OTTAWA – Today, Liberal and Conservative MPs have acted in concert to defeat Bill C-331, the International Promotion and Protection of Human Rights Act. The bill would have given non-citizens the ability to bring civil suits to Canadian federal courts for clear violations of Indigenous peoples’ rights, labour, environmental and basic human rights committed outside of Canada.
“Canada should be at the forefront of Human Rights enforcement. Bill 331 sends a clear message that citizens who have claims that cannot be heard elsewhere can come to the Canadian courts to have their human right claims heard. It is a tragedy that Parliament declined to send that message today,” said Mark Rowlinson, labour lawyer and Assistant to Steelworkers’ Canadian National Director.
Bill C-331 was defeated 238 to 49. It received unanimous support from New Democrat, Bloc Québécois and Green MPs.
“Civil society’s remarkable show of support for this bill has been outstanding. I am confident that in the fall, Canadians will elect a Parliament that is going to be far more responsive to Canadians’ priorities, instead of those of wealthy corporations,” stated Julian. “Canada must promote values of respect, social justice, environmental protection and respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples, labour, environmental and human rights here and abroad.”
The bill was endorsed by over 50 national organizations, representing over five million Canadians, who wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister calling on the government of Canada to vote in favour of C-331. These groups included Common Frontiers, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation, Greenpeace Canada, the Climate Action Network Canada and the Canadian Association of Labour Lawyers. Prominent Canadians supporting the bill include Stephen Lewis, Maude Barlow and Ken Neuman, National Director of United Steelworkers (USW) – Canada.
A little over six months ago Justin Trudeau stated that, ‘Canada is unwavering in its commitment to protect and promote human rights. We will not stand idle while hundreds of thousands of people around the world suffer gross human rights violations, nor will we hesitate to condemn violations of human rights, regardless of where they take place…Human rights are universal and fundamental – and so is our responsibility to protect them.’
“Today, the Prime Minister abandoned those words and the hundreds of thousands of people who look to Canada to help alleviate their suffering,” stated Nick Milanovic, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Law at Carleton University, labour lawyer, an arbitrator, and a union member.
It is time for the Canadian government to show leadership in facilitating access to Canadian courts for the foreign victims of corporate abuses. The NDP will continue the fight for human & environmental rights in the next Parliament.