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International Business and Human Rights Law


The United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) unanimously endorsed the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations “Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework” (UNGPs) in 2011. In May 2017, members of the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights will conduct a country visit to Canada. This paper will introduce the UNGPs, examine the experience of other countries visited by the working group, including the United States, which was visited in 2013, and consider what to expect during the visit to Canada. It is likely that the working group will consider implementation of the state duty to protect human rights in terms of its application both to businesses operating within Canada and to Canadian companies operating internationally. Given Canada’s prominence in global mining and ongoing contestation over respect for Indigenous rights within Canada, especially in the oil and gas sector, it is also likely that the working group will pay careful attention to implementation of law and policy in natural resource development. Following the country visit, the working group is likely to recommend that Canada develop a national action plan (NAP) for the implementation of the UNGPs. This presents an opportunity for Canada to play a leading role in clarifying the link between business and human rights, Indigenous rights and climate change. HRC in 2011,2 and then consider what to expect from the country visit based upon previous experiences, most notably a visit to the United States in 2013.3 The paper will briefly examine implementation of the UNGPs in Canadian law and policy, including the federal government’s promotion of a corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy for extractive companies operating abroad,4 and identify possible issues that the working group might examine during its visit. The conclusions recommend that Canada develop an NAP for the implementation of the UNGPs, as other countries have done, and suggest that this could provide an opportunity to clarify the linkage between business and human rights, Indigenous rights, and the environment and climate change.


CIGI Paper No. 129 / International Law Research Program, Centre for International Governance Innovation