Good afternoon to you, to the vice-chairs and to all of the members on this committee.
It is really a pleasure to be with you to assist this committee in its important work and to speak to Canadians about our government's commitment to responsible business conduct, in particular, the establishment of the office of the Canadian ombudsperson for responsible enterprise, or CORE.
Canada's reputation abroad is important. When our businesses are expanding globally, they represent Canada. Canadians and citizens around the world expect our businesses to uphold high standards for human rights, to operate with integrity and to demonstrate our strong values. Our country's international reputation is a competitive advantage. This is something Canadians take pride in and something they expect from Canadian leaders, from our institutions and from companies in all sectors.
The Government of Canada is here to help ensure Canadian companies uphold high standards of human rights and responsible business conduct. I am pleased that many companies do want our help. If companies do not meet the standards we expect from them, we have tools to help hold them accountable.
The CORE is part of the suite of supports that are available to Canadian businesses to help them expand and grow around the world.
In line with our other international objectives—a feminist foreign policy, ambitious climate action targets and an inclusive international trade agenda that everyone can benefit from—the CORE is a complement to the other important tools like the national contact point and amendments to the customs tariffs to prevent Canada from importing goods made with forced labour.
The CORE is a complement to a comprehensive set of policies that we have in place to address responsible business conduct for Canadian companies. It is not alone in its efforts and works in concert with other programs and supports to advance our expectations for responsible business conduct.
Our government is committed to working with Canadian companies to provide them with the guidance and the tools needed to make responsible business conduct a cornerstone of their business practices. In 2018, we announced the CORE. It was the first office of its kind in the world and part of our whole-of-government approach towards responsible business conduct.
What is so unique about the CORE is that this office is specifically built to address human rights issues through both preventative and dispute resolution approaches. The CORE promotes international guidelines and responsible business [Technical difficulty—Editor], advises them on their practices and policies, investigates complaints and provides dispute resolution.
For the last 18 months, the CORE has been doing the necessary work to build capacity and to hold public consultations, leading to last week when—I am pleased to share—the office officially launched its complaints intake portal and can now formally accept complaints. This is an important step to making the CORE [Technical difficulty—Editor].
I would like to outline the tools and resources at the CORE's disposal.
The CORE works with complainants and companies to find solutions through investigations, discussion and mediation. It can undertake this work either jointly or independently. Throughout the process, the CORE is empowered to report publicly.
The CORE can investigate allegations of human rights abuses arising from Canadian mining, oil and gas, and garment companies operating abroad. It has its own budget and staff and advises me directly. When it does, it can propose the imposition of trade measures, including the withdrawal of government support.
If a company refuses to work with the CORE in good faith during the review of a case, the CORE has the tools at their disposal—including the ability to report publicly—to speak directly with companies and to recommend the imposition of trade measures against that company.
Beyond this, the CORE proactively advises companies on how to uphold responsible business conduct.
This is a significant set of tools.
Our government takes human rights and responsible business conduct very seriously. We're committed to working with the CORE as she fulfills her mandate.
The purpose of CORE is to find solutions that help advance Canada’s commitments to responsible business conduct and human rights. The outcome we are all striving towards is better human rights outcomes, and the CORE is one tool in our responsible business conduct strategy that can help all of us advance that goal.
With that, I'm very happy to answer any questions that you have for me.
Thank you so much, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.