Switzerland and Canada each debate human rights legislation

Anna Triponel

February 3, 2020

In Switzerland, parliament’s upper house (the Council of States) adopted last year an indirect counter-proposal to the Responsible Business Initiative (calling on companies to conduct environmental and human rights due diligence). On 31 January, the legal affairs committee of the lower house (the National Council) decided to reject this counter-proposal and reaffirmed its commitment to its own indirect counter-proposal (with a few further changes). Discussions focused on applicable law and corporate responsibility.

In Canada, three parliamentarians introduced a Modern Slavery Act in the Senate on 5 February that would require large companies to disclose what they are doing to identify and prevent forced labour in their business and value chains. The bill builds on the UK and Australian Modern Slavery Acts, and seeks to go further by amending the Customs Tariff so that it prevents goods manufactured or produced by forced labour or child labour from being imported into Canada. Companies subject to the law could also be subject to an investigation and a $250,000 fine.

While we’re talking about laws, there was a development on 30 January regarding the first court case looking into the French duty of vigilance law. France’s civil court (tribunal de grande instance) ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to look into whether Total met its duty of vigilance related to its activities in Uganda, and has passed the case over to to the the commercial court (tribunal de commerce).

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