Hong Kong protesters hold East Turkestan Uighur flags at a 2019 rally in support of the human rights of the Uighurs. A Conservative MP has joined calls for legislation to prevent human rights abuses in a corporate accountability law. CNS photo/Lucy Nicholson, Reuters

MP endorses corporate responsibility law

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  • January 6, 2022

Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu has joined with Development and Peace – Caritas Canada in endorsing a proposed new international corporate accountability law.

“We need a law in Canada that will require Canadian companies to act that way in the world — to prevent human rights abuse and environmental harm overseas and include real consequences for companies that fail to take adequate steps to prevent harm,” Gladu said in a 36-second video Development and Peace posted to its Facebook account just before Christmas.

The Sarnia-Lambton MP made the video after hearing from Development and Peace members at St. Joseph’s Parish in Sarnia about their support for model legislation requiring Canadian corporations to monitor and report on human rights throughout their supply chains. The proposed law, released last May by the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, has the backing of 150 organizations and unions, including Development and Peace.

Beyond mere reporting, this proposed human rights and environmental due diligence legislation would enshrine a right for anyone anywhere harmed by a Canadian corporate failure to bring its supply chain into line with international law to sue the company in Canadian court. So if the cotton in your jeans was picked by forced Uigher labour in China or the cobalt in your cell phone battery was mined by a nine-year-old in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the people who suffered such human rights abuses should have the right to sue the Canadian companies that sell those products

“We can’t say we’re going to stand up for human rights and then allow Canadian companies to violate human rights in other countries,” Gladu told The Catholic Register after her video endorsement went online.

“We need to make sure they walk the walk. We want to see people standing up, not putting children into forced labour, not making environmental messes around the world. That’s not what Canada wants to be known for.”

Gladu would not herself propose a private members’ bill along the lines of the NGO-sponsored model legislation, but that’s only because she wants to see it passed. She doesn’t like the chances of private members’ bills.

“I really think the government has to take the leadership role here,” Gladu said. “They are the ones who are long on talk about standing up for human rights and standing up for environmental responsibility. They have the ability to move this legislation through.”

Winning over a Conservative on greater corporate regulation is a significant victory, said Development and Peace deputy director of public awareness and engagement Luke Stocking.

“Any time you can get a Conservative to endorse a campaign demand like the one we have right now, it’s only a good thing for building political consensus,” he said.

It also helps break down preconceptions about human rights and the environment as left-wing issues.

“It’s not partisan. We’re not engaged in partisan politics,” said Stocking. “We’re remaining faithful to the social teaching of the Church.”

Development and Peace went into the corporate accountability campaign knowing COVID would make campaigning tough.

“We knew with COVID we were going to have a real challenge to generate the usual 80,000 to 100,000 signatures we can get when parishes and schools are full,” Stocking said.

Gladu’s video endorsement “speaks to the importance of grassroots advocacy,” he said. The delegation from St. Joseph’s was the key.

“I don’t tend to sign such statements, but I was happy to make a video,” said Gladu.

“We welcome this support for binding rules for companies from MP Gladu,” Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability co-ordinator Emily Dwyer said in an e-mail.

Dwyer predicts that voters are ready to back politicians who are willing to enforce corporate due diligence on human rights and the environment.

“Consumers have more of an understanding of both supply chains and global human rights because of the pandemic,” she said. “Canada is falling behind global momentum. There is growing global momentum towards laws requiring business to respect human rights. Canada is falling behind.”

She points to new laws and pending legislation in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the European Union, plus G20 commitments to eradicate modern slavery dating back to 2017.

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