Globe and Mail – Trade Minister plans to confront CEOs over human-rights rules.

By Bill Curry.

Companies could be forced to hand over documents under a new federal human-rights regime, and the Trade Minister says he will personally challenge the CEOs of firms found to be hurting Canada’s international reputation.

Surrounded by human-rights advocates and union leaders Wednesday, Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne announced the creation of a new independent ombudsperson who will have the power to investigate allegations of abuses by Canadian companies operating abroad.

The Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise, or CORE, is being promoted as the first office of its kind in the world and a step up from the existing mediator body, which has been criticized as weak and ineffective. “We want to make sure that the ombudsperson has all the tools and resources to conduct these investigations,” said Mr. Champagne, who made the announcement at the headquarters of Global Affairs.

“We have the authority, and I’m prepared to use that authority – to compel documents if need be. We expect companies to engage in that process because we think that this is giving Canadian companies a competitive advantage. … Today, corporate social responsibility is core to business succeeding in the world.”

If the watchdog is unable to obtain company records as part of an investigation, the government says it will be able to ask cabinet to approve an order in council compelling the company to hand over the files.

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