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Ryerson CSR Institute Session: Support of Human Rights Defenders - Recent Developments

March 07, 2018
12:00 PM EST - 2:30 PM EST
Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management, 55 Dundas St. West, Toronto [7th floor, room TRS 1-148]

Around the world, those who speak out on human rights issues and act to promote and protect human rights (human rights defenders, or HRDs) play a vital role in bringing public attention to potentially problematic activities. It is not uncommon for HRDs to comment critically on what they perceive as unacceptable governmental behaviour, but also on alleged problematic business actions. Unfortunately, HRDs continue to face attempts to suppress or intimidate their voice when they publicly make known a potentially problematic human rights issue, such as expressing concern that a community supply of fresh water is under threat, or that the voices of indigenous groups are not are not being adequately heard, or that the safety of workers is in jeopardy. Worst still, HRDs have lost their lives for speaking out on such issues. 

As noted in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, governments have a primordial duty to protect human rights, and as part of this, a duty to protect those who may be the subject of unacceptable acts of suppression when they speak out on potentially problematic human rights practices. Under the Guiding Principles, businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights, and in this sense, they should exercise due diligence to ensure that their activities do not negatively impact on the human rights of stakeholders.  In this regard, leading public sector and private sector entities are taking explicit action to support HRDs. The Ryerson CSR Institute, working with Global Affairs Canada, is undertaking a series of multi-stakeholder consultative discussions and consultations exploring the role of public sector, private sector and civil society support for HRDs.  A preliminary session was held on September 28, 2017.  This session represents the second discussion of the topic. More are planned for the coming months. Depending on developments at the international and national level, these Canadian consultations may lead to multistakeholder development of Canadian guidance concerning how to support HRDs.

This session is one of a series of multi-stakeholder discussions and consultations facilitated by the Ryerson CSR Institute and supported by Global Affairs Canada, that are exploring the role of government, business and civil society in support of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs), which may lead to multistakeholder development of Canadian guidance on this topic.  

This event is co-sponsored by the Ryerson CSR Student Association, the Ryerson Commerce and Government Association, and the Ryerson Law and Business Student Association. 

Eric Bertram (Deputy Director, Human Rights Division, Global Affairs Canada). He has extensive experience working on the intersection of human rights, diplomacy, and foreign investment.  A former CBC journalist, he joined the Foreign Service in 1997, and has been posted to Philippines, Peru, and Tanzania.  He has negotiated on behalf of Canada at the Biodiversity Convention, the World Trade Organization, and the UN Human Rights Council.  His current work focuses on human rights and on Indigenous affairs. He is the co-author of Global Affairs Canada's Voices at risk: Canada’s guidelines on supporting human rights defenders, external link.

David Clarry (representing the Mining Association of Canada, which in May 2017, announced a membership commitment to implement the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights). David is the Vice President of CSR at HudBay Minerals, Inc. From 2009 - 2011, David worked through his own firm, Innotain Inc., providing extractive sector consulting services. Prior to that, he spent 18 years with Hatch Ltd.

Robert Coleman (Director - Trade Planning, Coordination and Responsible Business Conduct, Global Affairs Canada in Ottawa since 2017). Prior to his current role, he was Deputy Director for Commercial Relations with South Asia. A Trade Commissioner since 1999, Robert has been posted as Senior Trade Commissioner in Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City, 2003-2006) and in Australia (Canberra 2009-2013) in addition to serving in positions in headquarters in both trade policy and trade promotion as well as in Calgary at what is now the Global Affairs Regional Office (1999-2000). Prior to joining Global Affairs, Robert worked for other Government departments and in the private sector. He has degrees in both Commerce and International Studies and also completed an intensive course on the European Union at the College of Europe in Belgium. Robert is married and has three daughters.

Bennett Freeman. Over the last 18 years of a 36 year career, Bennett Freeman has worked at the intersection of governments, international institutions, multinational corporations, responsible investors and NGOS to promote human rights and sustainable development around the world.  He is currently Principal of Bennett Freeman Associates LLC; Senior Advisor to BSR, Senior Advisor to Critical Resource; and a Strategic Partner of RESOVE; he is also Chair of the Advisory Board of Global Witness; Board Secretary of the Global Network Initiative; and a member of the Governing Board of the Natural Resources Governance Institute.  ‎Freeman was Senior Vice President for Sustainability Research and Policy at Calvert Investments from 2006-15 and served as a Clinton presidential appointee at the US Department of State in three positions, including as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.  Freeman is developing HRD guidance on behalf of the Business and Human Rights Resource Center, International Service for Human Rights and the B-Team for the new Business Network on Civic Freedoms and Human Rights Defenders ‎(a joint project of these three entities).

Lisa Gue (Senior researcher and analyst, David Suzuki Foundation). Lisa has worked at the David Suzuki Foundation in Ottawa for more than a decade. A current focus of her work is federal policy advocacy for environmental rights. Lisa holds a master's degree in public policy and administration from Carleton University.

Geneviève Paul (Acting Director General, Amnesty International Canada - Francophone Section). Before joining the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) in Paris, Geneviève worked in human rights education at Rights & Democracy with academic groups across Canada. At FIDH, she headed the Globalization and Human Rights Office of the International Secretariat. She has conducted investigations in Latin America and Asia focusing mainly on investments related to the textile and extractive industries. She has actively participated in business and human rights debates taking place within the European Union, the Council of Europe and the United Nations. She worked for Above Ground, an Ottawa-based NGO, which encourages the Canadian government to fulfil its obligations to protect against human rights abuses by Canadian companies operating abroad. Geneviève Paul holds a Master's degree in International Human Rights Law from the University of Essex (United Kingdom) and a Bachelor's degree in International Relations and International Law from UQÀM.

Anita Ramasastary. Anita is a member of the UN OHCHR Working Group on Business and Human Rights and is the Roland L. Hjorth Professor of Law and the Director of the Graduate Program in Sustainable International Development at the University of Washington School of Law.  From 2009-2012, Ramasastry served as a senior advisor to the International Trade Administration of the US Department of Commerce.  Ramasastry has advised many intergovernmental and civil society organizations including the World Bank, USAID, the Institute for Human Rights and Business, BSR, Amnesty International and the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable. Ramasastry is a graduate of Harvard College, Harvard Law School and the University of Sydney.