Canada is set to introduce new forced labor laws next year, promises Minister of Labor Seamus O’Regan.
Human rights activists will believe it when they see it.
“Canada is a dumping ground for products made by the use of Uyghur forced labour,” Mehmet Tohti, executive director of the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, told Global News.
Canada lagging behind
Jeff Semple at Global News reports,
The United States is cracking down on forced labour in its supply chain, banning all imports from Xinjiang last year, except in cases where importers can prove with “clear and convincing evidence” that the goods are not produced by forced labour.
Mexico has passed a similar law and the European Parliament wants its continent to follow suit.
But efforts to implement similar measures in Canada have hit a wall. Last year, the Federal Court rejected an application for a general ban on the Canadian importation of all goods from the Xinjiang region.
The 170,000-square-foot elephant in the room
Activists took the streets this past week in Toronto, Canada to protest fast fashion giant Shein for Uyghur forced labor in its supply chain. Shein recently opened a 170,000-square-foot distribution facility in Toronto.
Earlier this year, Bloomberg News sent Shein clothing for laboratory testing and found indicators that the cotton was from the Uyghur Region. Shein is very popular in the U.S. despite their forced labor import ban – due to a legislative loophole which activists and policymakers are trying to fight.
As the activists highlight, the very existence of the Shein facility is cause for doubt about forced labor importation bans. Shein is not the only problem.
Whose problem is it anyway?
The Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project has been tracking import records and found the presence of numerous Uyghur Region products sold in Canada, including red dates, gloves, and tomato paste. They presented this information to Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) but are unlikely to get the response they seek. The CBSA has previously made clear that it’s companies’ responsibility to ensure their imports are free of forced labor – not theirs.
Freedom United and over 280 organizations, led front and center by survivors and families of current detainees, are advocating for companies to cut ties with the Uyghur forced labor system. What’s certain is that things will not change overnight. In the meantime, the Freedom United community will continue to flag the risk of Uyghur forced labor to companies with existing links to implicated suppliers.
Join the movement today.