Newspaper article The Canadian Press

New Corporate-Ethics Ombud Named but Powers Still Subject to Legal Review

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

New Corporate-Ethics Ombud Named but Powers Still Subject to Legal Review

Article excerpt

Feds name corporate-responsibility enforcer

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OTTAWA - The federal government's long-awaited announcement Monday of a watchdog to enforce responsible conduct by Canadian companies operating abroad was greeted with disappointment by human-rights advocates.

The condemnation was sparked by a decision from International Trade Minister Jim Carr to consult further on the powers of the new "Canadian ombudsperson for responsible enterprise" -- a legal review that he said could extend into early June.

That means the fate of the new office will be left to the waning days of the final sitting of Parliament prior to the October federal election. The Liberals promised to create this position as part of their 2015 campaign platform.

At issue is whether the new ombudsperson Sheri Meyerhoffer, a lawyer with a long record in business and international development, can compel reluctant companies to co-operate with her investigations into whether their conduct violated the human rights of local populations and to follow recommendations she makes.

Carr said he wants independent legal advice on how best to give Meyerhoffer the power to make companies disclose documents and answer questions.

The review will include an assessment of "the appropriateness of the Inquiries Act as a tool" to give Meyerhoffer the power to "compel witnesses and documents."

Her appointment as the new ombudsperson is intended to be a substantive upgrade to the current "corporate responsibility counsellor," an office widely criticized as a toothless entity for dealing with misconduct complaints against Canadian companies, mainly in the mining industry.

Alex Neve, the head of Amnesty international Canada, welcomed Meyerhoffer's appointment but said it's disappointing the government still hasn't defined her powers some 15 months after announcing the creation the position. …

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