NDP MPs table private bills to improve accountability of Canadian companies abroad

The Canadian Press

Written by Erika Ibrahim, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - Two federal New Democrats tabled legislation Tuesday that would make Canadian companies more accountable for human rights abuses and environmental harms abroad.

At a news conference, NDP MP Peter Julian said Bill C-262 would create legal tools, giving victims of human rights violations by Canadian companies abroad recourse in Canadian courts.

NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson said Bill C-263 would give the corporate responsibility watchdog the power and teeth to investigate wrongdoing by Canadian corporations.

The bill would also allow the body to compel witnesses and testimony, McPherson said.

The Liberal government appointed the first Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise in 2019.

Some critics have said the watchdog was not given the right tools or powers to hold Canadian companies abroad to account.

Private member’s bills rarely become law, particularly if they are introduced by opposition parties, but the MPs stressed the importance of the measures.

“This is absolutely essential. We have seen Canadian corporations linked to appalling and atrocious violations of human rights,” Julian said of Bill C-262.

“If the Canadian corporations are not being responsible, often there is no established or independent or non-corrupt judicial and policing system to ensure that the victims actually receive the justice to which they are so deserving of receiving.”

Canada’s mining companies often set up in countries with poor democracies and weak human rights protections, McPherson said.

“Workers and communities are violated.”

Bea Bruske, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, said the bills “hit the right marks, and we celebrate this important step.”

“We are all aware of the horrific burden of needless human suffering in the world, and the tremendous stress that our natural environment is under. Canadian companies should not be adding to these burdens,” said Catherine Coumans, research co-ordinator at MiningWatch Canada.

“It is time for Canada to quit stalling, quit caving to mining industry lobbying, and move to implement the private member’s bills that have been tabled today.”

There were no immediate responses to requests for comment from the ombudsperson, the office of Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly or Global Affairs Canada.