The 14th of May will always evoke feelings of pride and solidarity in the Development and Peace members from across the country who had gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in 2014 to demand an independent and effective ombudsperson as part of the A Voice for Justice campaign.
Six years later, thanks in no small measure to their efforts, the Trudeau government has created and named an ombudsperson. Unfortunately, she lacks the independence and powers necessary to be effective. So, as it does every May, the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, a 38-member coalition that includes Development and Peace — Caritas Canada, will observe a Month of Action for Mining Justice and call for the ombudsperson’s office to be strengthened.
Pan-sector suffering in pandemic times
This year, we will broaden our focus to include all workers and human rights defenders whose troubles are exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. Workers in the garment sector, for instance, need our solidarity now because they face significant risks and vulnerabilities in the fight against COVID-19.
While much of the world is on lock-down, the risks faced by workers and environmental and human rights defenders who are fighting for justice have not disappeared. In some cases, the risks have even increased because the lock-down has suspended civil liberties and made many countries’ hinterlands even more inaccessible and unscrutinised.
Communities in the Global South continue to bear witness of human rights abuses by Canadian corporations or their suppliers and contractors. These include forced labour; child labour; unpaid wages; threats, rapes and murders against people opposing mining projects; the contamination of water and land; forced evictions; and abuses of Indigenous rights. Canadian corporations seem to not be respecting international human rights standards, something that is crucial for them to do.
Learn from experts, ask an MP
To learn more about how what needs to be done to ensure Canadian corporations respect human rights, join us for a special corporate accountability webinar on Thursday, May 14, 2020. Hear directly from human rights defenders in the Philippines, the Brazilian Amazon and Bangladesh:
- Cristina (Tinay) Palabay, General Secretary of KARAPATAN, a coalition of Philippine human rights organizations and a partner of the United Church and Kairos Canada (live presentation)
- Francisco Oliveira da Silva, Jéssica Maciel Cabral, Ildair dos Santas and other leaders of the Mura people of the Brazilian Amazon (video testimony). Development and Peace and the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) are helping their community fight for the right to free, prior, and informed consent and to protect their territory from a Canadian-owned potash mine.
- Kalpona Akter, Executive Director of the Bangladesh Center for Workers’ Solidarity (an Oxfam Canada partner), who is calling for Canadian garment brands to pay Bangladeshi garment workers’ salaries (video testimony)
Webinar participants will be able to raise their concerns with the federal Members of Parliament (MPs) who will be joining us to share their perspectives on corporate accountability in Canada:
- Heather McPherson, MP for Edmonton Strathcona, NDP
- Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich—Gulf Islands, Green Party
- Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe, MP for Lac-Saint-Jean, Bloc Québécois
- (More to be confirmed)
Please register for the webinar in your preferred language:
Minding our own business: how to ensure Canadian businesses respect human rights abroad
Thursday, May 14, 2020
7:30 to 8:45 p.m. ET
Se mêler de nos affaires: s’assurer que les entreprises canadiennes respectent les droits humains à l’étranger
Jeudi le 14 mai 2020
12h00 à 1h15 (heure de l’Est)
Empowering the ombudsperson
During the webinar, we will also launch an action plan to empower the ombudsperson and enact corporate accountability legislation in Canada. It will include:
- A new parliamentary e-petition urging the Canadian government to:
- give the ombudsperson the power needed to effectively investigate complaints against Canadian companies overseas; and
- enact a law that compels businesses to respect international human rights standards across their global operations and supply chains and holds corporations liable for harms caused by their operations.
- Virtual meetings with MPs to seek their support for the e-petition and its two demands
- Members are encouraged ask their MPs to support the petition demands at the first meeting and to follow up two weeks later, to ask what action the MP took.
- A social media campaign to empower the ombudsperson and to enact corporate accountability measures
Details about how you can take part will be shared during the webinar. We hope you will join us for this important webinar. Even if you cannot make it at the time, be sure to register, so we can send you the recording.