Canadian Manufacturing

Canadian firms could be held liable at home for injustice abroad

CNCA organization calling for legal proceedings to be allowed in Canada for overseas incidents



OTTAWA—Canadian energy and natural resource firms working abroad may soon be held liable on home soil for injury, death or social injustice.

According to the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA), a call to action has been issued to Members of Parliament demanding justice and accountability for Canadian mining and oil and gas firms with operations overseas.

“It is time for Canada to create a mandatory extractive-sector Ombudsman and to legislate access to courts for people who are harmed by the overseas operations of Canadian oil, mining and gas companies,” CNCA coordinator Emily Dwyer said in an announcement about the call to action.

According to the CNCA, 23 Canadian organizations signed the call to action that is requesting that those harmed by Canadian operations abroad be able to bring their legal matters to Canada.

The CNCA said the voluntary federal Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Counsellor “has proved hopelessly ineffective since the Office was established in 2009.”

No complaint has ever gone through a full review process with the Office of the CSR Counsellor, the CNCA alleges, and in most cases the company has simply walked away

“A Canadian company implicated in human rights abuses should not be able to put a stop to a complaint process,” said Ken Neumann, national director for the United Steelworkers (USW) union.

“An independent decision-maker should be making that decision, based on the merits of the case.”

The call to action is aimed at preventing Canadian companies from trying to hide from accountability by insisting that cases related to their overseas operations should not be heard by Canadian courts.

“In our globalized world we can’t hide behind the idea that the harm is happening somewhere else and is someone else’s problem,” said Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada. “Canadian companies need to be held to account in Canadian courts.”

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