In recent years, Canadian courts have increasingly heard large civil claims against Canadian companies for alleged human rights violations in their foreign operations. As we have discussed previously, judges faced with these claims must determine whether the court’s jurisdictional reach extends to the company’s activities in its global supply chain, thus permitting foreign claimants to pursue their action in Canada.
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On October 6, 2016, the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled that a lawsuit by Eritrean miners, who allege they were forced to work in a mine owned by Nevsun Resources Ltd, a Canadian mining company, can proceed to trial. Vancouver-based Nevsun had argued that the case should be dismissed and that any suit should be properly heard in Eritrea. Justice Abrioux disagreed, stating that “there is sufficient cogent evidence from which I can conclude that there is a real risk that the plaintiffs could not be provided with justice in Eritrea,” thereby paving the way for an unprecedented trial in a Canadian court. Justice Abrioux stated that “claims of crimes against humanity, slavery, forced labour and torture can go forward against Nevsun.”
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