Policy Coherence in the Emerging International Business and Human Rights Regime: Lessons from Canada.

Author: Pia Bradshaw

Bradshaw, Pia, 2015 Policy Coherence in the Emerging International Business and Human Rights Regime: Lessons from Canada., Flinders University, School of History and International Relations

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Once a leader on international human rights, Canada’s response to the emerging international business and human rights regime has seen it lose its leadership status with Canadian corporations being labelled as some of the worst corporate human rights offenders in the world. The Canadian Government has largely dismissed calls to regulate Canadian corporations (namely in the mining and extractive sectors) operating abroad and to develop a comprehensive business and human rights framework (pointing to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights [UNGPs]). Instead, the Conservative Harper Government has pursued a more traditional and less comprehensive corporate social responsibility strategy which does not regulate corporations’ adequately through necessary punitive measures nor provide important adjudicative redress mechanisms for victims of corporate abuse. Canada is intentionally pursuing a policy of protecting corporate interests that align with their own Governmental values and in doing so, perpetuated the continuation of corporate human rights abuse abroad. Whilst regions such as Europe and countries like the U.S. are working towards implementing the UNGPs into their national frameworks, Canada’s November 2014 announcement of a newly enhanced CSR strategy illustrates little promise of seeking policy coherence with the internationally endorsed UNGPs business and human rights framework. A handful of Canadian Members of Parliament have tried to pass Private Member Bills that seek to regulate corporations operating abroad to address human rights issues, however none have yet been successful. Whilst such failed attempts may initially appear futile, some private member bills have only been defeated by a narrow margin. Given that the Canadian Government is showing little signs of aligning with the emerging international business and human rights regime and so long as it values corporate profit over human rights, prospects of a future private member bill being passed through Parliament appears to be Canada’s only immediate prospect of critically changing its stance towards the development of a comprehensive business and human rights strategy and framework.

Keywords: Business and human rights, international human rights, UNGPs, Canada, mining and extractive, corporate social responsibility, business and human rights norms, the Office of the CSR Counsellor, Canadian legal system, extraterritorality, adjudicative redress.

Subject: International Relations thesis

Thesis type: Professional Doctorate
Completed: 2015
School: School of History and International Relations
Supervisor: Anthony Langlois