Good evening, Mr. Chair, vice-chairs and members of the committee. Thank you for this opportunity to assist the committee in its work.
Before I continue, I would like to acknowledge with humility that I am participating in this meeting from Ottawa, which is situated on the traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people. I acknowledge the history of Canada’s settlers and recognize the continued impact of colonization on all indigenous communities.
I am here today in my capacity as the chair of Canada’s national contact point for responsible business conduct, which is one of Canada’s two dispute-resolution mechanisms for issues relating to Canadian companies’ actions abroad. The NCP is one of many instruments that reinforce Canadian policy in this area and I take this role very seriously.
The national contact point, or the NCP, is a federal interdepartmental committee mandated to promote the uptake of the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises, or the MNE guidelines, as we call them. The MNE guidelines were originally drafted in 1976, but they took on a greater prominence in late 1999 in the face of heightened sensitivity to globalization and the important role that companies play. The MNE guidelines are the only multilateral code of responsible business conduct that governments have committed to promote. They are periodically updated to ensure that they are fit for purpose. For example, the OECD has developed additional guidance documents for high-risk sectors and has most recently published guidance on due diligence to assist companies and NCPs.
In 2000, all OECD members, including Canada, committed to establishing NCP offices to further the effectiveness of the guidelines. Canada’s NCP, therefore, is one of a global network of 50 national contact point offices. The NCP network meets regularly to share best practices, to collaborate on cases and to develop forward-looking policies. NCPs provide a place where everyone from individuals to communities to companies to civil society can bring their concerns. Each NCP provides voluntary, non-judicial mediation and conflict resolution to address issues that arise between these groups. Co-operation amongst network members ensures that there is consistency across all NCPs in how cases are treated.
You’ll recall that I said a moment ago that Canada’s NCP is an interdepartmental committee. It was established through an order in council in the year 2000. It comprises officials from eight departments, which are Innovation, Science and Economic Development; Natural Resources Canada; Finance; Environment and Climate Change; Crown-Indigenous Relations; Employment and Social Development Canada; Public Services and Procurement Canada; and, of course, Global Affairs.
This makeup ensures that our NCP has the relevant expertise to review complaints under any of the chapters of the MNE guidelines, which address a range of issues, such as transparency, human rights, labour and industrial relations, environment and due diligence. The MNE guidelines are sector agnostic. As such, the actions of any Canadian company in any sector can be considered, provided the company meets the definition of “multinational”, which, in its simplest terms, means that a company operates in two or more countries.
As I mentioned, like all other NCPs, Canada’s NCP is a voluntary, non-judicial grievance mechanism, but we do stand apart. That’s because, unlike the other NCPs, Canada’s NCP has an important tool to strengthen our effectiveness. It is the ability and the willingness to withdraw government trade advocacy support and to recommend that EDC deny future financial support if the NCP does not find that a company has acted in good faith. We call this “the trade measure”. In fact, the international NGO consortium OECD Watch has recognized this important consequence as a best practice that other NCPs should emulate.
Since 2000, Canada's NCP has reviewed 20 complaints, seven of which were received in the last three years. The majority of these cases—85% of them—were in the extractive sector and two-thirds were filed by NGOs. We are currently reviewing four cases, of which only one is related to extractives. Canada has also supported other NCPs in 10 cases involving Canadian companies.
Positive outcomes of NCP cases can include trust building between the communities, workers and companies, remediation, longer-term policy changes within companies and transformative learning opportunities for the parties.
The NCP has a dual nature in that it works to promote the adoption of the guidelines by companies and to raise awareness with a focus on prevention and pro-action to ward off potential problems before they do occur. It also aims to find solutions when problems occur. As a non-judicial body, the NCP does not render rulings on guilt or determine damages. The NCP provides an avenue to arrive at mutually agreeable solutions. However, the NCP does make recommendations, including with respect to the use of the trade measure.
Before I close, I want to reiterate that the NCP is committed to responsible business conduct by Canadian companies and is working alongside the CORE to implement her important mandate.
Thank you very much.