COLUMN: Canada has a role to play on the world stage

Make your ballot count in this federal election.

This month, we have the opportunity to exercise our democratic right to vote and stand up for the policies and values that we believe in. I encourage all Canadians to cast their ballot.

The government that will lead our country will shape both our domestic and international policies. There exists a considerable overlap between the two and one is not isolated from the other.

International policies impact the domestic political and social landscape, and vice-versa. We need to elect a government which will effectively manage our country, while ensuring Canada plays a role in helping address international human rights issues, such as the refugee crisis, international development, climate change and corporate accountability.

A recently leaked memo from the Department of Foreign Affairs reveals how Canada can do much to improve its foreign policy record. As a country that has played a prominent role on the world stage, Canada has an opportunity to use its considerable political influence in international affairs for positive change.

Regardless of which party wins the election, we need to make sure the government is fulfilling its promises and that it takes action on issues of importance.

One such area is accountability of Canadian corporations abroad. All corporations, including resource extraction enterprises, should be held accountable when their actions infringe principles of justice.

Violations of international human rights law negatively affect the lives of people. They also infringe upon the values of social justice that we as Canadians hold dear. In many cases, communities, already coping with issues such as poverty, face further injustice when their homes and lives are threatened. In many cases, they are unable to successfully turn to the justice system in their home countries.

Amnesty International, the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, NGOs, individuals and some Members of Parliament (at least five from the Lower Mainland) have already supported the idea of ensuring judicial access to individuals who may have been victims.

They are also calling for the creation of an independent office of an “extractive-sector ombudsperson” who would have greater power to call for and scrutinize corporate compliance with human rights.

The disproportionate power structure between corporations and individuals, and the record of violations, clearly points to the need for some sort of change to the existing system and legal mechanisms. .

It would be most effective to have an international human rights and business treaty, as has been proposed by the UN. This would create international instruments for effective corporate accountability, and domestic legal instruments in countries around the world. Until that point, however, people who have suffered a violation of their rights should not be abandoned with no place to turn.

If you would like to encourage MPs to take action, visit http://bit.ly/1bAqbRl

Japreet Lehal is a Simon Fraser University graduate pursuing a law degree. He writes regularly for The Leader.

 

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