What We Think About Canada’s Guidelines on Supporting Human Rights Defenders

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Last week we submitted comments Voices at Risk: Canada’s Guidelines on Supporting Human Rights Defenders.

According to the Guidelines website, Canada works with other governments, civil society, international organizations, and the private sector to strengthen the international rules that protect universal human rights. International engagement also means supporting human rights defenders: the women, men and youth in communities around the world who keep respect for human rights alive.

As civil society it is our job to hold governments and companies accountable for respecting human rights and environmental laws and standards. Canada is a global leader in championing human rights defenders. On the other hand, however, Canada is home to more than half of the world’s mining companies and Canadian law provides an incomplete framework for meaningful accountability for the human rights impact of Canadian extractive companies. Canada’s guidelines on human rights defenders are an important resource for supporting defenders. The government can do more, however, to ensure that Canadian companies comply with the highest human rights and environmental standards. This includes appointing and adequately resourcing the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise. We know the importance of accountability very well from working with women in Papua New Guinea, who were raped and abused by Canadian’s mine company Barrick’s own security guards.

As other international NGOs such as Global Witness and Frontline Defenders have reported, the number and severity of threats directed towards human rights defenders, and environmental and land defenders in particular, has reached dangerous levels and continues to grow. Drawing from ERI’s experience supporting environmental and land defenders (who we refer to as “earth rights defenders”), we recently published Fighting Back: A Global Protection Strategy for Earth Rights Defenders and accompanying interactive platform.

Read our comments to Canada’s guidelines below.

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