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Report finds high risk of slavery in Canadian supply chains, calls for stricter import controls and new due diligence law

Canada’s enforcement of a ban on importing goods produced by forced workers will fall short of standards set by the U.S. example unless Ottawa strengthens its policies, according to a report released today by Above Ground.

The report finds that companies are importing into Canada large quantities of goods from industries in which forced labour is known to be rife, including products from specific manufacturers accused of using forced workers. It notes hundreds of shipments from such firms to importers in Canada, with over 100 shipments each from Malaysian glove maker Top Glove and Chinese firms Hefei Meiling and Qingdao Taekwang Shoes.

Forced labour is reportedly widespread in the production of textiles and garments, among many other consumer goods.

The U.S. has blocked some of these manufacturers’ products from entering the American market under a longstanding U.S. ban on importing goods produced by forced labour.

Canada adopted a similar ban in July 2020, notes the report, but has yet to begin enforcing it by blocking shipments from suspect manufacturers. New information provided to Above Ground by the Canada Border Services Agency suggests that the agency may take enforcement action only in rare cases. It has also revealed that it doesn’t plan to publicly report which companies are involved.

“We’re calling on the Canadian government to at least meet the level of ambition shown by U.S. authorities in enforcing the ban,” says Karen Hamilton, director of Above Ground. “This would mean detaining goods at the border when credible information indicates they were most likely produced by forced labour, and releasing them only if importers can prove otherwise.”

The report also urges Ottawa to ramp up the relevant agencies’ capacity to investigate goods and producers of concern and to detect and block shipments of goods that fall under detention orders.

It further calls for Canada to adopt a new law requiring that companies exercise due diligence to avoid causing or contributing to any human rights abuse, including forced labour. It notes that more than 100 civil society organizations have urged Ottawa to introduce such a law, as have thousands of Canadians and a House of Commons committee.

“A comprehensive due diligence law would compel companies to stop profiting off of slave labour — whether that be through their own operations, through their subsidiaries overseas, or through their relationships with suppliers or subcontractors,” says Emily Dwyer, coordinator of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, which has championed such legislation for Canada. “If a company failed to do so, the people harmed would have a statutory right to sue the company in Canada.”

For more information, contact Karen Hamilton, director of Above Ground, at khamilton@aboveground.ngo or 438-992-5163.

Above Ground works to ensure that companies based in Canada or supported by the Canadian state respect human rights wherever they operate. It is a project of MakeWay, a national charity that builds partnerships and solutions to help nature and communities thrive together.

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