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Protecting Human Rights Defenders Globally: Does Canada Mean Business? – Slaw Canada

November 2 nd 2023

Businesses are deeply implicated in abuses of human rights defenders worldwide. In 2021 more than “a quarter of lethal attacks were linked to resource exploitation,” according to Global Witness. Indigenous Peoples are disproportionately attacked. Over 40 percent of fatal attacks targeted Indigenous people who make up only 5 percent of the world’s population. One in ten defenders killed were women, two-thirds of whom were Indigenous.

Canada’s record of business abuses of human rights increasingly attracts international criticism. Canada is home to about half the world’s extractive companies operating in nearly 100 countries. When Indigenous land rights defenders protest business or government incursions on their lands, they are likely to be vilified, stigmatized, criminalized, threatened, or attacked. Canada is no exception.

Canada’s promises

Protection of human rights defenders around the world is one of six pillars supporting the Canadian government’s May 2023 announcement of its plan to seek election to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council in 2028-2030. Canada also pledges to advance “the rights of Indigenous peoples and reconciliation” and to respond “justly to climate change.” Business and human rights are not on the list.

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