Risk Guidelines reinforce the Government of Canada’s expectation that Canadian companies operating abroad have a responsibility to respect human rights. Canada has also released guidance recognizing the key role that the private sector can play to support human rights defenders: Private Sector Support for Human Rights Defenders: A Primer for Canadian Businesses.   


Human rights defenders (HRDs), including those advocating for rights related to land and the environment, often focus on the activities of multinational corporations, subsidiary companies and contracted organizations in supply chains. Support for these HRDs should be provided as outlined in the Voices at Risk Guidelines, regardless of the nationality of the company in question. Missions are expected to provide support to HRDs even when they allege or appear to have suffered human rights abuses by a Canadian company that receives support from Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service. 

Canadian companies working internationally are expected to respect human rights and to operate lawfully, transparently and in consultation with host governments, Indigenous and local communities, and to conduct their activities in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. Preventive measures are important to ensure a safe environment for HRDs. In instances where Canadian businesses are allegedly or appear to be involved in a case of human rights abuse against HRDs, the mission must refer to Canada’s Enhanced Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Strategy to Strengthen Canada’s Extractive Sector Abroad in addition to providing support and protection to the HRDs in question, as appropriate. Depending on the facts of a given case, there may be an impact on the support that the mission offers to the Canadian company in question, including denying or withdrawing individualized trade advocacy support. In cases involving conflict between an affected community and a Canadian company, its subsidiary, sub-contractors and/or suppliers, one of Canada’s dispute resolution mechanisms could be called upon to review instances and make non-binding recommendations: Canada’s National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises or the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise.


List of Stakeholder Interactions

Responsible Business Conduct Strategy Renewal 

Following an evaluation of the 2014 strategy, Global Affairs Canada began the process to renew Canada’s approach to Responsible Business Conduct abroad for the five-year period of 2021-2026. Global Affairs Canada undertook two rounds of stakeholder engagement with the objective of sparking a dialogue and exploring ideas and measures to position Canada, and Canadian companies active abroad, as leaders in Responsible Business Conduct.  

The first round of engagements consisted of a roundtable session in Gatineau, Quebec, and a series of group and individual interviews, involving a diverse range of stakeholders from across Canada (additional group sessions were moved to an online format given the COVID-19 pandemic).  Input received in March led to the development of an issue paper, which helped guide a second round of wider public engagement, which took place from 16 September 2020 to 26 October 2020 via the Consulting with Canadians website. There were over 40 written submissions, many on behalf of associations and industry groups, that reflected significant effort and represented the breadth and depth of public interest in Responsible Business Conduct-related issues.

Canada’s National Contact Point for Responsible Business Conduct (NCP) Governance Review

Canada’ s Responsible Business Conduct National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (the OECD Guidelines) underwent its first peer review on February 14 -16, 2018. The report was published in November of 2018.

Several developments in the Canadian Responsible Business Conduct context have taken place since the completion of the Peer Review, which have influenced the work of the, including:

In light of the Peer Review recommendations and evolving RBC context in Canada, and with the view to deepening its effectiveness, the NCP is currently undertaking a full-scale governance review of its institutional structure, policies and case-review procedures. 

Sheri Meyerhoffer - Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise

Sheri Meyerhoffer was appointed as Canada’s first Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise on April 8, 2019 by the Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of International Trade Diversification. Ms. Meyerhoffer established the office of the Ombudsperson at the beginning of May 2019.

Ms. Meyerhoffer is a Canadian lawyer with seventeen years experience in the upstream oil and gas industry, and thirteen years experience in international governance, rule of law and human rights. She has worked in Bhutan, Bolivia, Cuba, China, India, Jamaica, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia and the USA. From 2007 to 2017, she supported Nepal’s peace and constitution building processes as project director for the Canadian Bar Association and head of mission for the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. Ms. Meyerhoffer has a Juris Doctor from the University of Saskatchewan and is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School with a Master in Public Administration and Certificate in Management, Leadership and Decision Sciences.

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