Canadian Supreme Court Opens Door to Corporate Liability for Human Rights Abuses Abroad

19 March 2020
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Key takeaways:

  • The Supreme Court of Canada in Nevsun Resources Ltd v. Araya has held that common law claims against a Canadian mining corporation for alleged human rights violations of customary international law (“CIL”) are sufficiently plausible to survive a motion to strike.
  • The decision breaks new ground by concluding that CIL obligations––the body of international law obligations that presumptively apply to all sovereign states––may apply to corporations, and that a remedy may exist to enforce those obligations directly under Canadian common law.
  • The decision creates significant litigation uncertainty for companies subject to Canadian jurisdiction, particularly for companies whose operations may implicate human rights, the environment, and other business integrity issues.