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Canada: Parliamentary report requests Govt. develop legislation that motivates business to eliminate child & forced labour

In November and December 2017, the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development undertook a study on child labour in supply chains. The Subcommittee received testimony and written briefs from representatives from non-governmental organizations, the private sector, academics, the ILO, and Government of Canada officials to inform the drafting of this study. The study includes several recommendations for how Canada can contribute to eliminating child labour and forced labour through its international assistance; support for education, law enforcement and judicial systems; free trade negotiations; engagement with Canadian businesses; procurement policies; and legislative and policy initiatives. 

A proposed Modern Slavery Bill was tabled in the House of Commons on 13 December 2018 by Liberal MP John McKay. The bill would require Canadian companies to publicly report on measures to reduce the risk of child labour and forced labour in their supply chains. It also gives the Canadian Border Service Agency the power to ban products and impose fines up to $250,000.

The Govt. of Canada issued its official response to the Parliamentary report on 8 February 2019. The response notes that the Govt. of Canada broadly agrees with the recommendations of the committee's report and "proposes to consider them within the wider policy, advocacy and programming actions that the Government of Canada is undertaking across a number of departments." 

In May 2019, the government began an online consultation on possible ways to address labour exploitation in global supply chains. In February 2020, three parliamentarians introduced new forced labour-focused legislation in the Senate. This proposed bill has been criticized by numerous Canadian civil society groups for only focusing on child and forced labour, not on other human rights abuses in Canadian global supply chains. In addition, civil society groups are concerned that the bill does not compel companies to change their behaviour—to prevent, mitigate or redress abuses they detect — nor provide for remedy if companies do make use of child or forced labour. 

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