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20 Jan 2022

Gavin Fridell, The Monitor

Canada: Supermax case may signal shift in Canada’s policy on tackling forced labour

Canadian efforts to counter forced labour in global supply chains made headlines this week, as the government stopped a contract with a Malaysian company accused of abusing foreign workers in its plants.

On January 18, [2022,] Canada terminated two health-sector-grade rubber glove supply contracts worth $222 million with the Malaysian company Supermax Healthcare Canada.

... This somewhat surprising about-face could mark an important shift in Canadian policy. Prior to [the termination], Canada’s policy was to only stop imports due to allegations of forced labour if it possessed "legally sufficient and defensible evidence." Now, Canada appears to be acting on “reasonable indication” of labour violations—a lower, more commendable, and potentially more effective bar.

... While numerous arguments will emerge around the sudden shift in Canadian policy, one major factor almost certainly has to be the increasingly assertive position of the United States.