The Struggle for an Ombudsperson “With Teeth” Continues in Streets of Toronto

The drizzle and cold weather did not discourage human rights activists from attending an urgent event in Christie Pits Park in Toronto, on May 4. Along with other prominent Canadian human rights organizations, the United Steelworkers union was present to call on the federal government to appoint an ombudsperson with real power to investigate corporate abuses abroad.

Government officials claim that this was achieved last month – more than 15 months after an initial announcement. The proposed powers of the new Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) have been stripped; it currently does not have any real independence or power to compel evidence from Canadian companies operating abroad who have been accused of human rights abuses.

In the announcement, Minister of International Trade Jim Carr said that a study is underway to assess the extent of those powers, but nothing indicates that the upcoming results will be sufficient. Trade unionists know for a fact that companies will not respect labour rights unless there is a strong framework in place to regulate their actions. Relying on the good will of corporations does not work. And stripping the office of all powers sends a clear message to people who have had their labour rights violated by Canadian mining companies: Don’t expect your concerns to be taken seriously.

As the colourful contingent of protesters marched through made it loud and clear, we will continue to push the federal government to be on the side of communities and not cave under the pressure of corporate lobbyists.

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234 Eglinton Ave. E., 8th Floor
Toronto, ON M4P 1K7