Corporate Responsibility to Protect Human Rights Act

An Act respecting the corporate responsibility to prevent, address and remedy adverse impacts on human rights occurring in relation to business activities conducted abroad

Sponsor

Peter Julian  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Outside the Order of Precedence (a private member's bill that hasn't yet won the draw that determines which private member's bills can be debated), as of March 29, 2022

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-262.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment, among other things, requires businesses to establish processes to prevent, address and remedy adverse impacts on human rights that occur in relation to their business activities conducted abroad.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

November 21st, 2022 / 5:25 p.m.
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Policy Director, Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability

Emily Dwyer

I would repeat that, for us, effective legislation is legislation that requires companies to actually take action and not only report, that helps people to access Canadian courts, and that applies to all human rights. That is represented in Bill C-262 and it is not represented in Bill S-211.

November 21st, 2022 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Heather McPherson NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

I will direct this last minute to you, Ms. Dwyer.

We know that Bill C-262, which was brought forward by MP Julian, is strong legislation. It's available. We'd be happy to have the Liberals adopt that. What do you see in that bill that you don't see in this bill?

You have a very short time, but what's the last word you would like to share with us?

November 21st, 2022 / 5:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Montarville, QC

The Minister of Labour's mandate letter instructs him to “introduce legislation to eradicate forced labour from Canadian supply chains and ensure that Canadian businesses operating abroad do not contribute to human rights abuses”.

The two bills before us, Bill S‑211 and Bill C‑262, are parliamentary initiatives.

Do you expect anything from the government in addition to these parliamentary initiatives?

November 21st, 2022 / 5:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Montarville, QC

I understand from your remarks that you favour Bill C‑262 over Bill S‑211.

How would passing Bill S‑211 prevent the subsequent passing of Bill C‑262?

Corporate Social ResponsibilityPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

November 3rd, 2022 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, in the second petition I have, the undersigned recognize that companies based in Canada are contributing to human rights abuses and environmental damage around the world. The people who protect against these abuses and defend their rights are often harassed, attacked or killed. Indigenous people, women and marginalized groups are especially under threat, and Canada encourages but does not require companies to prevent such harms in their global operations and supply chains.

The petitioners are calling on the House of Commons to adopt Bill C-262, which is an example of human rights and environmental due diligence legislation that would require companies to prevent adverse human rights impacts, require them to do their due diligence and require meaningful consequences for companies that fail to carry this out and report on adequate due diligence.

I am pleased to table both of these petitions today.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

October 24th, 2022 / 7:45 p.m.
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NDP

Heather McPherson NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, as always, it is a great honour to stand in this place and represent the people of Edmonton Strathcona.

I find this to be such an important debate for us to have, but I have to say that I am disappointed that it is happening in this manner and not when more parliamentarians can join in and there can be more people to participate in the discussion. After so many years, I think the genocide happening against the Uighur people is something every parliamentarian in this place must take with the utmost seriousness, and I worry that it is not being taken as such this evening.

I am a relatively new member of Parliament and have only been in this place for three years. One of the very first things that happened after I was elected was an appointment to the international human rights subcommittee. As I think I have brought up before in this place, my whole career has been about international development, foreign affairs and sustainable development around the world, so I was appointed to be the New Democrat member on that subcommittee. I was so happy to have that opportunity, because I feel like in my heart I have spent most of my career trying to fight for the human rights of people around the world, and this felt like an opportunity to do that and perhaps take it to the next level.

One of the very first studies we undertook looked at the genocide of the Uighur people in China. I have two brothers who are very rough and tumble with me, and I was beaten up many times as a child when I was growing up. I have lots of cousins too. I think of myself as a relatively tough and robust person, but the testimony I heard from expert witnesses, Uighurs and people who experienced the genocide was the most harrowing thing I have ever heard to date. The stories of rape, of forced sterilization, of people being surveilled and of the very systematic and cold attempts to erase a people were horrific for me to hear. It was very difficult.

Of course, I am only hearing these stories; I am not experiencing them, so I always try to imagine what it must be like to be somebody from Xinjiang who is dealing with this and is not seeing the world stand up for them and not hearing people in Canada and around the world say that they are not going to tolerate this. How difficult must it be for the Uighurs not only in China but in Canada to know their loved ones are experiencing this genocide?

When I come to this debate, that is what I bring. I bring the testimony that I heard at the international human rights subcommittee. I bring all of the stories I heard in many meetings with members of the Uighur community and with many members of the community who fight for human rights.

I think this is a vitally important debate and it is vitally important that we are all here, but it was disappointing for me that we did not vote to have a debate on the report that came out of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. There was no opportunity for that debate to happen.

Of course, we know the Uighurs have raised concerns about these issues for years. We know they have been calling for more action not only from Canadian parliamentarians but from other parliamentarians for years. In fact, the recommendations that came forward from the report of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights were very clear. We asked that the Government of China be condemned for its “actions against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang”. We asked to “work with allies and multilateral organizations to help international observers gain unfettered access to Xinjiang”. We asked to “provide support through international overseas development assistance to civil society organizations especially in countries that are geopolitically important to China's Belt and Road Initiative”.

We asked to “recognize that the acts being committed in Xinjiang against Uyghurs constitute genocide and work within legal frameworks” of what that meant. We also asked to “impose sanctions under the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act on all Government of China officials responsible for the perpetration of grave human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims.”

We brought forward these recommendations, but we have not seen the level of action from the government that I think all of us in this place should be demanding. We have not seen the empathy and care that I think we have seen for other conflicts.

One of the things I struggle with the most in this place is that we are often in a situation where we are asked to prioritize human rights, to amplify the rights of one group of people over the rights of another. I do not know how to do that. I do not know how as parliamentarians we can do that. Of course, we need to provide whatever support is necessary to help the people in Ukraine who are struggling with a genocide of their own from the Russian Federation. We need to ensure that the people in Ukraine can flee violence, that they can come to Canada and seek safety here and that they are protected and cared for 100%.

However, as parliamentarians, we need to recognize that being from Ukraine does not make someone's life more valuable than being from Afghanistan, being a Uighur from China, being from Yemen, being from Palestine or being from Tigray. We need to recognize that Canada has an important role. We are a country of such opportunity and such wealth, and we have an important role in this world to open up our doors and welcome those who are fleeing violence, those who are fleeing persecution and those who are fleeing genocide. That is such a fundamental role for Canada. That is how many of us ended up here.

I am, in fact, a settler in this country. My family came when the Scots were being persecuted in Scotland. Canada opened its doors and welcomed us here, and, of course, generations of McPhersons, and I am also a McCoy, have flourished in Canada. Providing that opportunity for people around the world is what Canada is all about and what we need to be able to do.

I support the idea of bringing Uighurs here and ensuring that Uighurs are able to flee genocide to come here, but I have deep concerns. I think everybody in the House, including members of the government, must recognize that IRCC is broken. Immigration services with the government are broken. If anyone in the House does not agree that this is a problem, they are not listening to their constituents. They are not listening to the fact that we have massive delays and massive problems.

In Edmonton, Alberta, 636 students who were approved to study at the University of Alberta could not do so this fall because they could not get a study permit. It cost the University of Alberta $6 million. These are people who wanted to come here to study. I therefore have some concerns about the IRCC's capacity to actually welcome all of the newcomers we need to be welcoming in Canada. Absolutely there are people who are suffering around the world, and the Uighurs have been suffering for years. For years they have been calling for attention to this horrific genocide. However, Canada needs to do better at welcoming people into our country. We need to be better at doing the work of government to ensure that people can come here.

For me, I do not want to say that we need to limit how many Ukrainians, Afghans, Tigrayans or Syrians come to Canada so we can make sure that Uighurs are able to come. There needs to be something done so that all people fleeing violence have access to come here, are able to be treated with respect, are able to be protected and able to be brought here. I have this deep worry that there is a Peter-Paul mentality with the government.

In August 2021, we were going to welcome a huge number of Afghans into our country. Then, of course, the horrific war started in Ukraine, and we were going to welcome an unlimited number of Ukrainians into our country. That is great, but we do not have the capacity to do that right now.

My worry is how we are going to get there. How can we work with the government? How can all of us in this place work with and reinforce to the government how important it is that it fix our broken immigration system so that we can be the country that so many Canadians believe we are, and certainly that so many Canadians believe we should be.

There is another thing I want to raise. In terms of immigration, there are things that we can do, things that need to happen and things we can expedite to make sure that Uighurs are protected, but there are other things we can do to help the people in Xinjiang who are being persecuted right now. There is legislation before the foreign affairs committee, Bill S-211, that looks at forced labour. My opinion, and members may say this is always the NDP opinion, is that the bill does not go far enough. It would not do near enough to protect people from forced labour, slave labour or child labour around the world.

My dear colleague, the member for New Westminster—Burnaby, brought forward Bill C-262, which is an excellent example of what forced labour legislation could look like. It aligns very much with what is happening around the world, in Germany, the EU, France, Australia and the U.K. This country is at least a decade behind other countries in ensuring that we have good forced labour legislation in place.

It has been in mandate letter after mandate letter, which used to mean that action would be taken, but it does not appear to mean that any longer. I look at things like that and ask how we can make sure that Canada is not complicit in supporting forced labour, that we are ensuring that the cotton, the tomatoes and the products that come into Canada are not produced with forced or slave labour. What can we do to make that better?

There is one last thing I want to talk about today. Here is what I am struggling with in the House of Commons right now. I worry that what we are doing in this place is politicizing human rights. I worry that we are using it as a tool to cause shenanigans or gum up the work of government, and if that is the case, we should be so deeply ashamed of ourselves. Human rights are of such fundamental importance that, when they are used as a tool to gum up the work of government, it demeans every member of Parliament. When we use human rights as a trick to force things through or to stop things from going forward, we should be ashamed of ourselves.

When we talk about human rights in this place, we need to be honest with ourselves and talk about human rights across the board, because it is not okay that the Liberal Party or the Conservative Party refuses to talk about human rights in Yemen, as both of them are complicit in the selling of arms to the regime that is propping up that war.

It is not all right that neither one of them will talk about human rights in Palestine. Children in Palestine are being murdered, and neither of the parties will talk about that. That is not all right. They do not get to pick and choose human rights. They do not get to choose that the people being murdered in Tigray matter less than other people. They do not get to choose that the Uighurs do not matter because we have an economic relationship with China. That is not now human rights work. For every one of us in this place, if we believe in protecting human rights, then a human right is a human right is a human right.

It does not matter if it is a child in Palestine. It does not matter if it is a child in Yemen. It does not matter if it is a woman in Xinjiang. It does not matter if it is a woman in Ukraine. If we have a feminist foreign policy, and if we believe in human rights, all human rights matter.

I am deeply afraid that in this place we are choosing to politicize human rights. We are choosing to use human rights to forward our agenda and gum up the works of Parliament. About that, I am deeply worried.

There is a genocide happening against the Uighurs in Xinjiang. There is a genocide happening in China right now. Parliamentarians have an obligation to stand up to protect the people being persecuted. We have an obligation to welcome those people to Canada. It is not even an obligation. It is a privilege to welcome those people to Canada.

I will always stand in this place and fight for human rights. I will tell members that I will fight for all human rights, not just some of them.

Corporate Social ResponsibilityPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 15th, 2022 / 5:35 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, I have an important petition that I am presenting today on behalf of over 100 Canadians from coast to coast to coast. They are concerned about companies based in Canada that are contributing to human rights abuses and environmental damage around the world.

We often see situations where human rights activists and environmental activists are being tortured, killed and intimidated. We have seen widespread examples of sexual violence, even slavery, on the sites of Canadian-owned corporations. The undersigned are asking the Canadian government to put in place due diligence legislation that would require companies to prevent adverse human rights impacts and environmental damage, require companies to do their due diligence and ensure a legal right for people who have been harmed to be able to seek justice in Canadian courts.

I would add that my Bill C-262 does exactly that. The petitioners are asking the Canadian government to push forward legislation such as that.

Fighting Against Forced Labour and Child Labour in Supply Chains ActPrivate Members' Business

May 18th, 2022 / 6:45 p.m.
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NDP

Heather McPherson NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, again, I would like to thank the member for bringing this important legislation forward. I have listened to my colleagues in the House today, and I am struck by the fact that so many of us are working so hard on human rights legislation and trying to move further, trying to do more and trying to make things happen faster for people around the world who are suffering injustice; particularly injustice that is happening at the hands of Canadian companies.

I feel hope when I see that there are members from all parties who are working on this. I feel encouraged by the words I have heard from my colleagues. However, I do want to say that as a member of the opposition, my role is to continue to push and to continue to ask the government to do more. While I will be supporting this legislation, when it goes to the foreign affairs committee I will be proposing many recommendations and amendments, because while I am happy that this legislation is coming forward and it is timely and necessary, in typical NDP fashion, I do not think that this legislation goes far enough.

Around 11% of the world's child population, 168 million children between the ages of five and 17, are forced to work or denied the opportunity to go to school. According to Article 32 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, child labour should be protected from economic exploitation and any harmful work. Furthermore, the article declares that “state parties shall take legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to ensure the implementation” of restrictions.

We know, for example, that research conducted in 2016 found that over 1,200 companies operating in Canada at the time were importing goods that were at high risk of being produced by a child or through forced labour. The majority of these companies disclosed very little, if any, information on the policies, practices and processes they had in place to address these rules.

As parliamentarians, we need to think about what we would do to make sure that these people are protected, and we have an obligation to ensure that Canadian companies are held to account. We know that Canadians treasure our reputation as human rights defenders. We treasure our reputation as playing a role in the world where we recognize human rights: we call them out and we stand for them. Unfortunately, that has not been the reality in many parts of the world for some time. I am, as I said, encouraged that we are coming back to a place where we are looking at some of these issues.

Bill S-211 is a starting point. I think that has been said in the House already, and I will repeat that. It is a starting point. It means that the federal government can lead companies to improve and expand capacity to address supply chain risks as corporate governance standards are increased over time. However, an effective bill to address forced labour and other human rights abuses would require companies to prevent harm from happening, and not just file an annual report. It would require companies to change their behaviour and do due diligence, and not just report it. It would give victims of abuse access to remedy, and not just let the companies continue business as usual.

As it stands now, Bill S-211 needs to be revised so that it actually can help prevent forced and child labour rather than simply act as a diversion. Members may think that I am speaking cynically. I have to say that I feel that my cynicism is somewhat justified. Prior to being elected in the House, I worked in civil society. I worked very hard on human rights for people around the world who suffered at the hands of Canadian mining companies.

I have watched the Conservative government, and I have watched the Liberal government put in place legislation to supposedly help protect indigenous groups, women and those who are marginalized from the impacts of bad corporate actors that are predominantly, as I said, in mining and textiles.

Neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals did a good job of that. Neither of those governments put in place an ombudsperson who could do the job. The talk was there and the words were there, particularly from our current government, but none of the action was there.

I brought forward a piece of private member's legislation that I certainly hope people in this House would support. It would ask that the CORE ombudsperson have the ability to compel testimony.

This legislation, and I know it is a beginning step, is weaker than the NPD's proposed legislation on human rights and corporate responsibility. My colleague, the member for New Westminster—Burnaby, brought forward Bill C-262. My bill is Bill C-263. These bills are what is truly required if Canada is going to walk the talk on human rights. Mandatory human rights due diligence legislation, as proposed in Bill C-262, is the global best practice. It takes what we have learned from France, Germany and Norway, what is now being proposed in the European Union and what ought to be Canada's stated end goal.

As I said, I am going to bring forward amendments, but I have some concerns about the implementation. The member from the government mentioned earlier that there is work being done because there are things in ministers' mandate letters. Unfortunately, none of that work has happened.

Every day, there is genocide happening against the Uighur people. We have not acted on that in this place. Those mandate letter commitments have not been followed through on. Every day, we talk about it in the House, express outrage and send thoughts and prayers, but when it actually comes down to doing the work to stop the products made with slave labour, we have not done that at the government level yet. The mandate letters have not been fulfilled.

As I said, Canadians so strongly believe in the need for human rights legislation. They so strongly believe in the importance of protecting human rights. Of course we are happy to see this first step. Of course this is an important piece for us. New Democrats have always called for the end of child labour and forced labour. Of course we want to ensure that products imported into Canada are not produced with forced or child labour. Of course we want to make sure that companies are reporting on the measures they are taking to prevent and reduce risk.

We have worked long on that file, as New Democrats. As I said earlier, we proposed strong legislation. Members from the New Democratic Party have stood in this place and brought forward ideas and legislation. They have pushed to have the CORE ombudsperson. They have pushed to have some of these things done in a more sustainable and more effective way.

I will be working with CNCA, the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability. I will be working with civil society. I will be working with a number of different groups that focus on corporate accountability, and I will be bringing forward the amendments they are proposing to strengthen this legislation and to make sure that what we actually pass, what we actually bring forward, will do the job that needs to be done.

If we are given the tools in this place to hold the government to account, if we are given the tools to hold business and Canadian companies to account, we can actually make a difference. We can actually protect people around the world. We have that obligation. We are running out of time.

While I thank the member for bringing this forward, this bill is not complete. I look forward to working with him and many others to make sure that this is a much more complete bill.

Corporate Responsibility to Protect Human Rights ActRoutine Proceedings

March 29th, 2022 / 10:10 a.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-262, An Act respecting the corporate responsibility to prevent, address and remedy adverse impacts on human rights occurring in relation to business activities conducted abroad.

Mr. Speaker, with slavery, torture, murder and systemic sexual violence, Canadian corporations overseas have sometimes been involved in the most egregious violations of human rights. Up until now, there has been utter and complete impunity for these appalling acts.

That is why today I am tabling the corporate responsibility to protect human rights act. I thank my seconder, the terrific member of Parliament for Edmonton Strathcona. This bill would oblige Canadian companies abroad to maintain due diligence on human rights at all times and would provide for the ability of victims to sue these companies for human rights violations abroad.

Corporate responsibility is everyone's responsibility. I hope all members of the House will support this important bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)