Today, the Government of Canada appointed the first Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise, Ms. Sheri Meyerhoffer. Oxfam Canada has been advocating for the creation of such a position for several years. We are concerned, however, that the new Ombudsperson position has not been equipped with the independence or adequate powers of investigation to address Canada’s corporate accountability gap.
Oxfam has documented how women’s rights are being violated by irresponsible corporate behavior across the global economy. An Ombudsperson for business and human rights needs to be arms-length from government to operate as an effective, non-judicial grievance mechanism. It also needs to be granted strong powers of investigation to get to the bottom of alleged human rights abuses.
“We don’t want an Ombudsperson that risks failing the brave individuals who may wish to bring human rights complaints to Canada. The office needs adequate powers of investigation to hold Canadian companies accountable when they have breached international human rights standards,” said Ian Thomson, policy specialist with Oxfam Canada.
Oxfam Canada urges the government to strengthen the new Ombudsperson office with greater independence and stronger power to compel testimony and documentation from Canadian companies facing allegations of human rights abuses. Failure to do so will leave women struggling in the global economy.
Since 2017, Oxfam Canada has been tracking the federal government’s progress in implementing its feminist policy agenda through an annual Feminist Scorecard. The 2019 Scorecard, published last month, highlighted the government’s unfulfilled promise to appoint an Ombudsperson with robust investigatory powers and a strong mandate on gender justice.