By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA (Reuters) - A United Nations watchdog urged Canada on Thursday to investigate alleged human rights abuses by its mining companies abroad and launch an inquiry into the high number of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.
The U.N. Human Rights Committee examined Canada's record in upholding civil and political freedoms as part of a regular review of seven countries during its four-week session.
The committee of 18 independent experts voiced concern about "allegations of human rights abuses by Canadian companies operating abroad, in particular mining corporations, and about the inaccessibility to remedies by victims of such violations".
It gave no specific examples, but Canadian companies are active across the globe from Papua New Guinea to Eritrea and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The U.N. body urged Canadian authorities to "consider establishing an independent mechanism with powers to investigate human rights abuses by such corporations abroad".
"One major concern by the committee was the murdered and missing indigenous females, women and children," committee vice-chair Anja Seibert-Fohr told a news briefing.
"We have found that these indigenous females are disproportionately affected by violence."
Activist groups, in a paper submitted to the body, said: "Violence against Aboriginal women and girls in Canada is a problem of massive proportions, and its manifestation in British Columbia is particularly pronounced."
Between 2005 and 2010, the Native Women's Association of Canada documented more than 600 cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls throughout Canada over 30 years and more cases have been recorded since, they said. Yet police often dismissed reports of missing native women, some of whom were prostitutes or drug users with transient lifestyles.
"We are still missing information about real investigations and the prosecution," Seibert-Fohr said.
"Therefore we asked (Canada) to urgently address this issue of these murdered and missing indigenous women and we proposed some measures, for example a national inquiry into this phenomenon but also a review of the relevant legislation."
The committee voiced concern at reports of native people losing their land rights and the cost of litigation for indigenous peoples. It urged Canada to "resolve land and resources disputes with indigenous peoples and find ways and means to establish their titles over their lands with respect to their treaty rights."
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Tom Miles and Tom Heneghan)