Canada: House of Commons passes bill tackling forced and child labour, but critics argue corporations still evade meaningful accountability
"MPs pass law meant to curb forced labour, as critics decry its lack of teeth", 3 May 2023
A bill that aims to expose the use of child labour and forced labour around the world passed the House of Commons on Wednesday.
The new law will require Canadian companies and government departments to scrutinize their supply chains and file public reports on their efforts to improve labour practices.
The intent is to ensure none of their products or components are made by children in sweatshops in other countries, or by people forced to work excessive hours.
Businesses that don't comply could face fines of up to $250,000 for failing to report, and the bill allows for the potential ban on importing goods found to be produced with forced labour...
[MP John] McKay called it a modern slavery law and said in a statement it has "serious teeth that will turn Canada from a laggard to a leader in the global fight against slavery and the worst forms of child labour..."
However, the Bloc Quebecois and NDP have been critical of the measure, saying it doesn't actually hold companies accountable and doesn't have the power to end these harmful practices.
The Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability had urged MPs to vote against the bill because it does not require companies to do anything about human rights abuses in their supply chains or global operations.
The organization said in a statement the law "makes it look like the government is taking real action on human rights when it is not."
"It will not provide people who are harmed by Canadian companies, or their subsidiaries, or their suppliers, access to remedy for the abuse they have suffered, such as by bringing their grievances to Canadian courts," the network said...
Bloc and NDP MPs voted against the bill on Wednesday.
Labour Minister Seamus O'Regan said that's only because those parties wanted "to move it further..."
The government promised in its March budget to introduce a totally separate law, and O'Regan said this will deal with due diligence, ensuring companies act on information if they find forced labour in their supply chains...