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Who does the law protect? New book by Amnesty International calls for major change to ensure corporate accountability and the right to an effective remedy

    May 08, 2014

    Toronto -- Amnesty International today launched in Canada a major new publication on the right to remedy for victims of corporate human rights abuses at a conference on corporate social responsibility at Ryerson University. The book, entitled Injustice Incorporated: Corporate Abuses and the Human Right to Remedy (Injustice Incorporated) provides a comprehensive framework for substantially changing the legal imbalance between vulnerable individuals and powerful companies.

    Injustice Incorporated Report Cover


    Read the Summary Report

    The book was sent today to Prime Minister Stephen Harper with a letter from the Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada’s English Branch, Alex Neve and Director General of the Francophone Branch, Béatrice Vaugrante. They highlight that the book “will help inform … longstanding and sorely needed reforms in Canada to better ensure corporate accountability for human rights in general and access to effective remedies in particular.” The letter draws attention to two Canadian cases that are included in the book and lays out recommendations to guide legal, policy and institutional reform for the Canadian government.  Noting that these reforms cover a number of government departments and require leadership from the Prime Minister, Neve and Vaugrante asked to meet with the Prime Minister to discuss the proposals.

    "Victims of human rights abuses frequently face significant challenges when seeking remedy,” Business and Human Rights Campaigner Tara Scurr noted. “These difficulties are even greater when multinational corporations have perpetrated those abuses. When foreign victims of human rights violations involving Canadian companies operating overseas have sought remedy in Canada, they have generally failed to obtain justice. This accountability gap needs to be fixed.”

    The global nature of multinational companies and their political and financial power, raise very specific challenges for the right to effective remedy. Current law and policy does not adequately address these particular obstacles. Injustice Incorporated examines what happens when poor communities confront powerful multinational corporations in an effort to secure justice. It focuses on four emblematic cases of corporate abuse to expose how their political and financial power, intertwined with specific legal obstacles, allows companies to evade accountability and deny the right to remedy.

    Alex Neve presented the book to the Ryerson conference delegates. “In the book’s case studies, some of the poorest people in the world have taken on some of the most powerful. They have done this despite their health being impaired and their livelihoods being destroyed. No one would contest that they have suffered serious abuses. In none of the cases is there any suggestion that corporate operations were not involved in the harm suffered. And yet, in every case, companies have used legal fictions and political power to evade meaningful accountability and deny people remedy. The heroism of people who have struggled to achieve a remedy is overwhelming. The failure of States is stark.”

    Injustice Incorporated focuses not just on challenges but on solutions. It concludes that, to address these obstacles, certain widely held legal doctrines and presumptions must be challenged.

    Injustice Incorporated is a centerpiece of Amnesty International’s long-term campaign to secure legal and policy change to significantly improve access to justice for corporate human rights abuses” highlighted Fiona Koza, Business and Human Rights Campaigner. “Alongside partner organizations in the Canadian Network for Corporate Accountability, Amnesty International is demanding that Canada be "Open for Justice” and not just “Open for Business”, by opening courts to legal challenges by foreign victims of corporate human rights abuses involving Canadian companies and creating an extractive sector ombudsperson.”

    Background note:The Canadian section of Amnesty International contributed to the book by providing research for a case study involving a Canadian company.

    This Conference is a livestreamed event.  On May 8, you can watch all proceedings live from 8:15 am to 6 pm Eastern, at https://ryecast.ryerson.ca/12/live/959.aspx

    For further information contact Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations, Amnesty International 416-363-9933 ext. 332 bberton-hunter@amnesty.ca