Human rights ombudsperson creates new online complaint system

Office, which also accepts email filings, to hold businesses accountable for actions beyond Canada

Human rights ombudsperson creates new online complaint system

The Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise has launched an online form to enable individuals and communities abroad to raise concerns regarding potential human rights abuses caused by the operations of Canadian mining, garment, and oil and gas companies operating abroad.

Ombudsperson Sheri Meyerhoffer announced on Mar. 15 that her office, known as the CORE for short, is open to receiving complaints initiated through the new online form, in addition to possible filings through mail, email or voice mail.

The office accepts complaints filed by people, organizations and communities alleging negative effects, caused by Canadian companies or by the entities they control, on human rights as internationally recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The alleged human rights abuse should be ongoing or occurring after May 2019.

The office will represent the public interest in safeguarding human rights instead of acting for either the complainant or for the company. It seeks to resolve human rights disputes as soon as possible, such as through mediation, and will publicly report its findings, as required.

Meyerhoffer, who can herself initiate complaints, may recommend remedies to Canadian companies regarding changes to workplace policies or the redress of past harms and to the federal minister of international trade regarding possible actions, trade measures or policy reforms, in compliance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

Meyerhoffer’s office, created in 2019 as a non-partisan body operating at arm’s length from Global Affairs Canada and reporting directly to Mary Ng, federal minister of small business, export promotion and international trade, is the first of its kind to focus its mandate on holding companies accountable for their actions in operations abroad and on helping such companies attain the high standards of responsible business conduct both domestically and abroad.

“CORE is the first office of its kind anywhere,” said Meyerhoffer in the news release. “Canadians should take pride in this — and in our country’s ongoing commitment to human rights.”

“With the launch of its complaint-intake system, the CORE has established a foundational mechanism that will advance Canada’s responsible business conduct work for years to come,” said Ng in the news release.

The Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise aims to assist in advancing and protecting human rights and the country’s global reputation, to offer accessible dispute resolution processes in which everyone can participate and to ensure independence, impartiality and transparency in its work. Meyerhoffer, the first person to hold the role of ombudsperson, is a lawyer with 17 years of experience in the oil and gas industry and 13 years of experience in international governance, rule of law and human rights.

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