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441-00212 (Business and trade)

Paper petition

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the House of Commons

Whereas:

  • companies based in Canada are contributing to human rights abuse and environmental damage around the world;
  • people who protest these abuses and defend their rights are often harassed, attacked or killed. Indigenous Peoples, women and marginalized groups are especially under threat; and
  • Canada encourages but does not require companies to prevent such harms in their global operations and supply chains.

We, the undersigned citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the House of Commons to adopt human rights and environmental due diligence legislation that would:

  • require companies to prevent adverse human rights impacts and environmental damage throughout their global operations and supply chains;
  • require companies do their due diligence, including by carefully assessing how they may be contributing to human rights abuse or environmental damage abroad and by providing access to remedy when harms occur;
  • result in meaningful consequences for companies that fail to carry out and report on adequate due diligence; and
  • establish a legal right for people who have been harmed to seek justice in Canadian courts.

Response by the Minister of Labour

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): TERRY SHEEHAN

The Government of Canada is committed to upholding human rights, labour and environmental standards and has in place a variety of initiatives to prevent and address exploitation in global supply chains and to promote responsible business practice abroad.

Canada is party to a number of conventions aimed at protecting human rights, including conventions addressing situations of child labour and forced labour. The Government continues to negotiate into Canada’s free trade agreements, enforceable obligations to address child and forced labour. Sanctions or penalties could be imposed on free trade partners that do not live up to these obligations.

In addition, the Government introduced the prohibition on the importation of goods produced in whole or in part by forced labour, which came into force under the Customs Tariff on July 1, 2020. This implemented an obligation in the Labour Chapter of the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), and applies to all goods regardless of country of origin.

Furthermore, the Government’s National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking enhances Canada’s efforts to combat human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced labour, both domestically and internationally. The National Strategy is a multi-department horizontal initiative centred on prevention, protection, prosecutions, partnerships, and survivors’ empowerment. As part of this National Strategy, the Government aims to encourage industry partners to implement changes in their supply chains to prevent and reduce the risk of forced labour in government procurement supply chains.

On the public procurement front, Canada has strengthened its contracting regime to ensure that federal suppliers adhere to the highest ethical standards and treat their workers with dignity. To this end, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) has updated its Code of Conduct for Procurement to include expectations for suppliers and their sub-contractors on human and labour rights. In addition, PSPC has implemented new anti-forced labour contract clauses to ensure that it can terminate contracts where there is credible information that goods have been produced in whole or in part by forced labour or human trafficking. The clauses also enable contract termination if goods do not clear customs because of breaches under the forced labour prohibition in the Customs Tariff.

In January 2021, Canada announced several trade measures to address human rights abuses, including forced labour involving Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. These include: a specialized Xinjiang integrity declaration for Canadian companies; a business advisory on Xinjiang-related entities; enhanced advice to Canadian businesses; export controls; enhanced awareness raising for responsible business conduct related to Xinjiang; and a study on forced labour and supply chain risks.

The Government of Canada expects Canadian companies operating abroad to abide by all relevant laws, to respect human rights in their operations, and to adopt best practices and internationally respected guidelines on Responsible Business Conduct (RBC). The Government of Canada endorses and promotes internationally respected guidelines, principles, and standards on RBC, including the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (https://www.oecd.org/corporate/mne/), the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (https://www.unglobalcompact.org/library/2) and the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy (https://www.ilo.org/global/lang--en/index.htm).

In terms of remedy, the Government of Canada provides two dispute-resolution mechanisms: Canada’s National Contact Point (NCP) for RBC, and the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE).  The NCP offers dispute resolution for companies operating in any sector for a wide range of issues including disclosure, labour issues, human rights, environmental issues, and bribery both in Canada or abroad. The NCP can also address complaints directed towards the domestic operations of Canadian companies. In addition, the CORE can review complaints for alleged human rights abuse by Canadian companies operating abroad in the mining, oil, gas and garment sectors. The CORE also has the ability to receive complaints and undertake a review at its own initiative.

Canada expects that Canadian companies involved in a dispute-resolution process will participate in good faith. If a Canadian company has not acted in good faith during the course of, or follow-up to the review process with either the NCP or the CORE, recommendations can be made to implement trade measures such as the withdrawal of enhanced trade advocacy support and recommending to Export Development Canada that they decline to provide future financial support to the company.

The CORE and the NCP work with complainants and companies to find a solution through fact-finding, discussion and mediation. They are an effective and accessible alternative to judicial resolutions without precluding a party from engaging in other fora. 

While supply chain legislation is a complex endeavour, policy work is underway to examine legislative elements appropriate for the Canadian context, and which can complement initiatives already in place. The Government’s commitment to upholding human rights and addressing exploitation in global supply chains is reflected in the mandate letter commitment to introduce of legislation to eradicate forced labour from the supply chains of Canadian businesses and to ensure that Canadian businesses operating abroad do not contribute to human rights abuses. In addition, the Government published a What We Heard Report (https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/international-affairs/reports/what-we-heard-forced-labour-global-supply-chain.html), on March 11, 2022, which provides a summary of past consultations on possible measures to address labour exploitation in supply chains. Stakeholders were invited to review the Report and share any additional feedback (https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/international-affairs/consultation-supply-chains.html) by April 8, 2022. The Government will continue to consider the results of consultations moving forward as it advances on this mandate commitment and complementary measures to tackle these important issues.

Presented to the House of Commons
Mike Morrice (Kitchener Centre)
March 4, 2022 (Petition No. 441-00212)
Government response tabled
April 25, 2022
Photo - Mike Morrice
Kitchener Centre
Green Party Caucus
Ontario

Only validated signatures are counted towards the total number of signatures.

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