Watchdog overseeing Canada’s mining industry to press for more powers

The government agency set up to investigate claims of human rights abuses by Canadian companies abroad wants expanded powers, the head of the watchdog said, setting up a clash with the mining industry which has fought to limit its reach.

Canada created the office in 2018 to monitor and investigate claims of abuses by Canadian firms operating abroad. The body, which looks at the mining, energy and garment sectors, was meant to have the ability to recommend sanctions against violators, including withdrawing government export funding.

But human rights lawyers and advocacy groups have questioned whether the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) has the resources and independence needed to carry out its mandate.

Ombudswoman Sheri Meyerhoffer said she would ask the new Canadian cabinet minister overseeing the office for authority to compel documents and testimony from companies and their executives.

“We could maximize our impact if we had those powers,” she told Reuters.

Its annual budget of C$1.26 million ($948,795) funds a staff of four people, Meyerhoffer said, and a system for fielding complaints against Canadian companies will not launch until next year.

Budget documents show Canada started funding the watchdog in 2017-18 and then scaled up, with a total allocation of $6.8 million over six years. A government spokeswoman would not say if the mandate would be broadened.

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