Responsible Business Conduct Abroad Act

An Act to establish the Office of the Commissioner for Responsible Business Conduct Abroad and to make consequential amendments to other Acts


Heather McPherson  NDP

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


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-263.


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

This enactment enacts the Responsible Business Conduct Abroad Act , which establishes the Office of the Commissioner for Responsible Business Conduct Abroad. The enactment authorizes the Commissioner to monitor and investigate the business activities of certain Canadian entities operating abroad for the purpose of reporting on the entities' compliance with international human rights law.


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.

June 19th, 2023 / 8:15 p.m.
See context


Heather McPherson NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the witnesses for being here. I know that it is a late night for all of you. We appreciate your giving us your time.

Ms. Meyerhoffer, you won't be surprised to hear from me that I find the work of the CORE office to be very substandard. The fact that we are.... This was announced in 2018. It was announced at the time with the ability to compel testimony and documents. That has never happened.

The ombudsperson was given an increased budget, the CORE role was given an increased budget, yet no investigations have been completed. We've heard from organizations such as the United Steelworkers, Oxfam, the Canadian Network for Corporate Accountability and Kairos—a number of organizations that have said the CORE fails to provide even a modicum of what was expected from this position.

All I will say to that is that I have put forward a piece of legislation. It is Bill C-263. It gives the CORE the ability to compel testimony and witnesses. I have offered it to the government. It would give you the ability to do your job much better and certainly, hopefully, complete an investigation, which I know that we have not done yet.

My colleague, Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe, has asked you most of those questions, so I'm going to focus on FinDev.

Could our guests from FinDev please tell me how many ODA dollars are given to FinDev by the government?

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 21st, 2023 / 11:25 a.m.
See context


Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, it is impossible for me to answer in 10 seconds. I would simply encourage my colleague to read Bill C-262 and Bill C-263, which contain all kinds of provisions that respond to that. I think everything is in there.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 21st, 2023 / 11 a.m.
See context


Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, Nicolas de Condorcet used to say that the truth belongs to those who seek it, not to those who claim to own it.

With that in mind, I welcome this motion, and I voted in favour of it when my Conservative colleague moved it in committee. For me, it is a step in the right direction, the beginning of something, a project. I am really glad the Conservatives have moved this motion. The last time I moved a motion to bring in a real due diligence policy seeking to pass it by unanimous consent, I heard a lot of howling from the opposition on my right. I use the word “right” in every sense of the word. I am glad the Conservatives finally woke up a bit, although it took a while.

I also moved a motion on mining companies. The Standing Committee on International Trade has completed its study on mining, but we have not yet adopted the report. We have not yet heard from the Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development. When I moved my motion on the subject of mining, the Conservatives also opposed it, so I am pleased that they have come to their senses. It is better late than never, as they say.

I also want to thank the previous speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development. Recently, I was fortunate enough to go to Paris with him for the OECD summit, which focused on this particular issue. I am glad to see that the OECD and most countries are becoming aware of the problem. Unfortunately, this meeting turned into a bit of an exercise in one-upmanship. Everyone said they were taking this issue seriously and working hard in their communities to advance this cause. However, there is many a slip 'twixt cup and lip, as the expression goes.

This is a topic that resonates with me because I also tabled a petition in the House last spring, I believe, or early last summer, to bring in a meaningful due diligence policy. I have also co-sponsored bills. Bloc members never judge a bill by its cover. When a bill is good, we support it; when it is bad, we do not support it.

I have co-sponsored two NDP bills. The first is Bill C-262, which has yet to move past first reading. If we are serious about this issue, we need to get on it, we need to make this a priority. The second is Bill C-263, which seeks to establish an office of the commissioner in this matter because an office like that could act as an authority.

Let us take a step back in history. Once upon a time, there was colonization. We call many countries “developing” nations nowadays. They are southern nations, based on the old north-south divide. There used to be something called colonization. Colonial empires, or metropolises as they were called, wanted to get their hands on resources, so they went and took over other lands. They did not all go about it the same way. Some felt that the people on those lands, whom they considered inferior, needed to be civilized. Others took things even further: those people had to be exterminated, unfortunately.

For others still, colonization meant stripping these people of all power and reducing them to insignificance for as long as they did business with them. This was often the British colonization model. The people no longer had any political power, but the colonial powers would pretend that they did. They let them elect leaders with little power, local leaders from their own tribes. This gave them the illusion that they still had power over their lives, which was a complete lie. It was called indirect rule. Then decolonization happened, as we know.

Next came globalization. Starting in the 1980s, we were told that we needed to free up the multinationals and free up capital to ensure that it could be moved from one place to another, without borders, so that profits could be made, because all those profits would contribute to the common good. That was a very bad interpretation of the words of Adam Smith, who is credited with introducing the “invisible hand” theory. In reality, Adam Smith never came up with an invisible hand theory. The invisible hand is metaphor that he used three times to talk about different things. If we look at Adam Smith's work, we see that what he actually said is quite the opposite of what people took from his words in the 1980s and 1990s.

When the Berlin Wall fell, the Iron Curtain also fell. It imploded, collapsed. That led to the rule of unadulterated neo-liberalism. All of the supranational bodies were saying that the time for nations and sovereignties was over, that it was the end for the social safety net. The time for measures and policies was over. Now was the time for capital to be deployed, for it to move from one jurisdiction to another by any means and at any time. It needed to be freed up as much as possible so that anything could be done with it.

Obviously, today, that is no longer the case. We might say that globalization is in crisis, that we are returning to a multipolar world. It appears that there are several environmental and social consequences to these utopias. Among them, there is this idea of having a great global supply chain where every country can do its part. This also has consequences.

Quebec has fared well under free trade. It has been a beneficial experience. We certainly need to continue to diversify our trade partners, but not at all costs. We have seen the human consequences in terms of human rights, obviously, but also the use of forced labour. That is the point of today's motion on the importation of goods linked to the use of forced labour.

If we are going to address the problem, then we need to be serious. With what is referred to as dumping, a product can go through another country that is used as a flag of convenience. Then the product arrives here and we think it was made in places where forced labour is controlled and regulated, when in fact that is often not the case.

The Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, the CNCA, has made a number of demands. I am going to read them, because I think they are quite comprehensive. According to the CNCA, there are five essential elements in effective due diligence legislation which many Canadian and Quebec civil society groups agree on, and they are the following: require companies to prevent all human rights violations throughout their global operations and supply chains; require companies to develop and implement human rights due diligence procedures, and report on them, as well as require them to consult rights holders; require meaningful consequences for companies that fail to take these obligations seriously and guarantee impacted communities access to effective remedy in Canadians civil courts; be consistent with the United Nations guiding principles on business and human rights and apply this legislation to companies of any size, while possibly allowing small business in low-risk sectors to be exempt; and apply to all human rights, because all human rights are interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.

On June 22, 2022, I tabled a petition along those same lines:


some Canadian companies contribute to human rights abuses and environmental damage around the world;

people who protest these abuses and stand up for their rights are often harassed, attacked or killed. Indigenous peoples, women and marginalized groups are particularly at risk; and

Canada encourages companies to stop these harms from happening in their global operations and supply chains, but does not require them to.

We, the undersigned citizens and residents of Canada, call on the House of Commons to adopt legislation on due diligence for human and environmental rights that:

would require....

The rest of the petition contains more or less the same formal demands made by the CNCA which I just read. It also aligns with the motion I moved for unanimous consent, which, I would remind members, was rejected by the right in the House.

Let us now discuss the bill in question. I applaud the sponsor, who has attempted previously to bring forward legislation on this matter. There was Bill C‑243, which was withdrawn in favour of the very similar Bill S‑211.

We supported it and we will continue to support it, but it is just not enough, because if we ask ourselves whether the bill helps individuals who are affected obtain justice or redress, the answer is no. Does the bill seek to include communities and workers who are affected? No. Does the bill apply to businesses of all sizes in all sectors? No, it only applies to businesses with over 250 employees and “significant” revenue and assets.

Does the bill apply to all human rights? No, it only applies to forced labour and child labour. Those are hugely important issues, and this is a step forward, but it should go much further. Are businesses required to respect human rights? No, they are only required to report annually on whether they have taken steps to recognize and prevent the use of forced labour, but reporting is not accountability.

Does the bill require businesses to prevent harm? No, it only requires an annual report. Does the bill require businesses to take steps to identify, mitigate, prevent or report human rights violations and environmental damage in their supply chains, because the problem applies to the entire supply chain? No.

There are no compulsory due diligence standards for businesses. Do they face significant consequences if they cause harm or fail to implement due diligence standards? Again, the answer is no.

All the questions I just asked would be answered in the affirmative under the NDP Bill C-282, which I co-sponsored. This bill ticks all the boxes. I therefore encourage the government and the House to refer it to committee for study as soon as possible, because it provides a much better response to what is needed and to the urgency of the situation.

I would also like to talk about Canadian mining companies, which I suggested would be a good subject for study by the Standing Committee on International Trade. First, let me clarify one thing. It is a real stretch to call them “Canadian” mining companies, because they are just using Canada as a “flag of convenience”. Mining companies are often Canadian only on paper. They choose Canada because its lax laws make it ridiculously easy to incorporate here, to present themselves as Canadian companies and to benefit from speculative benefits offered through and by the Toronto Stock Exchange. Canada is just being used as a “flag of convenience”. It is basically a front.

I have seen this first-hand. The Bloc Québécois actually proposed a bill in 2009 that would have gotten to the heart of the issue, as it created an actual review commission that would have been politically independent and would have had the power to conduct its own investigations, without needing a complaint or a political directive. It would not simply have been a symbolic ombudsperson. This commission could have conducted its own investigations and publicly questioned Global Affairs Canada, or Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, as it was called at the time, if the department were even seen to support a mining company that was caught violating human rights.

I travelled to Chile and Colombia, and in Colombia, I saw a mining company that was originally Canadian fall into Chinese hands. Speaking of forced labour, we saw a bus full of prisoners arrive from the People's Republic of China. Once the local miners have been squeezed out, one of the arguments often used to gain acceptance for these projects in mining areas is that they will create jobs. However, bringing in prisoners from the People's Republic of China is not exactly creating local jobs. Furthermore, diplomats must not provide unequivocal support for the aggressive tactics used by Canadian mining companies abroad, as Canadian embassies have been known to do. Embassies are being ordered to provide support through diplomacy.

We also need to talk about money. It is important to talk about that, because Export Development Canada has investments in many problematic companies, including Baru Gold, which was mentioned several times. EDC continued to hand out loans to Teck Resources for its Quebrada Blanca mine in Chile, despite the political crisis and brutal repression going on in that country. In 2019 alone, EDC invested between $1 billion and $1.5 billion just in Chile's extractive sector.

Vale was involved in two recent tailings dam disasters in Brazil. At the company's Brumadinho mine, hundreds of people were killed in January 2019 when a tailings dam collapsed. It is also the co-owner of the mine near Mariana, where a similar disaster wiped out an entire village in 2015. Both mines had been built using the riskiest method regulators would allow. Vale's other activities include a railway along which residents are regularly struck by trains, and a mine that was ordered to shut down several times because of the impact it was having on indigenous tribes.

Vedanta Limited, a subsidiary of Vedanta Resources, received between $100 million and $250 million in loans in 2017. In 2018, there was a massacre at a smelter plant in India run by a subsidiary of Vedanta Resources. Police opened fire on a crowd of thousands who were protesting the planned expansion of the Tuticorin plant. Thirteen people were killed and dozens of others were injured.

According to Emily Dwyer from the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, who testified at committee, some of the other mining companies that received funding from Export Development Canada and were mixed up in human rights violations include Teck Resources and Kinross.

The mining industry in Canada received $6.524 million in funding in 2022. This is a serious matter.

When we talk about accountability and the origin of goods, we need to be serious and take a closer look.

I will now wrap up my speech in order to debate this issue with the rest of the House. We need some genuinely serious policies on this, such as Bill C‑262 and Bill C‑263, which I co-sponsored, and the bill that the Bloc Québécois introduced in 2009 about a review commission for mining companies.

This needs to be taken seriously, because the ombudsperson is currently nothing but a complaints office and a web site. That is no way to deal with the serious, violent, brutal violations happening around the world.

In closing, I want to wish everyone a happy end to the “no new clothes challenge”. March was dubbed “no new clothes” month. That lines up nicely with the theme we are discussing today.

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

March 6th, 2023 / 11:45 a.m.
See context


Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, today we are debating Bill S-211, which claims to fight against forced labour and child labour in supply chains. There is no question that global supply chains continue to be tainted with forced labour and child labour. Millions of people around the world experience conditions of modern slavery. Horrifically, this includes young children who, too often, harvest the food we eat and manufacture the clothes we wear.

Sadly, progress toward eradicating child and forced labour has stalled and even reversed during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, the report from the International Labour Organization warned that child labour was increasing for the first time in two decades. Between 2016 and 2020, the number of children in child labour increased to 160 million worldwide; 79 million of these children, some as young as five years old, are working in conditions considered to be hazardous, which means that the work is likely to harm their health, safety and morals.

Economic impacts of the pandemic, leading to school closures and income loss among low-income families globally, have pushed more children into these dangerous working conditions to try to earn a living. The reality is that forced labour conditions exist in nearly every country. Canada is deeply implicated in perpetuating these human rights abuses. Under the current legislative framework, there is no corporate accountability for companies that profit from the exploitation in their supply chains.

According to a report from World Vision in 2016, it is estimated that over 1,200 companies operating in Canada are importing over 34 billion dollars' worth of goods at high risk of being produced by child or forced labour every year. The agricultural and grocery industry is one of the worst offenders for forced labour and child labour: 71% of all child labour takes place in the agricultural sector, and many of these items end up on Canadian grocery store shelves.

In 2019, more than 3.7 billion dollars' worth of risky food products were imported into Canada, a 63% increase from 10 years ago. During the same pandemic period when Canada's major grocery chains raked in record profits, the use of child and forced labour in agricultural supply chains increased. As Canadians get gouged with greedflation at the grocery checkout, corporate giants fail to take action on ending forced and child labour in their supply chains. World Vision reported that corporate social responsibility reports from Loblaws, Metro and Sobeys, Canada's three largest grocers, yield “little meaningful information about what they are doing to address the risk of child labour in their supply chains.” There are record profits, yet zero accountability to respect human rights. This is egregiously wrong.

Unfortunately, we know that these issues extend far beyond the agricultural sector. In 2021, CBC reported that Canadian clothing brands sold items manufactured by North Korean forced labour at a Chinese factory. Recently, I spoke about the genocide against Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims. This is again relevant to raise, because these issues are connected. Many products sold in Canada are manufactured with Uighur forced labour. Between 2017 to 2019, it is estimated that more than 80,000 Uighurs were forcibly transferred out of the Uighur region to work in factories across China. In 2020 alone, reports reveal that 83 global companies were indirectly or directly involved in employing Uighur workers under conditions of forced labour. From food products, clothing and textiles to the supply chains of major auto manufacturers, the use of Uighur forced labour is widespread.

Canada can and must do more to uphold human rights and work to eradicate child and forced labour. The NDP wants to ensure that products imported into Canada are not produced with forced labour or child labour. New Democrats believe that Canada has a responsibility to ensure that supply chains of products sold in Canada are free from these egregious human rights violations.

The government has an international human rights obligation to do this, but due to the inaction of successive Liberal and Conservative governments, Canada is lagging behind other jurisdictions. European countries such as France have already passed due diligence legislation, which requires that companies take action to address child labour and forced labour. Importantly, this also provides legal recourse if efforts are shown to be inadequate.

The Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability has been calling for human rights and environmental due diligence legislation in Canada. The organization has even drafted model legislation, providing a blueprint for writing into Canadian law the corporate duty to respect human rights and the environment.

For over a decade, the CNCA has also been calling for an independent ombudsperson office with the power to investigate human rights complaints related to Canadian corporate activity abroad. The Liberals announced that they would create this independent ombudsperson office in 2018, yet today this is just another empty promise from the government. Instead, the government has created a powerless advisory post.

It is clear that there is much work to be done. That is why NDP members, in working with policy experts on these issues, have put forward two critical pieces of legislation. Bill C-262, the corporate responsibility to protect human rights act, would implement the human rights and environmental due diligence that is needed. It would hold companies accountable for their actions and allow victims of human rights and environmental harm the statutory right to bring a lawsuit against that company. Bill C-263 would give the Office of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise the powers needed to actually do its job and investigate and hold companies accountable.

The CNCA, which includes member groups such as Oxfam Canada, Amnesty International Canada and Human Rights Watch Canada, supports these steps, but it is yet to be seen whether other parties will do the right thing.

Today, we are here debating Bill S-211. From the outset, the NDP recognized that this bill was deeply flawed. New Democrats agree with the view that CNCA shares: that, unamended, this bill is damaging because it creates the appearance of action to end modern slavery without actually having that effect. As currently drafted, Bill S-211 advances none of the essential elements of an effective supply chain law.

According to the CNCA:

Bill S-211 would require companies to report on what steps, if any, they have taken to prevent and reduce the risk of forced or child labour in their supply chains. It would only apply to a small minority of companies; it does not require these companies to stop using child or forced labour or to conduct human rights due diligence; and it is silent on other egregious human rights abuses (such as mass rape, murder and torture), as its focus is limited to child or forced labour.

Recognizing the flaws of this bill, the NDP proposed six amendments at committee stage to improve the legislation based on expert testimony, yet the government rejected all of them.

Canada needs to do much more to fight forced labour and child labour. The Minister of Labour's own 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.”

Bill S-211 fails to do that. Therefore, the NDP will be voting against this legislation. We will continue to advocate for legislation that actually addresses the issue and commit to eradicating forced labour and child labour. Having the appearance under this bill to be doing something is not good enough.

February 9th, 2023 / 5:05 p.m.
See context


Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

I was just about to jump in and say that I don't know where C-262 is. On C-263, I know Heather is way out there. It's—

February 9th, 2023 / 5:05 p.m.
See context


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

I just have a point of order, Madam Chair. I wonder if Mr. Cannings could offer to the committee where C-262 and C-263 are on the Order Paper. That would be helpful to members.

February 9th, 2023 / 5:05 p.m.
See context

Assistant to the National Director, United Steelworkers Union

Meg Gingrich

Sure. Thank you very much.

I think Mr. McKay explained it fairly well in terms of what some of the differences are. It sort of comes down to a difference in the expectation of what's possible right now. I agree that Bill C-262 and Bill C-263 are still possible to pass if we can get the political support for them. I don't think it's a question of them going too far or anything like that. Transparency and a requirement to report are important. Again, I think Mr. McKay has very good intentions, and everything like that, but I think it comes down to what we think is possible. I have high expectations that as a country and as a society we can pass bills like this, which put real responsibility on Canadian companies to ensure adherence to human rights, labour rights and environmental rights across their supply chains, including the subcontractors and so on.

In terms of the CORE, as I've said, that is something we have supported the creation of, but I think that as it stands right now, it is simply not strong enough to be able to do much. We're trying our best to use it in the government sector to see what will happen, and we're happy to try to use what exists, but we always want to try to make things just a bit better for everyone.

February 9th, 2023 / 5:05 p.m.
See context


Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

—for the all the work he's done over the years on this file. I really appreciate that, but I would say that Bill C-262 and Bill C-263 are on offer. They're on offer to the government, because this is what the corporate responsibility sector is saying is what is necessary.

I'd just like to offer the rest of my time to Ms. Gingrich to respond to your comments about the difference between those bills and why Bill C-262 and Bill C-263 will and should produce better results.

February 9th, 2023 / 4:45 p.m.
See context


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I want to weigh in on the debate about transparency legislation versus due diligence legislation and what's on offer and what's not on offer.

Transparency legislation is what it seems to be, which is that every year a Canadian entity has to examine its supply chain and satisfy itself that there is no slavery in the supply chain. A CEO has to sign a statement to that effect, and if the statement they sign is false, there will be the same impact as there would be if an accountant signed a false statement, for instance. This applies to a certain level of entities all across the country. If you don't file, you're fined and you also expose yourself to various investigations by the Minister of Public Safety.

That's what Bill S-211 is. That's on offer. The third reading and debate are coming up on March 6.

What's being talked about is Bill C-262, which is due diligence legislation, which, as the witnesses have acknowledged, places a very significant obligation on companies. Bill C-262 is, with greatest respect to Mr. Julian, an aspirational bill, because it's not likely to be debated in this Parliament.

If the House is to do anything, the only thing really on offer is Bill S-211.

That being said, there are two countries that have due diligence legislation—Germany and France. Germany's threshold is 3,000 employees. Any company with fewer than 3,000 doesn't have to comply with the legislation. France's legislation stipulates 5,000 employees, or 10,000 worldwide. Those are the companies.

The transparency legislation catches a lot more companies, and it generates information. Maybe, in the fullness of time, you'll be able to move to due diligence legislation.

Due diligence legislation cuts off the vast majority of Canadian companies, because who has 3,000 or 5,000 or 10,000 employees, plus multiple billions of euros in revenues?

That's the essence of the debate. It's not as though I think a bill on due diligence wouldn't be useful for companies. It's just that we're not there yet.

What's on offer is that we go from being, frankly, Canadian laggards to world leaders. Only a couple of other countries have written transparency legislation. They have rewritten it to make it stronger, but it's still weaker than ours. Australia have just implemented theirs, and we jump Australia as well because, again, our legislation is stronger.

The debate here is that, as particularly the witness from the steelworkers and some of her colleagues believe, perfect is actually the enemy of good. I do not take that view and, colleagues, I don't think you should take that view.

Who knows what the life of this Parliament is going to be, but I'd really like it if, following the March 6 debate, it would come to a final vote and we could have something on the books.

May I say that Canadians talk a good talk. Walking the talk is sometimes a little more difficult. This will enable us to actually walk the talk, and it will bring us forward.

I have to say that this legislation has been broadly supported. It's not limited to the mining industry, although it will certainly affect the mining industry. Maybe I shouldn't say it, but the Mining Association of Canada and PDAC, the prospectors and developers, welcome the legislation because it distinguishes them from some of their somewhat unscrupulous competitors. It has considerable support.

In the 31 seconds I have left, I'm going to ask the witness whether she thinks that the good should be the enemy of the perfect, or if she supports the idea.

By the way, before you answer that question, I would support Bill C-263—which, again, is an aspirational bill—and I do think the CORE ombudsperson should have the powers that are in it.

Thus endeth the homily. I thank you very much.

February 9th, 2023 / 4:40 p.m.
See context


Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Would it be advantageous to have bills like C-262 and C-263, which really put a stronger lens on this?

February 9th, 2023 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

Assistant to the National Director, United Steelworkers Union

Meg Gingrich

Bill C-263 would be to expand and rectify some of the things that we think are wrong with the CORE. That was something we supported from the beginning, but once it came into place, our view was that there wasn't enough power within that position for the ombudsperson.

Bill C-263 would see a CORE with more teeth, if I can put it that way, with the power to compel evidence and testimony, for example, which is not possible at the moment.

Regarding Bill C-262, there are several parts of that where it would require real due diligence along supply chains and it would put the onus on the company to identify potential issues along the supply chain—whether it's environmental, human rights or violation of labour rights—and then actually prevent and mitigate those and have that responsibility to do so. Then it would provide access to remedy within the Canadian legal system if the company doesn't meet its obligations. Those are some very important aspects of those two bills that we have supported.

February 9th, 2023 / 4:20 p.m.
See context


Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Thank you. I appreciate that.

You mentioned that two bills that have been tabled in the House of Commons would help. They are Bill C-262 and Bill C-263.

Can you perhaps expand on what each might do to help the situation?

February 9th, 2023 / 3:55 p.m.
See context


The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Thank you very much.

We'll go to our witnesses.

I want to acknowledge that we have John McKay with us at committee today, who I think is the founder of C-262 and C-263.

February 9th, 2023 / 3:50 p.m.
See context

Meg Gingrich Assistant to the National Director, United Steelworkers Union

Thank you, Chair. Through you, I would also like to thank the clerk and all members of the committee for the opportunity to join you here today.

My name is Meg Gingrich, and I'm here with the United Steelworkers.

The United Steelworkers union is the largest private sector union in North America. It includes 225,000 members in nearly every economic sector, right across Canada, about 15,000 of whom work in the mining industry.

As a labour union, our core mission is to improve the lives of our members. That work necessarily extends to fighting for better conditions for all workers everywhere. Our members understand that to serve Canadian workers, we have to fight the race to the bottom of salaries and working conditions and flip that old paradigm on its head.

That starts by holding Canadian companies accountable for their global operations. By raising the basic standards everywhere and closing the delta between fair pay and the need to respect human rights in Canada and in other countries, we can decrease the incentive to cut Canadian jobs and compensation in favour of operations elsewhere, and we can secure a new foundation on which we can build stronger workers' rights here.

Put simply, doing the right thing for workers around the world is good for working people in Canada. At the USW we do this work directly through our Steelworkers Humanity Fund and in collaboration with civil society organizations and a variety of coalitions, some of whom you've heard from here, and that includes the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability.

It is through the CNCA and the Non-Negotiable campaign that we've been actively lobbying Parliament to pass mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence legislation. As you know, that legislation, Bill C-262, is at the heart of addressing the concerns that are being raised in and by the study you're undertaking.

With all due respect to the work done by diplomats and those in any form of foreign service, I'm sure we can all agree that a country's foreign policy includes the international operations and business dealings of the private sector. Canada's mining sector is active in at least 100 countries. Without oversight of the private sector, the Canadian government risks harming some of its bilateral relationships and foreign policy goals in aid, trade, diplomacy and defence.

The impacts on the Canadian economy as a whole, as well as on communities and individual workers and their families, is significant. Governments in other countries are understanding these facts and are taking action. Recent G7 discussions saw a reinforced collective support for working together towards trade that lifts up workers, businesses and peoples.

However, frankly, here at home we're discouraged to see the Canadian government pushing legislation. We're talking about Bill S-211 now, which does not actually create a legal obligation to stop the practice or provide a path to remedy for anyone affected by a violation. This will not stop the abuses.

As this committee has already heard, to be robust and effective, legislation on this must legally oblige Canadian companies operating or sourcing abroad to identify, prevent and mitigate violations and provide remedies to those affected and for damage caused by their operations. This must apply to all human rights violations and environmental damage.

Some might suggest to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, but as you may be aware, the experience of a similar law in the U.K. and other jurisdictions shows that modern slavery acts and the reporting only requirements have not brought the change they promised. Worse, when compared to the effective changes proposed in legislation before the House, for example, the corporate responsibility to protect human rights act, passing Bill S-211 could actually hurt the movement towards increased corporate accountability by being pitched as enough and used as an excuse to stop further work on this file.

Another more effective course of action would be to finally give the Canadian ombudsperson for responsible enterprise the investigative and enforcement powers she needs to effectively do the job she's been tasked with doing. Again, another bill before the House, Bill C-263, would be a step in the right direction in terms of that goal.

In advance of any questions, I would like to close on this point. We all understand that jobs and increased compensation rely on corporate success and profitability. It's not about deciding between doing the right thing or making a profit, because as we watch global awareness and the focus on corporate accountability rise, these goals are increasingly connected.

Thank you.

February 9th, 2023 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

Dr. Silvia Vasquez-Olguin Coordinator, Latin America, Gender Justice and Extractivism, KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives

Thank you very much.

I want to address the chair and the members of the committee for one second, to get you to think about the amazing opportunity you have today. Let's think about what we are learning. We're receiving a lot of information. Let's keep our minds and hearts open to receive it.

Since the creation of KAIROS more than three decades ago, and even before that, global partners, church members and various Canadian NGO networks have been calling on Canada to address allegations of human rights abuses and environmental harm linked to Canadian businesses operating abroad. How? Through stronger corporate accountability measures. Corporate accountability in the Canadian extractive sector is a gender issue.

KAIROS is not anti-miner or anti-business. KAIROS advocates for the rights of indigenous people to be upheld and for the inclusion of women in decision-making spaces, including the right to free, prior and informed consent.

It's been noted that some companies have a reputation of mistaking consultation for consent. When it happens, partner organizations around the world have consistently sounded the alarm on the concerning attitudes and consequences of Canadian extractive companies' mining, oil fracking and gas extraction operating in their territories.

Mining activities have consequences more evidently local but undeniably national and regional. Regarding women, mining impacts the territories of their bodies, their lands and their organizations, and has deepened the structural violence exerted against them.

Furthermore, mining activities become a fundamental nexus within the enclaves of a masculine-focused economy. Mining is developed mainly by men in the field, which leads to a reconfiguration and a reprioritization of local social activities that didn't exist before the arrival of the companies.

The introduction of a utilitarian and monetary model of engaging with nature leads to the commodification of important natural environments and later environmental destruction. I can bring examples of that.

The productive process has increased the numbers and intensity of daily violent encounters within the communities, particularly violence against women and girls. Nothing can show that more painfully than the El Salvador case in Las Cañas.

In the last decade alone, extractive mining has increased in Meso-America and South America, leading to more than 200 conflicts around mining activities in just four countries: Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and Chile, increasing the violation of human rights and the criminalization of environmental land and water defenders.

Women and indigenous communities are vital stewards of land and water. Fresh water is vital. Women and girls are vital for the communities and their livelihoods. Water is needed for everyday life tasks that usually fall upon women to perform, such as cooking, cleaning, child-rearing and cultivating. These jobs are socially and conveniently invisible and underestimated.

Women protect the social and community structure of preserving knowledge and transmitting it. At the cost of their well-being, their safety and sometimes their lives, they stand in a long-standing fight against corporations extracting resources from their lands. For their efforts, they are stigmatized, ostracized and, in many cases, criminalized, threatened, attacked and even killed.

Local women are the centre of building a just, equitable and lasting peace in their regions, and large-scale resource extraction projects undermine their efforts.

How can we do this better? I think the task starts at home through strong accountability and responsible legislation. We have to move on. Bill C-262 and Bill C-263 are the core of solving this problem, and the pun is intended.

Because of all this, I'm here now in front of all of you to remind you that the lives of women and girls around the world are under threat more than ever, and the time to act is now.

At KAIROS, we believe that women are leaders in community resistance to extractivism. Because of that, we advocate for including women and water and land defenders in the decision-making process and for protecting them, because activists are always under threat.

Because extractivist activities cause severe environmental and social impacts, which often are invisible because they happen in the bodies and lives of women and girls, KAIROS advocates for gendered impacts of resource extraction to be considered a key aspect of business development.

Finally, because of environmental racism and colonialism and for many other reasons, most of the extractive mining operations are found on or near indigenous territories in the global south. KAIROS advocates to protect the rights of indigenous and local communities of the global south to be fully informed and consulted before operations are even started on their territories, and to recognize the possibility of rejection.

Dear members of the committee, one life lost and one inch of land destroyed is one too many. You have the unbelievable power to stop it.

Thank you.