Canadian Mining Internationally and the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights

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Human Rights, Global Mining, Corporate Social Responsibility, United Nations, Business Regulation, Transnational Corporate Conduct


Between 2005 and 2011, there was much debate within Canada and at the United Nations over what role home states should play in the regulation and adjudications of human rights harms associated with transnational corporate conduct. In Canada, this debate focused upon concerns associated with global mining, and led to a series of government, opposition and multi-stakeholder reports and proposals. These culminated in 2010 with the appointment of a Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor for the Extractive Sector and the defeat of Bill C-300, an act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries.

Meanwhile, at the UN Human Rights Council, Professor John G. Ruggie was appointed Special Representative to the UN Secretary-General on Business and Human Rights in a resolution co-sponsored by Canada. Ruggie’s work led to the 2008 Protect, Respect, Remedy Framework and the 2011 Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights, designed to “operationalize” Protect, Respect, Remedy. While these highlight the importance of the state duty to protect against human rights violations by businesses and the need for access to remedy by victims, the application to home states was contested. This article will compare the developments in Canada between 2005 and 2011 with the work of the SRSG in relation to the home state duty to protect human rights. In conclusion, some reflections will be offered on the implications for legal remedy of the inevitability of industry and industry lawyer participation in the development of international norms relating to the home states.