Canada's Enhanced CSR Strategy: Human Rights Due Diligence and Access to Justice for Victims of Extraterritorial Corporate Human Rights Abuses
Penelope Simons, "Canada's Enhanced CSR Strategy: Human Rights Due Diligence and Access to Justice for Victims of Extraterritorial Corporate Human Rights Abuses" (2015) 56(2) Canadian Business Law Journal 167.
41 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2015
Date Written: July 15, 2015
Like other states, Canada has eschewed a legal response to dealing with the problem of extractive companies’ involvement in violations of human rights in their overseas activities. This is despite the fact that Canadian extractive companies have been the subject of an increasing number of allegations of wrongdoing, including complicity in human rights abuses, in relation to their operations in developing countries. Canada has issued two policies aimed at addressing the conduct of Canadian extractive companies operating abroad. The second policy, launched in November 2014, is a welcome step forward from the first, establishing expectations for corporate conduct, providing a more robust role for the CSR Counsellor, as well as providing mechanisms to incentivize companies to meet the standards of conduct and to participate in the dispute settlement mechanism. Yet, although the policy references the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and articulates the expectation that companies respect human rights in their overseas activities, it does not specifically lay out the elements of this responsibility as defined in the Guiding Principles. In particular the policy fails to specifically require extractive companies to engage in human rights due diligence. Nor does it address the problem of access to judicial remedies for victims of corporate-related human rights violations. This article will assess the Canadian government’s new corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy against the requirements and recommendations of the UN Guiding Principles. It will contend that although the policy is a step in the right direction, without important modifications, the policy will fail to meet these widely accepted global standards and to prevent behaviour by Canadian extractive companies that violates human rights. As such it will not serve to enhance the poor global human rights reputation of Canada’s extractive industry.
Keywords: corporate social responsibility; extraction industry; international human rights; developing countries; business and human rights; Canadian policy on corporate social responsibility; UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
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