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January 17th, 2018

NDP responds to establishment of Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise

OTTAWA — New Democrats welcome today’s announcement that the government will establish a new office of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise. However, we are concerned that the structure of this new office may not meet the standards promised by the Liberals during the last election.

The NDP has called for the establishment of an office of an independent ombudsperson for over a decade – since the 2007 National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – and has tabled numerous private member’s bills on this subject.

“An Ombudsperson for Canadian corporate activity abroad must have real powers to conduct investigations independent of the government and to operate free from all political interference,” said Hélène Laverdière, NDP Critic for Foreign Affairs. “We want to see these powers enshrined in legislation, not just by Order in Council. We also hope whoever is appointed to this position has expertise in labour, human and environmental rights.”

Civil society experts have also recommended that an Ombudsperson be able to compel testimony and the production of documents, and be empowered to recommend the withdrawal of government support, subsidy, promotion or protection by any government department or agency, including funding from Export Development Canada, for instance.

“This office should be a tool to challenge violations of human rights, labour rights, and environmental standards by Canadian corporations abroad, especially in extractive industries. Canadian civil society has campaigned for years alongside international activists for justice. We want to see the details, but if done right, this would be a step in the right direction,” said Robert Aubin, NDP Critic for International Development.
“We are willing to work with this government in any way needed to ensure that this office has all the investigative powers it needs and all the teeth required to enforce its findings,” added Cheryl Hardcastle, Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights.