(Ottawa/Amsterdam) A government process established in 2000 to advance responsible multinational business conduct is failing to prevent or remedy human rights abuse by Canadian companies operating overseas, according to a report released today by Above Ground, MiningWatch Canada and OECD Watch.
The report, “Canada is Back.” But Still Far Behind, reviews how complaints of serious harm linked to Canadian mining projects have been handled by the country’s National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Companies. The office aims to resolve disputes through “facilitated dialogue,” which requires companies’ voluntary participation. The Canadian government relies on the NCP as a central component of its Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy and describes it as a “robust and proven dispute resolution mechanism.”
The complaints examined in the report include allegations of corporate misconduct leading to environmental devastation, the death of dozens of mine workers, violent evictions, and assaults and killings by police and security guards.
“In some cases, conditions have actually worsened for communities since they filed complaints with the NCP,” says Geneviève Paul, program officer at Above Ground. "New mechanisms are needed to resolve conflict and ensure access to remedy for people harmed by Canadian multinationals."
The government’s policy of withdrawing trade advocacy support from companies that refuse to participate in the NCP process is failing to yield results. More effective accountability mechanisms are needed to address harmful situations involving Canadian companies.
“Contrary to other NCPs, the Canadian NCP applies a high threshold for accepting complaints and doesn’t make findings on whether companies have breached the Guidelines in question,” says Catherine Coumans, research co-ordinator at MiningWatch Canada.
“Only twice have complaints directly dealt with by the Canadian NCP resulted in agreement between companies and complainants,” says Joseph Wilde-Ramsing, coordinator of OECD Watch. “There are no effective follow-up procedures in place to ensure that companies actually implement the NCP’s recommendations or their own commitments.”
The report comes during a renewed push from civil society for effective corporate accountability measures in Canada. Researchers at Osgoode Hall Law School reported this month that at least 44 people have been killed – and hundreds injured – in conflicts over Canadian mines in Latin America. Last week the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability published, as a blueprint for legislators, model legislation to create a human rights ombudsperson with oversight of Canadian extractive projects abroad. All but one of Canada’s major political parties pledged last year that they would support such a measure.
About the report authors
Above Ground promotes respect for human rights. We encourage the Canadian government to fulfill its legal duty to protect against human rights abuse by the private sector and to provide access to justice for those who are harmed by Canadian companies overseas. Through research, analysis, collaboration and outreach, we're making the links between transnational business and human rights abuse, and are advancing solutions for corporate accountability in Canada. Above Ground is a project on Tides Canada’s shared platform, which supports on-the-ground efforts to create uncommon solutions for the common good. Tides Canada is a national Canadian charity dedicated to a healthy environment, social equity, and economic prosperity.
MiningWatch Canada is a pan-Canadian initiative supported by environmental, social justice, Aboriginal and labour organisations from across the country. It addresses the urgent need for a co-ordinated public interest response to the threats to public health, water and air quality, fish and wildlife habitat and community interests posed by irresponsible mineral policies and practices in Canada and around the world.
OECD Watch is a global network with more than 100 members in 50 countries. Membership consists of a diverse range of civil society organisations bound together by their commitment to ensuring that victims of corporate misconduct have access to remedy, that business activity contributes to sustainable development and poverty eradication, and that corporations are held accountable for their actions around the globe.
- Geneviève Paul, Program Officer, Above Ground, 514-618-7094 (cell), [email protected] (in English, French and Spanish)
- Catherine Coumans, Research Co-ordinator, MiningWatch Canada, 613-256-8331, [email protected] (in English)
The report is available here.
Further details about the NCP
National Contact Points (NCPs) are government bodies that OECD adhering-countries are required to set up to oversee implementation of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The Guidelines consist of non-binding standards for responsible business conduct. The core function of each NCP is to further the effectiveness of the Guidelines, both by disseminating information about the Guidelines and by promoting adherence through the handling of “specific instances” of alleged breaches, for the purpose of resolving disputes. NCPs are expected to operate in accordance with “core criteria of visibility, accessibility, transparency and accountability.”