On Monday, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development (FAAE) tabled the report “A Call to Action: Ending the Use of All Forms of Child Labour in Supply Chains.” This report follows the Subcommittee on International Human Rights’ (SDIR) study on Child Labour and Modern Day Slavery.
“The inexcusable use of child labour and slavery in the operations and supply chains of Canadian companies has to stop,” said CLC President Hassan Yussuff. “Although we are pleased that the Subcommittee’s report recognizes the importance of eliminating these practices globally and proposes a series of recommendations, the report does not go far enough in proposing a comprehensive and concrete plan to address this problem.”
Child and forced labour represent some of the most egregious labour and human rights violations, yet these practices are still widely used. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that in 2016, there were over 40.3 million victims of modern slavery and 152 million children in child labour worldwide.
In 2000, Canada ratified ILO Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour, and in 2016 ratified ILO Convention 138 on minimum age. Despite these important steps and growing national and international calls to action, including from the G20 and the UN General Assembly, child and forced labour continue to plague the supply chains of Canadian companies. World Vision estimated that in 2016, Canada imported $34 billion worth of goods that were at risk of being produced with child or forced labour.
“Governments have an important role to play in ensuring that human rights are protected and that victims of these inhumane labour practices have access to remedy,” said Yussuff. “Our government must live up to its international commitments by developing a comprehensive toolkit that includes legislation mandating human rights due diligence throughout the operations of Canadian companies.”
The CLC supports the Committee report recommendations, which include addressing child and forced labour by:
- prioritizing the elimination of child labour and forced labour in Canada’s international assistance;
- improving access to quality education for children and adults;
- supporting law enforcement and judicial systems;
- including discussion of child labour and forced labour in all free trade negotiations;
- building capacity of Canadian businesses to monitor their supply chains;
- advancing initiatives to motivate business to eliminate child and forced labour in their supply chains; and
- examining Canada’s import regime and procurement policies as levers to eliminate the use of child labour.
The elimination of child and forced labour requires a comprehensive approach that includes a package of tools and measures. This package must include the immediate appointment of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise that, as announced by the government last January, is independent and has robust investigatory powers. It must also include legislation mandating human rights due diligence in the business operations and supply chains of Canadian enterprises. The government must also strengthen policy coherence in free trade and investment agreements, general preferential tariffs, international assistance and public procurement.
Countries that have recently implemented or are in the process of implementing supply chain legislation include the UK, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Australia. While there is a range of legislative approaches, international experts argue that in order to be effective, such legislation must address all human rights, and include both mandatory disclosure provisions as well as mandatory human rights due diligence that is linked to corporate liability.
The CLC will continue to call on the government to take the necessary steps to combat child labour and slavery globally, particularly within our own supply chains.
You can find the full CLC submission here.