Between October 1st and November 26, 2020, the Canadian Partnership for International Justice (CPIJ) participated in the Fall 2020 Virtual Conference Series by the Canadian Council on International Law. See the event’s programme here.

It organized and financed in collaboration with the University of Ottawa a panel titled “Is the Phoenix Still Rising in 2020? Int’l Human Rights Law & Corporate Accountability in Canada” which took place on October 15th.

This bilingual panel looked at whether 2020 is seeing an upturn in Canada’s commitment to its international obligations concerning human rights in business, in light of the recent Supreme Court of Canada judgment in Araya v. Nevsun.

In February 2020, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of Eritrean plaintiffs who alleged they were subjected to forced labour at a gold mine owned by a Canadian company in Eritrea. The Court ruled for the first time that a Canadian corporation may be held legally responsible for violations of international law that protect human rights. This is the latest in a recent series of rulings allowing claims to proceed in Canadian courts against Canadian mining companies for complicity in human rights abuses abroad.

The ruling was predicated on two distinct and important questions of customary international law, and their treatment in Canada. First, whether the act of state doctrine forms part of Canadian common law. Second, whether customary international law prohibitions against forced labour, slavery, and crimes against humanity can ground a claim for damages under Canadian law.

The panelists analyzed the Supreme Court’s decision and discussed the current and potential role of international law as a tool for holding Canadian companies accountable for their conduct and operations abroad.

Is the Phoenix Still Rising in 2020? Int’l Human Rights Law & Corporate Accountability in Canada

Chair: Amanda Ghahremani, Simone de Beauvoir Institute