Ottawa / Halifax (March 2, 2021) – The Government of Canada has been ignoring and concealing expert legal advice it commissioned on how to give the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) the powers to do its job. The government has had this legal advice – the McIsaac Report – for over a year and a half and has failed to act on the report’s findings or even make the report public. The report was leaked on Thursday.

As a member of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA), the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network (BTS) has joined organizations across the country in calling for the creation of an independent and effective human rights ombudsperson for Canada’s extractive sector.

Since 2004, BTS has been providing human rights accompaniment to communities in Guatemala experiencing grave human rights abuses associated with Canadian mining projects. In the past two months, six members of the peaceful resistance to the Escobal mine owned by Canadian company Pan American Silver have suffered attacks and death threats in Guatemala.

The Canadian government announced the creation of the CORE three years ago, promising to provide the office with the investigatory powers that civil society organizations had been calling for. Then, in November, the office of the Minister of Small Business, Export Development and International Trade stated that this would not be the case afterall.

Without powers to compel documents and testimony, the expert report states that the CORE’s “effectiveness may be compromised” because it “will be dependent on the cooperation of the complainant and the entity being investigated.” 

 “The CORE, without powers, will have to rely on corporations to voluntarily do the right thing,” said Emily Dwyer, Coordinator of the CNCA. “We know from decades of experience that voluntary measures to hold powerful corporations accountable for their actions do not work. The Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise must be given the powers it needs to do its job.”

It has been over three years since the Canadian government committed to creating an independent and effective Ombudsperson for the extractive sector and we’re still waiting. Communities in Guatemala and globally have waited too long already for the Canadian government to hold Canadian corporations accountable for human rights abuses and environmental degradation,” said Stacey Gomez, BTS Maritimes Coordinator.

The CORE is set to start receiving complaints in 2021.