Canadian lawmakers and civil society actors are increasingly calling for ambitious action by Canada to fight forced labour in the global economy. This has been driven in part by research revealing significant Canadian business ties to suspected cases of forced labour abroad.
Investigations by journalists and groups such as Above Ground have found many cases of Canadian companies importing goods allegedly tied to forced labour — including products banned from entering the U.S. market for this reason.1See, for instance, investigations in 2021 by reporters with the Toronto Star / Guelph Mercury Tribune and CBC
These concerns are poorly addressed by Canada’s existing legal framework. Formally, companies are prohibited from importing goods made with forced labour under Canada’s Customs Tariff legislation. In practice, however, this prohibition is rarely enforced. Since it was adopted in July 2020, the border authorities responsible for enforcing it have reported detaining only one shipment of suspect goods.
We’re advocating for more rigorous, transparent enforcement of the ban, grounded in safeguards that put workers’ interests first.
At the same time, we’re calling for a new law that would compel companies to take rigorous action against human rights violations in their supply chains — or risk being held liable in a Canadian court. A mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence law such as Bill C-262 would place power in workers’ hands to seek justice against Canadian companies profiting from their abuse.