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Canada: UN expert group to assess impact of business operations on human rights

Mission to Canada

18 May 2017

GENEVA (18 May 2017) – The United Nations Working Group on business and human rights will undertake its first official visit to Canada from 23 May to 1 June to examine efforts to prevent and address adverse human rights impacts of business operations.

“Canada is home to a wide range of small and medium-sized companies as well as major multinational companies, including in the energy and mining sectors,” noted Surya Deva, current Vice-Chair of the expert group.

“Apart from looking into efforts to prevent and address human rights abuses in Canada, we will also look into steps taken to ensure respect for human rights by Canadian companies operating abroad,” Mr. Deva said. “We welcome this opportunity to review Canada’s experience in promoting corporate respect for human rights.”

The Working Group’s visiting delegation will be assessing how the Canadian Government and businesses are implementing their respective human rights obligations and responsibilities under with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The Guiding Principles, unanimously endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, provide an authoritative framework to prevent and address adverse human rights risks and impacts of business activities and to ensure that victims have access to effective remedy.

“In addition to engaging with the Government and various companies and business associations, we will meet with civil society and trade union representatives, human rights defenders and members of indigenous communities,” said Anita Ramasastry, the other member of the Working Group’s visiting delegation.

“We will give attention to the situations of groups that may be particularly vulnerable to business-related human rights abuse,” she stressed.

The experts, who visit the country at the invitation of the Canadian Government, will hold meetings in Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton, Williams Lake, Vancouver, and Calgary.

At the end of their mission, on Thursday 1 June, the visiting delegations will hold a press conference to share with the media preliminary observations from their visit at 12:00 at the National Press Building (National Press Theatre), 150 Wellington St, Ottawa. Access to the press conference is strictly limited to journalists.

Findings from the country visit and recommendations will be presented in an official report to be presented to the Human Rights Council.

The Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises was established by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011. Its current members are: Mr. Michael Addo (current Chairperson), Mr. Surya Deva (current vice chair), Mr. Dante Pesce, Ms. Anita Ramasastry and Mr. Pavel Sulyandziga.

The Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent human rights monitoring mechanisms. The Working Groups report to the Human Rights Council and to the UN General Assembly.  Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. The experts are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

UN Human Rights, country page: Canada 

For additional information and media requests please contact:
In Canada (during the visit): Ulrik Halsteen (+41 79 444 4187 / [email protected])
In Geneva (before and after the visit): Ulrik Halsteen, +41 22 917 9323 / [email protected]).

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, OHCHR Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / [email protected])

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