Integrating Human Rights, Trade Policies Critical to Successful Engagement in Asia, Says APF Canada Task Force Report

Vancouver, B.C. – September 25, 2013 – Canada needs to ensure more positive support for human rights protection in Asia while also pursuing economic opportunities there. This is one of the key messages from a new task force report released today by the Asia Pacific of Canada (APF Canada). The report, Advancing Canada’s Engagement with Asia on Human Rights – Balancing Business and Human Rights, addresses from a policy perspective how government, business and civil society can effectively further human rights protection in Asia.

“Human rights abuses in Asia are a major concern for Canadians, but they are divided about the best way to respond,” said Dr. Pitman Potter, Senior Fellow with the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada and chair of the Task Force on Human Rights in Asia. “As Canada engages more deeply with the region, we need to work more effectively to support protection of human rights in Asia. This will require careful integration of our trade and human rights policies.”

The report argues that robust attention to human rights serves Canada’s interests in terms of international leadership, responsible development and trade liberalization. The report puts forward recommendations to further Canada’s human rights policy in Asia in the context of pursuing other foreign policy goals, such as economic prosperity.

Several key recommendations include:

• Canada should openly incorporate human rights protection within its trade and prosperity agenda for Asia and acknowledge that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. This includes acknowledging the importance of social, economic and cultural rights as well as civil and political rights.

• Canadians should pledge to ‘do no harm’ to the local recognition and protection of internationally accepted human rights in Asia.

• Canada should adopt regulations that require Canadian mining and energy investors to report their payments to foreign governments, consistent with the principles underlying the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and the US Cardin-Lugar amendment.

• Canada should adopt regulations requiring Canadian investors to ensure that companies in their value chains are compliant with ILO Provision 169 on rights of indigenous peoples, should the host government be part to the ILO Convention.

• The Government of Canada should exercise high-level political leadership and consistent engagement with its counterparts in Asia on human rights. In concluding trade and investment agreements in Asia, the Government of Canada should assess and make public the potential impact of these agreements on human rights development in those countries.

• Canada should support local NGOs and civil society groups in Asia to strengthen implementation of internationally recognized human rights.

• The Canadian business sector should align their own activities and those of their partners and projects to internationally recognized human rights standards through the UN’s ‘Ruggie Framework’ on business and human rights.

• Canadian NGOs should support law reform efforts as well as the training of judges and lawyers to strengthen local capacity for recognizing and protecting internationally recognized human rights. They should also work more closely with the private sector to further the recognition and protection of internationally recognized human rights in Asia.

The Task Force on Human Rights on Asia was created as part of APF Canada’s National Conversation on Asia (NCA). It was developed through high level consultations with different sets of stakeholders in Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa. This report is the third in a series of task force reports released as part of the NCA. The previous reports examined Canada’s energy relations with Asia and Canada’s engagement with institutions and mechanisms in the region. This project aims to get Canadians thinking and talking about what Asia means to Canada.

To view the full report, click here.

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About the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada

The Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada is an independent resource for Canadians on contemporary Asia and Canada-Asia relations. As a national not-for-profit organization established by an Act of the Federal Parliament in 1984, the Foundation brings together people and knowledge to provide the most current and comprehensive research, analysis and information on Asia and on Canada's transpacific relations. Visit APF Canada at www.asiapacific.ca

About the National Conversation on Asia

The National Conversation on Asia is a Canada-wide initiative to get Canadians thinking and talking about what Asia means to Canada. It includes a public education and policy development focus. This initiative is generously supported in part by our Founding Partners: Teck, Shell Canada, Manulife Financial and BMO Financial Group; Founding Sponsors: HSBC Bank Canada and Port Metro Vancouver; and Founding Supporters: Port of Halifax, Fiera Capital, Deloitte, Vancouver Airport Authority, Husky Energy, Canadian Pacific, TELUS, Blakes, Cameco and SNC-Lavalin.

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