Submissions to the Government of Canada on the Renewal of the Responsible Business Conduct Strategy

My colleagues and I at Citizen Lab have published submissions we made to the Government of Canada in regards to its public consultation to update the Responsible Business Conduct strategy. We focus on international human rights harms that flow from the use of Canadian-made technologies used abroad. The entire submissions are available here, with our key recommendations below:

Reform Canadian export law:  

  1. Clarify that all Canadian exports are subject to the mandatory ‘human rights’ analysis set out in section 7.3(1) and section 7.4 of the Export and Import Permits Act (EIPA).
  2. Amend section 3(1) the EIPA such that the human rights risks of an exported good or technology provide an explicit basis for export control.
  3. Amend the EIPA to include a ‘catch-all’ provision that subjects cyber-surveillance technology to export control, even if not listed on the Export Control List, when there is evidence that the end-use may be connected with internal repression and/or the commission of serious violations of international human rights or international humanitarian law. 

Implement mandatory human rights due diligence legislation:

  1. Similar to the French duty of vigilance law, impose a human rights due diligence requirement on businesses such that they are required to perform human rights risk assessments, develop mitigation strategies, implement an alert system, and develop a monitoring and public reporting scheme. 
  2. Ensure that the mandatory human rights due diligence legislation provides a statutory mechanism for liability where a company fails to conform with the requirements under the law. 

Expand and strengthen the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE): 

  1. Expand the CORE’s mandate to cover technology sector businesses operating abroad.
  2. Expand the CORE’s investigatory mandate to include the power to compel companies and executives to produce testimony, documents, and other information for the purposes of joint and independent fact-finding.
  3. Strengthen the CORE’s powers to hold companies to account for human rights violations abroad, including the power to impose fines and penalties and to impose mandatory orders.
  4. Expand the CORE’s mandate to assist victims to obtain legal redress for human rights abuses. This could include the CORE helping enforce mandatory human rights due diligence requirements, imposing penalties and/or additional statutory mechanisms for redress when requirements are violated.
  5. Increase the CORE’s budgetary allocations to ensure that it can carry out its mandate.