Canadian Initiatives Against Bribery by Foreign Investors

Building on the recognition that corruption threatens sustainable development, the report analyzes Canadian legal initiatives under both domestic and international law against bribery by Canadian businesses investing abroad.

By Matthew A. J. Levine on June 12, 2019

This report builds on the broad recognition that corruption—with bribery as a particularly significant manifestation—is a grave threat to sustainable development.

It focuses on Canadian legal initiatives against bribery by Canadian businesses investing abroad. By digging into both domestic and international law, the policy brief identifies four key points of interest to sustainable development stakeholders: (1) a spike in enforcement of Canada’s Foreign Bribery Prohibition; (2) the recent expansion of firm-level anti-bribery compliance requirements; (3) the adoption of mandatory payment transparency rules for extractive industry firms; and (4) the Canadian government’s stated goal to move to a “progressive” trade (and investment) agenda.

The first key development pertains to Canada’s prohibition of foreign bribery, as mandated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Convention on Combatting Bribery of Foreign Officials (OECD Convention). The paper begins by examining Canada’s mixed record in implementing this prohibition approach and the recent focus on enforcement.

The second and third developments aim at shifting away from simple prohibition toward reducing the risk of bribery. To date, this has taken two general forms. Canadian corporations are expected, in an increasingly wide range of circumstances, to implement risk-mitigation best practices through accounting protocols and compliance systems. Furthermore, in the case of extractive sector firms, industry-specific concerns are now addressed through mandatory payment transparency.

The fourth key development is Canada’s stated goal for adopting a “progressive” trade and investment policy. This should include a path towards global leadership for Canada in combatting corruption through international investment law. Global Affairs Canada has recently conducted a public consultation on its international investment agreements. There is a need for a new model Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) that will address issues beyond investment protection, including the tackling of corruption.

Report details

Investment Law & Policy
Focus area
IISD, 2019