Ottawa to create new ombudsperson to keep tabs on corporate behaviour abroad

The Liberal government is creating an independent watchdog to enforce responsible conduct of Canadian companies operating abroad.

Job will focus on several sectors including mining, oil and gas and the garment sector

Minister of International Trade Francois-Philippe Champagne says the Liberal government is planning to make good on a campaign promise to create an ombudsman with teeth to oversee the conduct of Canadian companies operating abroad. (Geoff Robins/Canadian Press)

The Liberal government is creating an independent watchdog to enforce responsible conduct of Canadian companies operating abroad.

International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne announced the new position Wednesday.

The role of the Canadian ombudsperson for responsible enterprise will be to work towards resolving conflicts between local communities and Canadian companies operating abroad.

The position will focus on several sectors including mining, oil and gas and the garment sector.

It will also have the power to independently investigate and make recommendations in cases involving human rights complaints.

Champagne said the government may withhold support, including financial, from companies that are found to have committed violations and that he would take an active role in making them toe the line.

"To fly the Maple Leaf means something. It means being associated with a set of values," he told a news conference.

"This is an extraordinary brand to have in the world today," he added. "But it also comes with responsibilities."

The new position is intended to be a substantive upgrade to the current "corporate responsibility counsellor," which has been widely criticized as a toothless entity for dealing with misconduct complaints against Canadian companies, mainly in the mining industry.

International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne discusses the government's creation of an independent watchdog to oversee how Canadian companies operate abroad. Champagne also fields questions on Canadian international trade pursuits. 9:26

Julia Sanchez, the head of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, said civil society groups such as her will be watching closely to see that the ombudsperson succeeds.

Her organization and others will be part of an advisory board that was also established as part of Champagne's announcement.