Posts by Andrew Cleland

Andrew Cleland is a bilingual graduate of the B.C.L.-LL.B. program at McGill Faculty of Law. He has worked at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Permanent Mission of Canada to the UN in Geneva.

The Use of Human Rights Clauses by Transnational Corporations

In May 2009, Human Rights Watch published a report on the exploitation of migrant workers constructing Saadiyat Island, a massive project of the Abu Dhabi Emirate designed to turn the city into a premier tourism and cultural centre.[1] New York University (NYU), who plans to open a campus on the island, responded to the report with a pledge to incorporate a wide range of labor rights into all its contracts for the construction and operation of the campus.[2] NYU’s move drew attention to the use of human rights clauses by transnational corporations in their international contracts with contractors and suppliers (hereinafter, referred to as ‘business partners’). While we should welcome these clauses, there are multiple reasons to doubt whether they will in fact result in significant improvements in the human rights of those adversely affected by the activities of transnational corporations and their business partners.

Human rights clauses are an important and unique form of corporate self-regulation in that they represent a move away from soft law norms towards hard law.[3] Corporate self-regulation is dominated by several voluntary initiatives, such as codes of conduct or social charters, which generally involve a corporation publicly committing to uphold certain human right standards in its operations and sometimes those of its partners. Though they may lead to some indirect benefits, these initiatives are ineffective because they do not create…

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Does the Charter Follow the Flag? the Afghan Detainee Transfers Example

In 2007, Amnesty International Canada and the BC Civil Liberties Association brought an application for judicial review of the transfer of individuals detained by the Canadian Forces deployed in Afghanistan. This action arose from allegations that the Canadian Forces were not taking adequate precautions to ensure that individuals, whom the Canadian Forces captured in Afghanistan and transferred to the Afghan forces, were not being tortured. To support their application, the plaintiffs sought a declaration that sections 7, 10 and 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the Charter) applied to individuals detained by Canadian Forces in Afghanistan. Both the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal held that the Charter did not apply to the actions of Canadian Forces in Afghanistan.

Having previously argued that the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) should narrow its ruling in Hape, I was disappointed to learn that it turned down an opportunity to hear this case. In my last entry, I argued that when establishing whether the Charter applies overseas, the foreign state’s consent should only be the determinative factor where Canadian authorities or agents would be enforcing the Charter in that state. With all due respect to Mactavish J.’s efforts to navigate Hape’s legal labyrinth, the Federal Court’s decision in Amnesty International reveals the confusion resulting from Hape. This confusion stems from LeBel J.’s assertion that the…

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Does the Charter Follow the Flag?

Photo by Sgt. Gerry Pilote, DGPA/J5PA Combat Camera

Photo by Sgt. Gerry Pilote

Lurking behind the Afghan detainee transfer scandal is the issue of whether the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the Charter) applies to government action that occurs outside of Canada. The Charter itself provides no definitive answer because it does not contain an express territorial limitation. Section 32(1)(a) of the Charter only stipulates that it applies to “the Parliament and government of Canada in respect of all matters within the authority of Parliament …”. Writing for the majority of the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) in R. v. Hape, LeBel J. held that the extraterritorial application of the Charter is impossible without the consent of the foreign state (para. 85).[1] While I support the ruling in Hape, I believe that given the chance, the SCC should explicitly narrow this conclusion to situations where Canadian authorities or agents would be enforcing the Charter in a foreign state. Beyond a situation that demands extraterritorial enforcement, an interest analysis should replace consent as the determinative factor in the assessment of whether the Charter applies outside of Canada.

The primary limitation on the reach of the Charter is Canada’s obligation to respect the sovereignty of other states (Hape, para. 59). Sovereignty is perhaps best thought of as the supreme power of each state to exercise jurisdiction on its territory and over…

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Bil’in (Village Council) c. Green Park International Inc: an Overeaching Assertion of Jurisdiction?

In his detailed analysis of Bil’in (Village Council) c. Green Park International Inc, James Yap argues that the plaintiffs will have a great chance of overturning Cullen J.’s decision to decline jurisdiction. Since our own Alexandra Dodger introduces this intricate case very well, I direct those who are unfamiliar with it to her entry. While I welcome the decision for its potential to end the impunity with which Canadian corporations operate overseas, I believe that the Court of Appeal would not overturn Cullen J.’s decision if it did hear the matter. I agree with the outcome because the connection between the dispute and Québec is far too superficial for a Québec court to legitimately claim jurisdiction over the action. However, the issues raised by the application of forum non conveniens to this case should make us think twice before dismissing the plaintiffs’ action as an abusive or exaggerated assertion of jurisdiction.

The main problem with bringing this action in Québec is that its connection to Québec is extremely weak. Pursuant to article 3134 of the CCQ, the court took jurisdiction over the action because it found that the defendants were domiciled in Québec (Bil’in, para. 207). While the fact that the defendant has its domicile in Québec might normally be determinative in establishing jurisdiction, such a factor should be inconclusive in this instance. As Cullen himself later…

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Last Week in International Law

1. Prosecutor v. Karadzic

Proceedings against Radovan Karadzic began on October 28, 2009, despite the accused’s refusal to attend court. The case was supposed to start on October 26 but Karadzic, who is representing himself, asked for at least eight more months to prepare his case. The court gave him 24 hours to change his mind. After he failed to appear on Tuesday, judges ordered the Prosecution to open its case and warned Karadzic to appear in court or risk having counsel assigned to him and being tried in absentia.

For more information, see the Reuters article or our own Lee Rovinescu’s analysis of the situation.

2. R. v. Munyaneza

On October 29, 2009, Justice André Denis of the Quebec Superior Court handed down a life sentence to Désiré Munyaneza, the Rwandan genocidaire who helped organize and perpetrate the mass-murder of Tutsis in the Butare area. On May 22, 2009, Justice Denis found Munyaneza guilty of two counts of genocide, two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes. Having concluded that the killings were premeditated, Justice Denis held that Munyaneza would not be eligible for parole for 25 years.

Munyaneza was the first person to be charged under Canada’s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act. The Act incorporates universal jurisdiction, allowing Canada to prosecute any individual present…

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