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CTC challenges Canada China Business Council on human rights

September 15, 2009

News Release
For Immediate Release

CTC challenges Canada China Business Council on human rights

(Montreal, 15 September 2009) – Canada Tibet Committee (CTC) supporters will stage an information picket this afternoon at the Canada China Business Council's third annual business forum in Toronto, challenging Canadian businesses to take the lead in the protection of human rights when they work with Chinese businesses.

Through its new "When Do You Draw the Line" campaign, the CTC intends to identify and publish on its website those Canadian companies that abide by and enforce international human rights, labour and environmental standards, and those that do not.

The CTC urges Canadian companies doing business in China to adopt the ten principles of the UN's Global Compact, and to include an independent enforcement mechanism under Canadian jurisdiction that would apply to all of a company's operations, including those in China.

The United Nations Global Compact describes itself as a "strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption."

CTC executive director Dermod Travis stresses that companies must also include an independent enforcement mechanism, "the Global Compact is a step in the right direction, but in the absence of an enforcement mechanism, any claims about respect for international standards of human rights, environment or labour standards may simply be "rights washing."

Many CCBC members are publicly traded companies and, like governments who answer to voters, corporations answer first to shareholders. "Corporate executives can draw the line themselves or they can wait for shareholders or consumers to draw it for them," said Travis.

The CTC takes issue with the claim that raising human rights issues is bad for business, noting that in 2004, Canadian exports to China were valued at $6.6 billion, but by 2008, had increased to $10.4 billion and are up an additional seven per cent for the first five months of 2009.

"Since the Dalai Lama was awarded honourary Canadian citizenship in 2006, the increase alone in Canadian exports is equivalent to the total value of exports in 1999," said Travis.

"For too long there has been a reliance on the Canadian government to raise these issues. But Canadian companies also have a responsibility to ensure that human rights are a part of every workplace in China, because a workplace that promotes human rights fosters an environment where workers can express concerns about the toxicity of paints used in children's toys without fear, where they can stop the use of melamine as a milk supplement, where workers are hired for skill not ethnicity, and where the corruption behind dangerous "tofu construction" in earthquake zones can be exposed freely."

Copies of the "When do you draw the line" brochure are available by clicking here.

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For more information:

Dermod Travis
Executive Director
514.487.0665 / dermod@tibet.ca

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