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

See all articles by Siena Anstis

Siena Anstis

University of Toronto, Munk School of Global Affairs, Citizen Lab

RJ Reid

McCarthy Tétrault LLP

Date Written: June 1, 2021

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Anstis, Siena and Reid, RJ, The Adverse Human Rights Impacts of Canadian Technology Companies: Reforming Export Control with the Introduction of Mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence (June 1, 2021). Canadian Journal of Law & Technology, 2021, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3894947 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3894947

Siena Anstis (Contact Author)

University of Toronto, Munk School of Global Affairs, Citizen Lab ( email )

Toronto, Ontario
Canada

RJ Reid

McCarthy Tétrault LLP ( email )

Suite 4700, TD Bank Tower
Toronto Dominion Centre
Toronto, Ontario M5K 1E6
Canada

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