Businesses have an important role to play in respecting human rights, as articulated in the ground-breaking work done by John Ruggie and his team when they put together the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP). The UNGP formed the basis for the human rights chapter of e3 Plus, which was last updated in 2014.
In addition to clarifying the role of business, Ruggie also clarified that the primary responsibility for protecting human rights lies with states. His work distinguished between the role of ‘host states’ (i.e. the countries in which Canadian companies operate) and ‘home states’ (i.e. the countries in which exploration and mining companies are head-quartered/listed).
Canada, as a home-state, has formally acknowledged its responsibility to encourage responsible business conduct abroad, on the part of its extractive sector companies, through its Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy for the Extractive Sector Abroad, first announced in 2009 and updated in 2014. PDAC has been actively involved in the design, implementation and revision of this strategy.
A key component of Ruggie’s work, as well as Canada’s CSR Strategy, is the concept of access to remedy; creating opportunities for communities outside of Canada that believe they have been negatively impacted by Canadian companies abroad to raise their concerns, and have those concerns responded to by Canada. There are currently three mechanisms through which communities outside of Canada can seek ‘access to remedy’. Two mechanisms are non-judicial in nature, namely the Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor (created in 2009) and the National Contact Point (NCP) system Canada established forty years ago as a signatory to the Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises created by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The third is judicial, namely the Canadian courts as a forum for filing complaints against Canadian companies.