Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Amnesty report is critical of current government's performance

Today, Amnesty International released a report on the recent performance of the Canadian government in the international arena, called Canada and the International Protection of Human Rights: An Erosion of Leadership. The report is critical in a number of areas, with focus on
• the human rights of Indigenous Peoples;
• strengthening the UN human rights system;
• the death penalty; and
• consistently raising concerns about human rights violations in other countries.
There were references to business & human rights in the report. It criticizes the Harper government's support for the Colombian government, which has a horrible human rights record, and its pursuit of a trade deal with Colombia. (Earlier in the report, we learn that the Colombian government was one of the only six others to join the Canadian government in calling for a redrafting of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in June 2007).

They also make recommendations related to business & human rights. Here is the full text:
•Amnesty International is concerned that the government has yet to respond to the Final Report and recommendations of the government-initiated National
Advisory Group to the Corporate Social Responsibility Roundtables on setting standards for Canadian extractives companies operating overseas. There are currently no national standards for Canadian companies overseas and there are concerns that companies operating in areas with weak, unenforced or nonexistent human rights laws may commit or contribute to human rights violations – and get away with it. By agreeing to adopt the Advisory Group recommendations, which include mechanisms for investigating and reporting on complaints and tying government support to compliance, Canada could become a world leader in corporate social responsibility.

• Amnesty International remains concerned that trade and investment agreements and negotiations do not refer explicitly to the full spectrum of international human rights norms and concrete mechanisms for ensuring those norms are respected. Amnesty International has urged the government to undertake human rights impact assessments of trade rules during negotiations and following the adoption of new agreements.

• Amnesty International was particularly concerned that the human rights shortcomings in Canada’s trade policy were starkly illustrated in the government’s approach to pressing ahead this year with plans to negotiate a new trade deal with Colombia. Amnesty International called for an approach that would ensure that human rights obligations would meaningfully be enshrined in any trade arrangement negotiated with Colombia.

• Amnesty International has, for several years, urged Canada and other governments to work towards the adoption of international level standards with respect to the human rights responsibilities of business. A draft set of norms developed within the UN human rights system has not been adopted by governments. However, a UN-level process considering issues with respect to the human rights responsibilities of business continues, overseen by the UN Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises. Amnesty
International has joined 239 other organizations, socially responsible investment
firms, and individuals in an open letter to Professor Ruggie outlining our views on how he might use the remainder of his mandate to most effectively advance human rights protection in a business context. As a leading country in the global
extractives sector, Canada should engage in that process with an eye to developing strong international standards regarding the human rights responsibilities of business.

• Amnesty International continues to monitor the implementation of internationally recognized Indigenous rights standards by extractives companies and the Canadian government. Several issues are at stake, the most notable being the principle of free, prior and informed consent. It is clear that across Canada resource extraction is proceeding in situations where this requirement has not been met. The federal and provincial governments must ensure full incorporation of the principle of free, prior and informed consent into law and practice, thus reducing risk and uncertainty for business and bringing Canada’s land use policies into line with its national and international obligations.
Read the full report here.

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