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Tracking complaints of corporate abuse handled by the CORE 

The Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) launched her first investigations in July and has since announced several more. Nike Canada, Dynasty Gold, Ralph Lauren, Walmart Canada, Hugo Boss Canada, Diesel Canada, Levi Strauss & Co. Canada, Zara Canada and Guess? Canada are currently being investigated for possible links to the brutal forced labour system reportedly being imposed by China on Uyghurs and other Turkic ethnic minorities. 

These companies are only a portion of those named in complaints submitted to the CORE. Many other firms incorporated in or importing goods into Canada are accused of profiting from China’s forced labour program, and several face claims of human rights abuses in other regions. So far, complaints deemed admissible have been linked to the garment and mining sectors.

The federal government created the CORE in 2019 following over a decade of civil society advocacy calling for a credible, independent ombudsperson to investigate Canadian business activity linked to human rights abuses abroad. Unfortunately the office was created without the powers needed to carry out effective investigations, a key part of its mandate alongside offering mediation.1 The CORE has no authority to compel companies to provide documents or testimony, despite an initial government promise that the office would have these powers. In fact, there’s no obligation on companies to engage with the CORE at all. 

With the CORE now moving to investigate some complaints, it’s more important than ever that she be given the powers to investigate effectively. Accomplishing this should be an immediate focus for Parliament, and it wouldn’t be difficult to do. A bill that would overhaul the office and grant these powers, the Responsible Business Conduct Abroad Act (Bill C-263), has already been tabled. 

Given several complaints still in the pipeline, the CORE may continue to announce investigations in the coming weeks and months. We will update the information below as details of new complaints or investigations are announced and as existing investigations conclude.

Cotton production, which is often tainted with forced labour

Workers picking cotton. Complaints to the CORE allege that several Canadian companies’ supply chains include cotton or other goods produced using forced labour in China.


Overview of cases brought to the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise

Number of complaints submitted as of Dec. 31, 2023: 342

Number deemed admissible: 17

Number that the CORE has begun to investigate: 9

Cases under investigation

Ordered by date of initial assessment report

Nike Canada
∙ Complainant(s): a coalition of 28 Canadian organizations3
∙ Allegation under investigation: “that Nike Canada Corp. has supply relationships with several Chinese companies that the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) identified as using or benefiting from Uyghur forced labour.”
∙ Date complaint submitted: June 21, 2022
∙ Date investigation announced: July 11, 2023
∙ Company’s engagement with the CORE as of July 11, 2023: Limited. See details here in Part 4, paragraph 27.
∙ For details, see the CORE’s initial assessment report.

Dynasty Gold (“DYG”)
∙ Complainant(s): a coalition of 28 Canadian organizations3
∙ Allegation under investigation: “that DYG’s mining operations in northwest Xinjiang, China use or benefit from Uyghur forced labour.”
∙ Date complaint submitted: June 21, 2022
∙ Date investigation announced: July 11, 2023
∙ Company’s engagement with the CORE as of July 11, 2023: Very limited. See details here in Part 4, paragraph 34.
∙ For details, see the CORE’s initial assessment report.

Ralph Lauren Canada (“RLCLP”)
∙ Complainant(s): a coalition of 28 Canadian organizations3
∙ Allegation under investigation: “that RLCLP has supply relationships with companies that use or benefit from Uyghur forced labour.”
∙ Date complaint submitted: June 21, 2022
∙ Date investigation announced: August 15, 2023
∙ Company’s engagement with the CORE as of August 15, 2023: Very limited. See details here in Part 4, paragraph 38.
∙ For details, see the CORE’s initial assessment report.

Walmart Canada
∙ Complainant(s): a coalition of 28 Canadian organizations3
∙ Allegation under investigation: “that Walmart Canada has commercial relationships with Chinese companies identified as using Uyghur forced labour.”
∙ Date complaint submitted: June 21, 2022
∙ Date investigation announced: August 24, 2023
∙ Company’s engagement with the CORE as of August 24, 2023: Limited. See details here in Part 4, paragraph 28.
For details, see the CORE’s initial assessment report.

Hugo Boss Canada
∙ Complainant(s): a coalition of 28 Canadian organizations3
∙ Allegation under investigation: “that Hugo Boss Canada Inc. has a supply relationship with a Chinese company that the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) has identified in its report Uyghurs for Sale as using or benefiting from Uyghur forced labour.”
∙ Date complaint submitted: June 21, 2022
∙ Date investigation announced: August 24, 2023
∙ Company’s engagement with the CORE as of August 24, 2023: Very limited. See details here in Part 4, paragraph 26.
∙ For details, see the CORE’s initial assessment report.

Diesel Canada
∙ Complainant(s): a coalition of 28 Canadian organizations3
∙ Allegation under investigation: “that Diesel Canada’s supply chain uses or benefits from Uyghur forced labour.”
∙ Date complaint submitted: June 21, 2022
∙ Date investigation announced: August 24, 2023
∙ Company’s engagement with the CORE as of August 24, 2023: Very limited. See details here in Part 4, paragraph 30.
∙ For details, see the CORE’s initial assessment report.

Levi Strauss & Co. Canada
∙ Complainant(s): a coalition of 28 Canadian organizations3
∙ Allegation under investigation: “that Levi Strauss has commercial relationships with a Chinese company that is identified as using Uyghur forced labour — Jiangsu Guotai Guosheng.”
∙ Date complaint submitted: June 21, 2022
∙ Date investigation announced: September 20, 2023
∙ Company’s engagement with the CORE as of September 20, 2023: Very limited. See details here in Part 4, paragraph 33.
∙ For details, see the CORE’s initial assessment report.

Zara Canada
∙ Complainant(s): a coalition of 28 Canadian organizations3
∙ Allegation under investigation: “that Zara has supply relationships with three Chinese companies … using or benefitting from Uyghur forced labour.”
∙ Date complaint submitted: June 21, 2022
∙ Date investigation announced: November 6, 2023
∙ Company’s engagement with the CORE as of November 6, 2023: Limited. See details here in Part 2, paragraphs 10-17.
∙ For details, see the CORE’s initial assessment report.

Guess? Canada
∙ Complainant(s): a coalition of 28 Canadian organizations3
∙ Allegation under investigation: “that Guess? Canada has supply relationships with several Chinese companies identified as using or benefiting from Uyghur forced labour.”
∙ Date complaint submitted: June 21, 2022
∙ Date investigation announced: December 11, 2023
∙ Company’s engagement with the CORE as of December 11, 2023: Active. See details here in Part 4, paragraph 34.
∙ For details, see the CORE’s initial assessment report.

Other cases for which information is publicly known

Mark’s Work Wearhouse / Canadian Tire
∙ Complainant(s): United Steelworkers (USW) and the Canadian Labour Congress
∙ Allegation: that Mark’s, a subsidiary of Canadian Tire, has failed “to ensure workers in its supplier factories are paid living wages.” (Source: USW press release)
∙ Date complaint submitted: November 22, 2022
∙ Status: deemed admissible and under “initial assessment” as of December 31, 2022
∙ For details including company response, see Globe & Mail coverage.

GobiMin
∙ Complainant(s): a coalition of 28 Canadian organizations3
∙ Allegation: “that GobiMin has been implicated in Uyghur forced labour through exploration work carried out at its Sawayaerdun mine in Xinjiang, China.”
∙ Date complaint submitted: June 21, 2022
∙ Date recommendations published: August 15, 2023
∙ Company’s engagement with the CORE as of August 15, 2023: Active. See details here in Part 4.
∙ Decision: “The CORE has decided not to launch an investigation, but to provide recommendations to GobiMin on their responsible business conduct abroad.”
∙ For details, see the CORE’s initial assessment report.

1. The CORE seeks to resolve complaints through informal mediation, if the complainants and company agree, before deciding whether to start an investigation.

2. The office said that 26 complaints had been received to date in a quarterly report for the period ending March 31, 2023. Five new complaints were received between April 1 and June 30, two more between July 1 and September 30, 2023, and one between October 1 and December 31. 

3. This coalition includes: Canadians in Support of Refugees in Dire Need (CSRDN); Alliance Canada Hong Kong; Anatolia Islamic Centre; Canada Tibet Committee; Canadians Against Oppression & Persecution; Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW); Canadian Council of Imams (CCI); Canada-Hong Kong Link; Doctors for Humanity; East Turkistan Association of Canada; End Transplant Abuse in China (ETAC); Human Rights Research and Education Centre, University of Ottawa; Human Concern International (HCI); Islamic Circle of North America Canada (ICNA); Islamic Society of North America (ISNA); Justice for All; Lawyers for Humanity; Muslim Association Canada (MAC); National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM); Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights; Canadian Security Research Group; Share 2 Care (S2C); Stop Uyghur Genocide Canada; Toronto Association for Democracy in China; Union of Medical care and Relief Organizations-Canada (UOSSM); Uyghur Refugee Relief Fund; Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project; and Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement.