The Adverse Human Rights Impacts of Canadian Technology Companies: Reforming Export Control with the Introduction of Mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence
Canadian Journal of Law & Technology, 2021
28 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2021
Date Written: June 1, 2021
Netsweeper, a Canadian company, has produced and sold Internet-filtering technology to authoritarian regimes abroad. According to public research from the Citizen Lab, this technology has been used to censor religious content in Bahrain, information on Rohingya refugees in Myanmar and India, political campaign content in United Arab Emirates, and information on HIV/AIDS in Kuwait. This article considers how Canadian export control law deals with technologies that negatively impact human rights abroad and identifies a gap in the existing export control scheme. We suggest this gap could be closed by adopting a proactive human rights due diligence requirement on companies seeking to export products under Canadian law. There is existing precedent in other jurisdictions for imposing a human rights due diligence requirement on companies more broadly as a matter of law. A legislative amendment to Canada’s export regime would move Canada towards meaningful compliance with the United Nations Guiding Principles, reflect a growing normative acceptance that companies have a duty to respect human rights under international law, and potentially open avenues for legal remedy.
Keywords: Technology, human rights, surveillance, export law, Canada
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