Mr. Speaker, I move that the fourth report of the Standing Committee on International Trade, presented on Thursday, February 9, be concurred in.
I will be sharing my time with the member for .
How did we end up with this report from committee so that we are here today talking about it? Well, I will give a bit of background.
We signed a trade agreement in 2020, which was CUSMA. This was almost three years ago. That agreement specifically stated that we would not allow goods made with forced labour to be imported into Canada on their own or through supply chains. I have been very curious as to the progress made with respect to this file.
The came to committee, and I had the opportunity to ask her what progress had been made, in particular with respect to goods seized from the Xinjiang region of China. As we know, there are real challenges with the goods being made in the People's Republic of China.
I had an exchange with the minister. I asked her, “Have any shipments been seized as a result of this at the Canadian border? Do you track that?” Her response was, “I believe that there have been.” She then went on to talk about some bills and other things.
I also asked, “is the department keeping track of any of this? Are there any numbers that...[you] can release to this committee?” She did not have any numbers to give to me but finally said, “Absolutely, I am working very hard with the Minister of Labour and with my colleagues to ensure that we do have the mechanisms in place to live up to this important [thing].” She went on to say, “What I am saying is that the commitment by the Canadian government to ensure that there is no forced labour in our supply chain is real and that we are working on it.”
This prohibition started in 2020, and the is saying in 2023 that she is working very hard on it and believes we received some shipments. As a result of that, I asked an Order Paper question, and members might be very surprised at the answer. My Order Paper question was this:
With regard to government measures to stop the importation of goods made using forced Uyghur labour in China, since 2016: (a) how many times have such goods been intercepted or seized at points of entry by the Canada Border Services Agency or the RCMP; and (b) what are the details of each instance....
I asked about the description of goods, quality, estimated value and so on. Members would be shocked to know the answer that came back was absolutely nothing. There was zero, zip, zilch. In three years, the government has not been able to seize a single shipment made by forced labour from the Xinjiang region of China. It is a shocking abdication of responsibility. The has done absolutely nothing on this in the past three years.
If we want to look at CBSA, the has also completely abdicated his responsibility on this. It has seized absolutely nothing. One might ask what the problem is and say this is probably a complicated thing. Well, guess what. It is not.
Over the same period of time, the United States has seized more than 1,400 shipments. It is taking this seriously. It is living up to its obligations in CUSMA. The United States has seized 1.3 billion dollars' worth of goods over this period of time and what has Canada done? It has done absolutely nothing. It is all talk, no action, not only on this but on virtually any file we want to talk about with the government. However, this is an important one.
The Liberals are going to say that it is really difficult to do this and that it is hard to figure out where goods comes from. Right. It is very hard, but guess what. The United States has put together an entity list, which is a list of companies that are very clearly using forced labour in their supply chains or directly for the manufacture of their goods. That list is publicly available, and I have the entire list right here. If it is so difficult, the could cut and paste it, but I know that is hard. The Minister of International Trade has time to approve a very lucrative contract for her friend, but what she does not have the time to do is cut and paste the entity list the United States has created as a result of our trade agreement.
I know we all have to make priorities. A former member of this place, Mr. Dion, once asked, “Do you think it's easy to make priorities?” I suspect that this attitude has leaked into the current government. Cutting and pasting is a very difficult thing to do.
About 1.4 billion dollars' worth of goods was seized from the United States, and there was zero from Canada. This is embarrassing. The and the have completely abdicated their responsibilities on this file, and no matter what they say, there is no excuse because there is an easy-to-use list. The United States is not the only one that has a list. There are all kinds of organizations around the world that have done investigations into this, and they have produced lists.
How is it that we cannot give a similar list to CBSA and say that goods coming from these companies must be intercepted at the border? I do not know. I think it would take about 10 minutes. In fact, I would be happy to table this document so the can pick it up, get someone to type it up and send the instructions to CBSA. I know it is hard work being in government, but members are not willing to do any of that hard work.
This problem is not getting better, but bear in mind that the government has done absolutely nothing on it. When I say “nothing”, I mean nothing. I got back my Order Paper question, and it has done nothing. As a report by World Vision says, “Unfortunately, Canada is a significant contributor to [the] global problem“ of using child and forced labour in supply chains. “As this report reveals, Canada imported nearly $48 billion in risky goods in 2021”. It goes on to say that that represents a nearly 30% increase since 2016.
Talk about being asleep at the wheel. I mean, the government is not even at the wheel, and the problem is getting worse all the time. I do not understand what it will take for the Liberals to spur themselves to action. I have asked the at committee about this, and there have been questions on it in the House of Commons.
Again, I go back to the fact that it is not all that complicated. The United States has published a list and acted quickly. However, it did not just publish a list; it also passed legislation. On December 23, 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law the Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act, “which bars the importation into the United States of products made from forced labor in the Xinjiang region of China.”
I became a lawyer because I am not very good at math, but this is almost two years later, in December 2021. What has the government done? Has a single piece of legislation been passed? No. Has it given instructions to CBSA to seize goods from the known list of entities? No. What is even more glaring is that at one point, in an article that talked about this, CBSA said it had seized one shipment to say it was doing something. However, the answer to my OPQ says it has seized absolutely nothing. Actually, I apologize. I said it did not do anything and that was incorrect. It put out an advisory for Canadian businesses doing business in the Xinjiang region. Stop the presses. There were two advisories saying they should check their supply chains.
“Hear, hear!” for the hard work that was done by the government on this file. The government should be absolutely ashamed of what it has done on it. It should be embarrassed by the lack of action it has taken. The should be embarrassed because she has done nothing. The should be ashamed as well. They have done absolutely nothing.
This takes very little work. The United States is a trusted partner, and it is part of our Five Eyes intelligence network. If it has published a list of companies using forced labour and seized 1.4 billion dollars' worth of goods, we can do the same thing, but the government has not done it. I would like to know why.
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this important topic, and I want to recognize the work of my colleague from , our shadow minister for trade, who is thinking very much about how to not only advance Canada's economic interests in trade, but also apply moral values and principles to the approach we take to trade and the importation of products.
When most Canadians think about slavery, they think of history. They think of stories they have heard or read, or movies they have seen, about the Underground Railroad, the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade, the American Civil War, and figures such as Abraham Lincoln and William Wilberforce. These are important things for us to learn about from our past to understand the ongoing legacies and harms that resulted from that violence.
However, we need to also immediately associate the reality of slavery with the contemporary experience. The ongoing reality is that there are people, many people, in our world today who are enslaved, who are forced to work against their will without pay, or without proper pay, and who are compelled into those positions as a result of various forms of disadvantage, in many cases because of their ethnic identity. As well, we have trading relationships with countries that are involved in the horrors of modern-day slavery.
When we reflect on the injustices of the past and wonder how people allowed that to happen or why people were so indifferent, we need to then pull that reality up to today and ask why we are not doing more. It was not everyone, but many people were so indifferent to the horrors that were happening around them at those times. We need to ask why today we are not more seized with the reality of modern day-slavery and with the actions we need to take in order to respond.
A few years ago, I visited Whitney Plantation, and it was a powerful exposition of the horrors of slavery as it existed in the United States in the past. It is very important for all of us to bring that reality forward and recognize the continuing horrors of slavery today.
There are limits to what those of us in Canada, whether we as Canadian parliamentarians or members of the Canadian public, can do to respond to these horrors, but at a minimum, we should be setting a firm standard of not being complicit. That is, we should be doing everything within our power to not be in any way supporting or enabling the practice of slavery around the world. That includes firmly saying no to the importation of any products made from slave labour.
I think there would be agreement in the House on the principle that we should not be purchasing products made from slave labour, but the problem has been the complete absence of will on the part of government to implement this. As my colleague said, we have seen no shipments of products from the Uighur region in China stopped as a result of slave labour. There was one case of a shipment that was stopped and then subsequently released.
We can compare that level of enforcement to the much stronger levels of enforcement we have seen in the United States and other countries. Any time we have a significant gap of enforcement on an issue in Canada, and we can say a similar thing about foreign interference, frankly, and there are high levels of enforcement, such as shipments being stopped and people being arrested or expelled for spying, etc. in other countries, then we need to ask if this is because Canada is not being targeted or if it is because Canada is not being effective in its enforcement.
We should not have a situation where ships containing products made from slave labour are told they cannot dock in Seattle but then have the same ships with the same products dock in Vancouver. That is not, in any way, morally acceptable.
Let us acknowledge as well that international supply chains are complicated. Saying as a moral absolute that we should not be importing products made from slave labour is something I hope we can all agree on, but figuring out the systems and processes that are going to get us there is potentially challenging and complicated. However, what my colleague has said, and rightly so, is that we should simply work with the Americans to collaborate and align our enforcement, using the information and research they have already gathered. That would make the enforcement process much simpler.
I would like to to see us go further than that. I would like to see us gathering together like-minded partners from around the world to ask if we can have a common standard, as well as common tools of enforcement to keep out products made from slave labour.
Given the research and analysis that is required, if we can have a group of like-minded partners, G7 countries, or perhaps others, saying that we will all work together to ensure the effective enforcement of rules around keeping out products made from forced labour, then it would be less resource-intensive for us to do that work. We could simply say that, if an analysis has been done collectively among allies or by a trusted agency within a country that says that there is a high risk that particular products were produced with slave labour, then those products will not be able to be sold in any of the partner countries working together on this common frame. I think that makes sense from a moral perspective and follows up with our moral obligations.
It also makes sense from practical and resource perspectives. Why would we have a different assessment from our partners and allies on whether a particular product was made from slave labour? It has been encouraging to see in the United States, which is admittedly a highly partisan environment, issues surrounding forced labour have been effective cross-party collaborations between Republicans and Democrats. I would like to see that spirit prevail in this place as well, but it requires, I think, the government to listen and respond to the legitimate concerns that have been brought forward because, the government has done nothing so far.
We have, and I give due credit, a private member's bill from an individual member of the government that deals with a specific issue around disclosure, but we have not seen, contrary to promises that have been made, government legislation on some of the broader issues around forced labour and supply chains. We have not seen what many people are calling for, which is a specific targeted approach to some of these extreme hot spots of forced labour.
In some cases, we see forced labour happening in ungoverned or less governed places. It happens outside of the law, without the official sanction of the state involved but, notably, in the case of the Uighur region in China, we see forced labour happening in a way that is coordinated as part of a genocide of the Uighur people, a genocide the House has recognized, but that the government has still failed to recognized.
When we have a state-directed genocide associated with forced labour, surely we should have a targeted approach to that specific region. I have said many times before that I support a framework that aligns with the bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act in the United States, which presumes that products that come out of the Uighur region have forced labour involved in those products, unless it can be proven otherwise. If it can be proven otherwise, they are okay, but it is reasonable to presume that products coming out of that region have a very high risk of forced labour, so we should just say no to products coming out of that region, unless we can prove otherwise.
If we were to adopt measures like this, it would strengthen that alignment, that opportunity for shared enforcement, among allies.
I would continue to call on the government to benefit from the work that is being done in other countries. This is a case where it is acceptable to copy someone else's homework. When the work is being done in other countries, we can be more effective in our enforcement of keeping products made from forced labour out if we simply work with our allies.
In closing, I would submit this: If slavery were still going on in an industrial scale in North America, if there were still plantations in the southern United States, we would not be comfortable importing cotton or other products that came from those plantations. We would say no in that particular case. We should say no, as well, in the case of slavery happening in China or other parts of the world, and we should be effective in aligning our enforcement with our allies to get that done.
Madam Speaker, it is an important issue, as I mentioned in my earlier intervention, that is being discussed today, and it was raised at the trade committee prior to this.
When we talk about the Xinjiang integrity declaration, we are speaking about the issues regarding goods whose provenance originates in a particular part of the People's Republic of China, known by locals as East Turkestan and by the PRC government as Xinjiang. The notion of the integrity declaration is to ensure that the provenance of goods that are coming from that particular area does not originate in forced labour or even slave labour, as has been mentioned by some members opposite, specifically on the part of Uighurs. This is a significant concern, not just for the Government of Canada but for our allies and many liberal and democratic nations around the planet, as it should be. I think the awareness of Canadians and folks around the planet has been accentuated in recent years with the rise of more strident policies on the part of the People's Republic of China and the Communist Party of China.
That is the scope of what we are discussing right now. It is about the declaration itself and what actions are being taken under the declaration.
In order to contextualize the discussion, we need to understand the evolving approach to the People's Republic of China itself. The People's Republic of China is under President Xi, who, as we speak, is visiting with Vladimir Putin, of all people, in an effort to address and shore up the alliance between Putin and Xi. That is a cause of concern for all right-thinking and democratically oriented governments around the planet, particularly those that oppose an illegal and unjustified invasion.
That gives us a sense of where President Xi is in terms of overtly aligning himself with the policies of Vladimir Putin. Those policies include policies of aggression. We are seeing Putin's aggression vis-à-vis Ukraine. We are seeing an aspiring, more aggressive, imperial-based Chinese policy, in terms of potential ambitions with respect to the island of Taiwan, the way China has treated Tibetans in the last 63 years, and the treatment that is being meted out toward Uighurs.
With respect to our policy as a government and as a Parliament regarding this part of China and the position we are taking, I would say we need look no further than the things that have been passed on the floor of this chamber. I am speaking of a motion, about 12 to 18 months ago, with respect to labelling what is transpiring in Xinjiang with the Uighurs as a genocide. That is a very significant conclusion to be drawn by parliamentarians. It is something that parliamentarians voted on in this chamber, and it is an accurate depiction, if the evidence is borne out from what we have thus far. We know that those factual elements that have been laid out, if proven, would demonstrate genocide in terms of international law. That is a significant aspect to consider.
About six weeks ago, we passed yet another motion, entirely unanimously, in this chamber to again address the Xinjiang region. What I am speaking of is a policy and a motion that was presented by the member for , if I have that correct, who is also the chair of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights. It is the idea that, with respect to Xinjiang, what we need to be doing as a government and as a nation is ensuring that individuals who are fleeing that type of persecution have a safe haven here in Canada, and bringing as many as 10,000 Uighurs to this country by 2024. That is a very significant step in the right direction in terms of taking a position as a Parliament and as a government toward the human rights violations that are occurring in the Xinjiang region.
Members heard me outline in my original intervention that we have also taken a very significant orientation shift with respect to our foreign policy. I am talking about the Indo-Pacific strategy. We can talk about what the Americans are doing with their Indo-Pacific economic framework, the IPEF, as it is called in the United States. Canada, the United States and many other nations are veering their orientation and foreign policy that is geared toward Asia away from China and its strident, aggressive policies, including its human rights violations, and toward other nations. The Indo-Pacific strategy is a classic example of that.
Why do I raise this in the context of Xinjiang? It is because the Indo-Pacific strategy speaks directly to this very issue. What am I speaking of? There are several pages dedicated to Canada's eyes-wide-open understanding and approach to China as a strident and more assertive, disruptive nation. What the Indo-Pacific strategy outlines is that with respect to China, what we will do is be more clear, articulate and transparent about holding China accountable for various human rights violations.
I am speaking of the Tibetan Canadians whom I represent and their Tibetan counterparts who remain in the Tibet Autonomous Region, and the human rights violations that have occurred since 1959, and before 1959, with respect to that community for the last 64 years. That is important to underscore in terms of their religious freedom, linguistic freedom and cultural freedom. We are talking about things such as Hong Kong democracy protesters and what has been transpiring over the last two or three years in terms of Hong Kongers daring to rise up and speak out against legislative policy that would restrict their freedom of expression. We are talking about individuals, such as those on the island of Taiwan, who fear for their physical safety and their survival as an independent nation among the community of nations. We are talking about Uighurs who come from East Turkestan, also referred to as Xinjiang by the People's Republic of China, and their rights to physical safety, religious freedom, cultural freedom and cultural liberties, of which they are being deprived in the People's Republic of China as we speak.
Those positions, those components are articulated in our Indo-Pacific strategy, and I think that is important because it shows the orientation of the government vis-à-vis China, and Xinjiang in particular.
Some of the contributions to the debate thus far by the members opposite have included criticisms, indeed in some respects accusations, that the Government of Canada is not raising these concerns with sufficient alacrity, sufficient clarity or sufficient repetitiveness or comprehensiveness, including in international dialogue. Nothing could be further from the case. I know with absolute clarity that the issue of Chinese human rights violations, whether it is with respect to Uighurs, Tibetans or Hong Kong democracy protesters, is articulated at every instance and at every available opportunity by representatives of the Government of Canada, including at bilateral and multilateral meetings, and multilateral forums.
I will give a case-in-point example in which I participated. In February, the OECD held an annual forum on responsible business conduct, which is exactly what we are talking about in this context, and that is about the conduct and comportment of enterprises that operate outside of one's borders. At that forum, I was there as the head of the Canadian delegation, representing the , and I went to specific lengths to articulate the positions we are taking as the Canadian government with respect to responsible business conduct. I articulated, specifically, references to the Indo-Pacific strategy and the very Xinjiang integrity declaration that is the subject of this morning's discussion. That prompted a very strong and firm response by the Chinese delegation that was present at those Paris meetings, who effectively indicated as follows.
They told me, in good French, that I was telling lies.
They indicated that I was effectively lying about the state of play in the People's Republic of China.
I was not lying when I was articulating, in an open international forum at the OECD, China's track record of violating the human rights of Uighurs, Tibetans and others, particularly with respect to people who originate from Xinjiang. The fact that those instances are being articulated by the Canadian government should give some comfort to those in this chamber who would argue that we need to be doing more of this. We are doing it. We will continue to do it. We will continue to do it in as many forums as possible.
We have to understand the approach toward Xinjiang within the broader context of our approach to labour issues. This has come up about forced labour in the supply chains, a critical issue. The issue of potential slave labour being in supply chains is also a very critical issue. Canadians need look no further than the mandate letters, which we publish as a government, that are given by the to different members of cabinet.
Canadians who are watching right now could look clearly at the mandate letter that has been provided to the . The Minister of Labour's mandate letter articulates and provides a direction from the Prime Minister for him to work on a comprehensive piece of legislation that would work to eradicate forced labour from Canadian supply chains. That is something that the minister has been mandated to work on, something that he, his political team and his departmental team are working diligently on. That would include things such as a due diligence standard, standards that Canadian enterprises need to operate under, and also repercussions for transgressing those standards, including for not rooting out forced labour in supply chains.
We have heard a little about Bill , which is being sponsored in this chamber by the member for , who has served in this chamber for about seven terms. It originates in the other chamber, in the Senate, from Senator Miville-Dechêne.
Bill and the mandate given for government legislation to the demonstrate our government's commitment to eradicating forced labour from our supply chains. While we are looking at this, it is also important to understand the international context, and the international context is a wide one.
In meetings at the OECD, I talked to the actual governmental representatives of about four different nations that have launched into this area of eradicating forced labour from supply chains. People talked to me quite candidly about what is working in northern Europe, what is working with respect to the U.K. Modern Slavery Act and where things could be tweaked.
They talked about how the Dutch, the Germans and the French, for example, are approaching it. These are important conversations that we are having, because what we seek to do with our legislation in Canada is to adopt an international best practice, to pick and choose what works in different jurisdictions and to improve on where there may be obstacles, errors or challenges that those other jurisdictions are coming up with.
That is to indicate to Canadians who are watching today that the idea of eradicating forced labour in supply chains is an important one, but it is also a complex one in terms of getting it right. It dovetails with things such as the size of the company, what companies the due diligence standards apply to and what the penalties are on the back end with respect to those companies.
When we look at eradicating forced labour from our supply chains, we need to zoom out to see what we are doing to ensure proper and responsible business conduct. I will point to several things. We launched the responsible business conduct strategy in April 2022. On behalf of the , I was there to launch it with a whole host of civil society organizations. They were very keen to see what we were doing to ensure that Canadian entities working abroad are acting and behaving responsibly and that they are complying with the law and with Canadian values.
Those include things like an attestation clause, which is attached to our responsible business conduct strategy, for Canadian enterprises that are going to work abroad or in various parts of the planet. In order to avail themselves of things like the trade commissioner services and of the very hard-working Canadians who operate in 160 offices around the planet to help Canadian enterprises do business in all four corners of the globe, those entities need to attest formally, in documentation, that they will abide by Canadian values, norms and laws, and also abide by international norms, guidelines and statutes in the locations where they will be doing the work.
That is important and it should go without saying. However, by having a quid pro quo, meaning that without the attestation the entities do not avail themselves of trade commissioner services, we are putting teeth to the notion that Canadian enterprises must conduct themselves responsibly when they work abroad. These are very critical.
As part of the responsible business conduct strategy, we are also developing a due diligence standard, which also dovetails with the work that has been taking place at the 's offices.
There is also a whole host of legislative tools that we have implemented. The list of legislative resources is quite in-depth. We passed legislation that deals with the corruption of foreign officials. It should go without saying, but one cannot be engaged in corruption of foreign officials and in bribery acts when one is a Canadian entity operating abroad.
We passed legislation, the Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act, that deals with one of Canada's great fortes, which is our mining expertise and our mining know-how in Canadian mining operations operating abroad. In the extractive sector, there must be transparency that is informing the conduct at all times of Canadian entities that are operating abroad.
We passed the Customs Tariff Act amendment, which deals with the entities that would be brought into the country. Directly relevant to the issue that has been raised in today's debate, it is about goods that are being brought into the country and that they must abide by the Customs Tariff regulations and amendments. We put this in place to guard against human rights violations on the part of goods that are entering into the country.
We created the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise. We created this entity in our first Parliament as a government, circa 2018-19. This is the only office of its kind on the entire planet. To purport, as the members opposite have, that we are not showing leadership on responsible business conduct abroad is categorically false.
The creation of a Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise, whose annual report I tabled moments before this debate started this morning in this chamber, demonstrates what we are doing as a government. We put money where our mouth is to create, fund and staff that office with personnel so they can examine critically the conduct of Canadian enterprises abroad and the kinds of norms, rules and values that are being observed by those enterprises.
We heard interventions by the New Democratic member two or three times in this morning's debate about the garment industry. In regard to that, the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise, pursuant to her own mandate, initiated a study of the garment industry and Canadian enterprises operating in locations like Bangladesh. That is specifically the work that we feel needs to be done. It is being done right here in Canada, by virtue of legislation that we passed, in an office that we created and that we staffed. Again, this is the only country on the planet that has such an entity. That is critical initiative and critical leadership.
Regarding legislative initiatives, we also legislated UNDRIP and passed it. We have abided by UNDRIP, we have ratified UNDRIP and we have passed legislation that relates to UNDRIP. Why is UNDRIP related to issues of conduct abroad? One cannot deal with responsible business conduct abroad without understanding the impact enterprises have around the planet.
Let us pick a continent, such as Asia, South America or Africa. There are indigenous communities all over the planet affected by the conduct of Canadian enterprises. Let us pick a sector, such as the mining sector, the garment sector, etc. When indigenous communities are affected, we have responsibilities, pursuant to UNDRIP, that inform what can and cannot happen vis-à-vis those indigenous communities. Those communities can and should be availing themselves of the benefits from the resources being extracted from the wealth that is on their land. That is an important legislative component that has not been mentioned by the member opposite in raising this issue of debate.
There are also international commitments that we have not only led on, in terms of signing onto, but that we have also worked to further. I will just raise four. There are the UN guiding principles with respect to responsible business conduct. There are the OECD guidelines on responsible business conduct, which were the subject of the conference I attended in Paris in early February this year, regarding how businesses must comport themselves when they are operating abroad.
My NDP friends will be keen to know that we are very active regarding international legal organization guidelines that dictate labour norms and labour conventions with respect to how businesses must operate and what kinds of protections they need to observe when they are operating abroad. We also have been in the forefront of advocating for sustainable development goals and meeting those sustainable development goals at an international level.
The last piece I will speak to is an industry component of industry leadership on the part of Canadian entities taking the reins themselves. I will point to, as one example, the Mining Association of Canada's “Towards Sustainable Mining”. It is called the TSM initiative, in the vernacular in the industry. TSM is something that has been adopted by nine countries around the planet, so far. It is looking at adding four more.
At the PDAC conference that I just attended in Toronto, which is the biggest mining conference of its kind in the world, that initiative was touted by all of the nations that were there. Many nations were expressing interest in participating in it. This is to demonstrate to Canadians that there is not only a component of what good government is doing and what Parliament is doing, but there is also a component of what industry is doing to ensure that the conduct of its enterprises operating abroad is clear, accountable and transparent with respect to human rights.
Let me bring this back to the Xinjiang integrity declaration. One thing that I agree on with the members opposite in raising this issue of debate is that it is an important declaration and an important. Expedited work needs to be done with clarity on this issue and act on the declaration itself. That is an important initiative, and we need to show leadership not just in creating the declaration but also in acting on the declaration and working to ensure that goods coming in from that part of China are not tainted by the scourge of forced labour, including Uighur forced labour.
That is one of the reasons I decided to run for office and stand in the House eight years ago. It is about taking a human rights lens and applying it to the various policies of the Government of Canada. I felt that it was something that was sorely lacking in the previous government. I will acknowledge that some of the legislative measures, including, I believe, the issue about the extractive sector transparency measures, were enacted by the previous government, so there were some good initiatives made by the previous government.
Since 2015, we have taken that ball and moved it significantly forward by creating the CORE, creating the customs tariff amendment, passing UNDRIP and launching a new responsible business conduct strategy. That is the work I am committed to continuing, with the help of all parliamentarians in the House, to ensure that initiatives like the Xinjiang integrity declaration are fully fulfilled.
Madam Speaker, Nicolas de Condorcet used to say that the truth belongs to those who seek it, not to those who claim to own it.
With that in mind, I welcome this motion, and I voted in favour of it when my Conservative colleague moved it in committee. For me, it is a step in the right direction, the beginning of something, a project. I am really glad the Conservatives have moved this motion. The last time I moved a motion to bring in a real due diligence policy seeking to pass it by unanimous consent, I heard a lot of howling from the opposition on my right. I use the word “right” in every sense of the word. I am glad the Conservatives finally woke up a bit, although it took a while.
I also moved a motion on mining companies. The Standing Committee on International Trade has completed its study on mining, but we have not yet adopted the report. We have not yet heard from the . When I moved my motion on the subject of mining, the Conservatives also opposed it, so I am pleased that they have come to their senses. It is better late than never, as they say.
I also want to thank the previous speaker, the . Recently, I was fortunate enough to go to Paris with him for the OECD summit, which focused on this particular issue. I am glad to see that the OECD and most countries are becoming aware of the problem. Unfortunately, this meeting turned into a bit of an exercise in one-upmanship. Everyone said they were taking this issue seriously and working hard in their communities to advance this cause. However, there is many a slip 'twixt cup and lip, as the expression goes.
This is a topic that resonates with me because I also tabled a petition in the House last spring, I believe, or early last summer, to bring in a meaningful due diligence policy. I have also co-sponsored bills. Bloc members never judge a bill by its cover. When a bill is good, we support it; when it is bad, we do not support it.
I have co-sponsored two NDP bills. The first is Bill , which has yet to move past first reading. If we are serious about this issue, we need to get on it, we need to make this a priority. The second is Bill , which seeks to establish an office of the commissioner in this matter because an office like that could act as an authority.
Let us take a step back in history. Once upon a time, there was colonization. We call many countries “developing” nations nowadays. They are southern nations, based on the old north-south divide. There used to be something called colonization. Colonial empires, or metropolises as they were called, wanted to get their hands on resources, so they went and took over other lands. They did not all go about it the same way. Some felt that the people on those lands, whom they considered inferior, needed to be civilized. Others took things even further: those people had to be exterminated, unfortunately.
For others still, colonization meant stripping these people of all power and reducing them to insignificance for as long as they did business with them. This was often the British colonization model. The people no longer had any political power, but the colonial powers would pretend that they did. They let them elect leaders with little power, local leaders from their own tribes. This gave them the illusion that they still had power over their lives, which was a complete lie. It was called indirect rule. Then decolonization happened, as we know.
Next came globalization. Starting in the 1980s, we were told that we needed to free up the multinationals and free up capital to ensure that it could be moved from one place to another, without borders, so that profits could be made, because all those profits would contribute to the common good. That was a very bad interpretation of the words of Adam Smith, who is credited with introducing the “invisible hand” theory. In reality, Adam Smith never came up with an invisible hand theory. The invisible hand is metaphor that he used three times to talk about different things. If we look at Adam Smith's work, we see that what he actually said is quite the opposite of what people took from his words in the 1980s and 1990s.
When the Berlin Wall fell, the Iron Curtain also fell. It imploded, collapsed. That led to the rule of unadulterated neo-liberalism. All of the supranational bodies were saying that the time for nations and sovereignties was over, that it was the end for the social safety net. The time for measures and policies was over. Now was the time for capital to be deployed, for it to move from one jurisdiction to another by any means and at any time. It needed to be freed up as much as possible so that anything could be done with it.
Obviously, today, that is no longer the case. We might say that globalization is in crisis, that we are returning to a multipolar world. It appears that there are several environmental and social consequences to these utopias. Among them, there is this idea of having a great global supply chain where every country can do its part. This also has consequences.
Quebec has fared well under free trade. It has been a beneficial experience. We certainly need to continue to diversify our trade partners, but not at all costs. We have seen the human consequences in terms of human rights, obviously, but also the use of forced labour. That is the point of today's motion on the importation of goods linked to the use of forced labour.
If we are going to address the problem, then we need to be serious. With what is referred to as dumping, a product can go through another country that is used as a flag of convenience. Then the product arrives here and we think it was made in places where forced labour is controlled and regulated, when in fact that is often not the case.
The Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, the CNCA, has made a number of demands. I am going to read them, because I think they are quite comprehensive. According to the CNCA, there are five essential elements in effective due diligence legislation which many Canadian and Quebec civil society groups agree on, and they are the following: require companies to prevent all human rights violations throughout their global operations and supply chains; require companies to develop and implement human rights due diligence procedures, and report on them, as well as require them to consult rights holders; require meaningful consequences for companies that fail to take these obligations seriously and guarantee impacted communities access to effective remedy in Canadians civil courts; be consistent with the United Nations guiding principles on business and human rights and apply this legislation to companies of any size, while possibly allowing small business in low-risk sectors to be exempt; and apply to all human rights, because all human rights are interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.
On June 22, 2022, I tabled a petition along those same lines:
some Canadian companies contribute to human rights abuses and environmental damage around the world;
people who protest these abuses and stand up for their rights are often harassed, attacked or killed. Indigenous peoples, women and marginalized groups are particularly at risk; and
Canada encourages companies to stop these harms from happening in their global operations and supply chains, but does not require them to.
We, the undersigned citizens and residents of Canada, call on the House of Commons to adopt legislation on due diligence for human and environmental rights that:
The rest of the petition contains more or less the same formal demands made by the CNCA which I just read. It also aligns with the motion I moved for unanimous consent, which, I would remind members, was rejected by the right in the House.
Let us now discuss the bill in question. I applaud the sponsor, who has attempted previously to bring forward legislation on this matter. There was Bill , which was withdrawn in favour of the very similar Bill .
We supported it and we will continue to support it, but it is just not enough, because if we ask ourselves whether the bill helps individuals who are affected obtain justice or redress, the answer is no. Does the bill seek to include communities and workers who are affected? No. Does the bill apply to businesses of all sizes in all sectors? No, it only applies to businesses with over 250 employees and “significant” revenue and assets.
Does the bill apply to all human rights? No, it only applies to forced labour and child labour. Those are hugely important issues, and this is a step forward, but it should go much further. Are businesses required to respect human rights? No, they are only required to report annually on whether they have taken steps to recognize and prevent the use of forced labour, but reporting is not accountability.
Does the bill require businesses to prevent harm? No, it only requires an annual report. Does the bill require businesses to take steps to identify, mitigate, prevent or report human rights violations and environmental damage in their supply chains, because the problem applies to the entire supply chain? No.
There are no compulsory due diligence standards for businesses. Do they face significant consequences if they cause harm or fail to implement due diligence standards? Again, the answer is no.
All the questions I just asked would be answered in the affirmative under the NDP Bill , which I co-sponsored. This bill ticks all the boxes. I therefore encourage the government and the House to refer it to committee for study as soon as possible, because it provides a much better response to what is needed and to the urgency of the situation.
I would also like to talk about Canadian mining companies, which I suggested would be a good subject for study by the Standing Committee on International Trade. First, let me clarify one thing. It is a real stretch to call them “Canadian” mining companies, because they are just using Canada as a “flag of convenience”. Mining companies are often Canadian only on paper. They choose Canada because its lax laws make it ridiculously easy to incorporate here, to present themselves as Canadian companies and to benefit from speculative benefits offered through and by the Toronto Stock Exchange. Canada is just being used as a “flag of convenience”. It is basically a front.
I have seen this first-hand. The Bloc Québécois actually proposed a bill in 2009 that would have gotten to the heart of the issue, as it created an actual review commission that would have been politically independent and would have had the power to conduct its own investigations, without needing a complaint or a political directive. It would not simply have been a symbolic ombudsperson. This commission could have conducted its own investigations and publicly questioned Global Affairs Canada, or Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, as it was called at the time, if the department were even seen to support a mining company that was caught violating human rights.
I travelled to Chile and Colombia, and in Colombia, I saw a mining company that was originally Canadian fall into Chinese hands. Speaking of forced labour, we saw a bus full of prisoners arrive from the People's Republic of China. Once the local miners have been squeezed out, one of the arguments often used to gain acceptance for these projects in mining areas is that they will create jobs. However, bringing in prisoners from the People's Republic of China is not exactly creating local jobs. Furthermore, diplomats must not provide unequivocal support for the aggressive tactics used by Canadian mining companies abroad, as Canadian embassies have been known to do. Embassies are being ordered to provide support through diplomacy.
We also need to talk about money. It is important to talk about that, because Export Development Canada has investments in many problematic companies, including Baru Gold, which was mentioned several times. EDC continued to hand out loans to Teck Resources for its Quebrada Blanca mine in Chile, despite the political crisis and brutal repression going on in that country. In 2019 alone, EDC invested between $1 billion and $1.5 billion just in Chile's extractive sector.
Vale was involved in two recent tailings dam disasters in Brazil. At the company's Brumadinho mine, hundreds of people were killed in January 2019 when a tailings dam collapsed. It is also the co-owner of the mine near Mariana, where a similar disaster wiped out an entire village in 2015. Both mines had been built using the riskiest method regulators would allow. Vale's other activities include a railway along which residents are regularly struck by trains, and a mine that was ordered to shut down several times because of the impact it was having on indigenous tribes.
Vedanta Limited, a subsidiary of Vedanta Resources, received between $100 million and $250 million in loans in 2017. In 2018, there was a massacre at a smelter plant in India run by a subsidiary of Vedanta Resources. Police opened fire on a crowd of thousands who were protesting the planned expansion of the Tuticorin plant. Thirteen people were killed and dozens of others were injured.
According to Emily Dwyer from the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, who testified at committee, some of the other mining companies that received funding from Export Development Canada and were mixed up in human rights violations include Teck Resources and Kinross.
The mining industry in Canada received $6.524 million in funding in 2022. This is a serious matter.
When we talk about accountability and the origin of goods, we need to be serious and take a closer look.
I will now wrap up my speech in order to debate this issue with the rest of the House. We need some genuinely serious policies on this, such as Bill and Bill , which I co-sponsored, and the bill that the Bloc Québécois introduced in 2009 about a review commission for mining companies.
This needs to be taken seriously, because the ombudsperson is currently nothing but a complaints office and a web site. That is no way to deal with the serious, violent, brutal violations happening around the world.
In closing, I want to wish everyone a happy end to the “no new clothes challenge”. March was dubbed “no new clothes” month. That lines up nicely with the theme we are discussing today.
Madam Speaker, as always, it is a great honour to rise in the House. I will be sharing my time with the member for .
The fact that we have to discuss, in 2023, the need to stop slave labour products from entering Canada is a very telling indicator of where we are in the world right now.
Of course, the focus of the Conservatives is the horrific treatment of the Uighurs in China, but we need to broaden this to look at the global race to the bottom that has led to such massive exploitation of environment, indigenous people and the rights of working people around the world.
What we are talking about is the dark side of globalization. Five years ago it would have been heresy to question the great myth of globalization, but that was before COVID and the fact that the supply chains were not able to withstand it, that we could not provide our frontline medical workers with proper PPE because we did not have the factory capacity. This was due to the fact that we had offshored all these basic things that a country needed to keep itself safe to the lowest common denominators and to the sweatshops in the global south.
Before, with globalization, we were told that it would lift all boats. It certainly lifted some boats. It lifted the superyachts, but it was always about freeing the power of capital to live and move wherever it wanted without obligation, the environmental or legal obligations in the jurisdictions they worked within. In fact, globalization was about limiting the power of countries and regions to protect their interests. We know what happened when Mexico tried to stop toxic chemicals. It was targeted because that was supposedly unfair to trade.
We are now at a point where the global supply chain is using slave labour. This is not some dark, obscure fact. All one has to do is go to any shopping mall and into any of the big stores. We know the companies that have been named as being complicit in slave labour, companies such as Adidas, Carter's, Gap, General Motors, Google, Bosch, Calvin Klein, Abercrombie & Fitch, Dell. Those are just a few of the 83 that have been identified. Those corporations have their products in all our stores.
I find it interesting that the Conservative focus is that we should try to work with our international allies to deal with this somehow, as opposed to saying to these companies that if they deal with slave labour, they get charged, end of story.
What we see here, again, is this myth of the race to the bottom, that somehow people are surprised that we would end up with slave labour. I go back to the free trade debate with Brian Mulroney.
In that original free trade debate, it was argued that if we merged our environmental and labour standards with the United States, we would all be better off. Of course, we saw a huge bleed-off of manufacturing jobs. At least with the United States, we were dealing with comparable economies. However, it was Clinton and Mulroney's decision to extend it to Mexico that was the real indicator, because Mexico had much lower wage standards. It did not have the protection of laws that Canadian and American workers had.
Once the free trade agreement was set with Mexico, we saw the setting up of the maquiladora sections, where these companies just moved across the border and were protected under Mexican law from all kinds of obligations to pay proper wages, to pay even properly into the Mexican system. It was the race to the bottom. Our country signed on right then, and 766,000 U.S. jobs moved over the border into Mexico, to low-wage maquiladora plants.
It is interesting that those plants were also locations where horrific numbers of young women were being found murdered and sexually mutilated. If we are creating disposable products, we somehow are creating disposable people. We have never actually dealt with that.
From the model that they had with the maquiladora section set up in Mexico was the idea to offshore to the global south. Remember Jean Chrétien and the great China initiative? It was not that we were going to be able to sell our furniture into the world's biggest market. This was about capital being able to offshore its jobs.
The company known at that time for the biggest drive of going to American and Canadian corporations and saying that they could make more money by shutting down their operations and shifting that work over to places like India or China was McKinsey; McKinsey that is now getting $100 million in contracts from the federal government; McKinsey being the company that has been called the single biggest factor in the destruction of the American working and middle class.
What we saw in the move to shift work to low-wage jurisdictions without legal accountability or legal standards was the race to the bottom, and it became more severe as economic precarity grew in North America.
We ended up with a situation like, for example, Joe Fresh. I spoke about it earlier today. Joe Fresh and Loblaws were selling cheap clothing. People could pay $2 for shirts for their kids. These were being made in sweatshops in Bangladesh in horrific conditions.
A collapse of one of these sweatshop factories killed 1,135 human beings. Those human beings died because of corporate negligence. Another 2,500 people were injured. There was no accountability for Loblaws, which makes record profits, or for Joe Fresh. They paid $150 per person and walked away. That is astounding.
We know the story of Apple, the very cool iPhone company, and of its people working in sweatshops in China. Workers were so mistreated that they started to kill themselves in such numbers that the contractor put nets out to try to catch them from jumping. That is a degrading, despicable race to the bottom, yet there was no accountability. Apple remained the cool company.
In fact, speaking of Apple, if people have its phone, when they pick the phone up, they are picking up at least a ton of rock. That is what it takes to make a phone. That ton of rock is coming out of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is coming out of the slave labour conditions in the Congo. Our supply chains have not even addressed that.
We need to start talking about the corporate accountability and responsibility for allowing this race to the bottom to happen. What has it meant for the jobs that used to be here?
I will quote from the RAND Corporation, not exactly a left-wing think tank. It has worked for the U.S. military for the last half century or much longer.
RAND looked at the growth of inequality in the United States and it identified, from the 1980s, that $50 trillion from the savings and wages of the working and middle class was transferred to the upper class, the 1%. RAND says that this is the equivalent of $1,144 for every worker for every month for four decades. That is what created the growing political inequality in the United States, the growing uncertainty and the anger out there.
We have to address in the House accountability for what happened that allowed globalization to shift responsibility, to shift work to brutal, underfunded conditions where people are exploited, while undermining the middle and working class in North America. To do that, we need corporate accountability.
If subcontractors commit crimes against people in the Global South, they need to be held accountable for it. If they are using slave labour and selling those items in malls, they need to be held accountable for it. Canadians expect that. They also expect that corporations are going to be held accountable for this offshoring of work to sweatshops, the slave labour conditions and the brutality that we have seen over the last few decades.
The time has come where we have to start to shift back to corporate responsibility, environmental responsibility and fair labour standards.
Madam Speaker, I will start with a bit of acknowledgement of the member for 's work domestically with the Canada pension plan and ethics reviews, which are very important. When we think about the Canada pension plan, it goes back to Pat Martin, a former NDP colleague. For many years, he said that we actually need to have green and ethical screening of our investments for the Canada pension plan.
For those Canadians who are tuning in right now, it is disgraceful that, to this day, our Canada pension plan has actually supported child labour and invested in everything from guns to tobacco and other types of endeavours that would be seen as reprehensible. We continue to have this arm's-length approach to how we use the public funds from many people who are activists against this use and many investors in Canada; this actually includes investments into small and medium-sized businesses, which have to compete globally for our own investments that we have in endeavours of such a nature.
Coming from an industrial town in Windsor-Essex County, I have seen our job losses at the expense of using child and forced labour. This includes not only the abuse of those individuals but also ethnic cleansing and other types of imperialism that other countries use labour for. Many times, this has been through investors coming from our country, so we have actually undermined ourselves.
I have been at meetings where, for example, unions from Mexico have come down and said not to allow the investments because there is abuse of their women, children and men. There is a short-term gain from jobs through exploitation versus what would be a long-term gain from the proper investment and necessary humanitarian advancements.
Finally, the member for has carried on the amazing work of his father, Bill Blaikie, in this chamber. Thanks to this, with the U.S.-Canada-Mexico Agreement, we got at least some type of a labour and environmental lens that can be applied. However, we see how fragile that is; in this last number of weeks, even the United States has been identified with problems on labour and using children. This includes the Ford Motor Company, which is founded, in many respects, in my riding across from Detroit, Michigan.
These are real things that are happening because we do not impress upon investors the right, necessary standards or do the routine things we should. I want to transition a bit to talk about one of those routine things, which is with our Customs and Immigration Union. I was here at the beginning, when they used to actually use students to cover their employment breaks at the border. In this past year, we have again seen the government not taking the contract or the types of necessary supports very seriously.
When we talk about the CBSA and our men and women who are on the line for us every single day, we do not give them the proper supports. Today's debate, with the verbiage coming from the government side on this, is upsetting because the routine thing we could do is actually support our CBSA officers, who have had to deal with extraordinary circumstances under COVID while underfunded.
In fact, this last summer they had to go into forced practices to actually have proper staffing because the government has mishandled the implementation of the right people. On top of that, it is even trying to move toward more automation as opposed to having men and women at our border as a policy.
That is really what the ArriveCAN situation was. We know there was lots of discussion in the House about its mismanagement as an application on someone's phone. However, at the end of the day, this was really about the Liberals trying to defund men and women at the border. We have also seen this at airports that have moved to automation, and we are seeing it at land borders. This is unacceptable, especially when I have been fighting for over 20 years for a new border crossing here in Windsor-Essex County, the Gordie Howe International Bridge. We are finally getting it, but there is going to be a shortage of officers. Moreover, that is the best line we actually have to back up the policies that are spoken about in legislation made in the House.
Why do we have underfunding at our ports? Why do we check very few of those facilities? Why do the men and women in our CBSA not have the proper technology or the right supports?
I was in the House and chamber when then Liberal MP Derek Lee called them wimps. The CBSA officers were not getting the proper supports at that time, so the government did nothing to actually discredit that statement. What we did then is that we moved to a modernization process and gave them some better skills and supports. However, through successive governments, they are constantly going through contract renegotiations and often working without a contract or collective agreement, on a regular basis. That is unacceptable.
If we want to do the routine things to back up what we say in the chamber, we could support our men and women at the border. That means proper identification. Those things that they can do are very much an important skill set for ending not just the issues with forced labour and trade agreements, which we do not enforce on the shipping level but arrive on our doorstep, but also public safety issues.
I have done a lot of work on fraud and prevention of different types of things coming into our country. I always remember that we have a lot of different devices and types of materials coming into Canada that need to be checked regularly; it is actually important for our economy that we check them because we are competing against manufactured knock-offs and a series of different things. We cannot assume that they are just garments or clothes. The reality is that some of the knock-offs that have come into our Canadian society and even our industrial manufacturing industry include parts for hospitals, airplanes and cars. These things are getting through our system right now, but we can identify and deal with them if we have the proper training and supports.
Therefore, when we talk about today's motion, we have identified this particular issue, especially with regard to the Uighurs and the genocide taking place, as well as the series of other exploitations that are very important. Here, we have to come back to what we can control, which, at this time, is supporting our CBSA officers by having proper collective agreements, having proper training facilities and doing proper staffing on a regular basis all the time. That is where we can control something and make a difference at this moment. Having words in the House and dealing with the larger corporate issues that we have less control over are things that will be challenging, but we should take them on. However, again, I have referenced the CBSA because it could be done in a heartbeat, as could the issue related to the Canada pension plan. That is a politically appointed process to get on its ethics board and actually follow through.
The member for brings up a really good point in terms of accountability, of being back on our shores here for the investments and exploitation that take place. There is no reason we could not start that in the House with our own investments as a country and as a government nation deciding how our public money is used.
One of the most upsetting things about this is that those are the simple things that we can control, and yet we hear more excuses and complaints from the government having to exercise basically the systems that it has employed at its fingertips. I have regularly witnessed this, and it has always been the excuse that it is the capitalist way or the free market economy that is out there. Let us take a look at that as I wrap up here.
If, at the end of the day, we want the free market economy with no regulations, then we are getting child exploitation, women's exploitation and other populations who are migrating for different reasons. Even in our country, when it comes to foreign workers coming in, there is exploitation. Therefore, it is up to us as policy-makers to make decisions to change things.
If we want to just accept the free market the way it is right now, then we are literally accepting the exploitation of children, women and migrant workers as the status quo. That is unacceptable from my standpoint as a New Democrat, and I think it is unacceptable for most members in this chamber. However, at the end of the day, it takes real action on what we have that is controllable instead of complaining about the things we cannot control.
Madam Speaker, this is not the first time I have risen on the issue of forced labour and the impact it has had not only on Canadians but throughout the world. We have had a number of debates on this issue. It was not that long ago that we debated Bill .
I know the member for , whom I consider a dear friend, has put a great deal of effort into the issue of corporate responsibility and good behaviour for many years. It is well over a decade. I can recall being in the third party with the member when he talked about this, and sitting beside individuals like Stéphane Dion. We understood and wanted to deal with this issue, which is no doubt of critical importance.
One aspect that I always thought of was the way to get corporations to take certain actions as corporations. Individual board members were never really held accountable. There are many aspects in Bill , but one of the aspects I liked was putting more responsibility on the board of directors so we could go after them for forced labour in general. We had very healthy debates on this issue.
What I find interesting is the way the Conservative Party has brought forward what we are debating. If I read the motion itself, which does not take long to read because it is pretty straightforward, it says the committee looks at the bill and comes back with a report. It is pretty straightforward. It states:
That the committee report to the House that it calls on the government to immediately take any and all actions necessary to prohibit the importation of any goods made wholly or in part with forced labour and develop a strategy to prevent the importation into Canada of any goods mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part with forced labour.
This report was tabled here weeks ago. I find it interesting that the Conservatives chose today to ask for concurrence in the report as opposed to just accepting it, because after all, I do not think there is anyone in this chamber who does not understand the importance of the issue, whether it is the or members of the opposition wanting to see something done on this file. I suspect the motivation for the debate today has more to do with preventing the NDP from bringing forward a concurrence motion on a PROC report. It is interesting that the Conservatives chose this particular topic. I understand the way the rules work in the chamber, and at the end of the day, I am always happy to talk about an issue that is so very important.
As for the motion itself, I would like to share something with members. I do not need to table it because it is public knowledge. The member across the way who introduced the motion asked what the government is doing. The spoke exceptionally well about how Canada, in many different fora, can play a leading role in dealing with the issue of forced labour and the impact it has on our supply chain. The Conservatives were very quick to scoff at that.
It is interesting to hear the Conservatives when they are in opposition versus when they are in government. When I posed a question to the member, I noted it is all fine and dandy to be so critical of the government and to make accusations that are not necessarily founded. I asked what the former government did, the Harper regime. The member mocked the question, of course, because Stephen Harper did not do anything.
I do not have a problem with contrasting that with what we have been able to do and deal with. The made reference to our international presence. What people do not necessarily recognize, which we should acknowledge, is that Canada, with a population base of 38 million people, carries an incredible amount of weight when it comes to international policy. We have seen that in many different ways.
I have always been a big fan of Lloyd Axworthy. If we look at the banning of land mines, an issue Lloyd Axworthy championed on behalf of the Government of Canada, and the success we were able to achieve, we again have to put that into the perspective of the world. The same principles apply for a wide variety of different issues, and this is one of those issues. Unlike the scoffing coming from the Conservative benches, I believe in what the who spoke before me said when he talked about the influence of standing up and speaking out, even in the presence of China.
We hear a lot about China, because it was the example and has been the example used. Whether it is the Uighurs or Tibetans, we recognize that, yes, there has been a great deal of exploitation. However, the government is not just talking about that on the floor of the House of Commons. We are talking about that internationally, even in the presence of China. That means the Government of China, and often Chinese officials, will be very irritated, but I believe it is a role that Canadians expect because it is a part of our values.
If we look at the sheer immigration numbers and the people who want to come to Canada, it is a very impressive thing. I believe that is because they look at the values and opportunities Canada has to offer, which translates into the House of Commons and the role we play not only domestically but internationally. That is the reason it is important that, whether it is the or a critic from the opposition party, if we have the opportunity to talk about Canadian values, this is the type of value we should be talking about.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the United Nations many years ago. It talks about the rights of children and their protection, and there are things we can do. That is one of the reasons why a few minutes back I made reference to a public document, which the made reference to earlier. I actually printed out a copy of it. It is the ministerial mandate letter for the , authored by the . It provides instructions, and members who are watching or following the debate can easily look into it themselves by doing a simple Google search.
The letter that comes from the states:
As Minister of Labour, your immediate priorities are to work with federally regulated workplaces to ensure that COVID-19 vaccinations are enforced for those workers and to advance amendments to the Canada Labour Code to provide 10 paid days of sick leave for all federally regulated workers. I also expect you to work with federally regulated employers and labour groups, and with provincial and territorial counterparts, to make workplaces fairer and safer for everyone across the country as well as lead our efforts to eradicate forced labour from Canadian supply chains.
To realize these objectives, I ask that you achieve results for Canadians by delivering the following commitments.
Then the letter lists a number of commitments, and this is one of them:
With the support of the Minister of Public Safety, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and the Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development—
I would like to emphasize this.
—introduce legislation to eradicate forced labour from Canadian supply chains and ensure that Canadian businesses operating abroad do not contribute to human rights abuses.
I challenge the member who chose to turn this into a political issue by saying the government has not done anything and who then went on to criticize Canada's border control. That is why I posed the question. In opposition, it sure is easy for the Conservative Party to be as critical as it wants, knowing full well that when it was in government it did absolutely nothing on this file.
Even during a pandemic and many other aspects like a war, we can see that this is a priority of the government. We have different departments coming together to provide legislation. Tell me where the former government had any interest in passing legislation. The Conservatives can talk about this, but their math is all messed up, as pointed out earlier after one member said it is eight years later. Sometimes it takes a little while to clean up the Conservative mess. We went on to have a pandemic, and now a war is taking place, but we have seen other budgetary measures and legislative measures, some of which have already been pointed out by a previous speaker. There is a very clear indication that we are developing legislation.
I will note something interesting in the EU:
On 14 September 2022, the European Commission presented a proposal for a regulation to prohibit products made using forced labour, including child labour, on the internal market of European Union (EU). The proposed legislation fits into the context of EU efforts to promote decent work worldwide.
I do not know all the details of this, but I think it is important for us to recognize that this is not just about Canada alone. Canada does work very closely with its partners, with its allied forces, the EU being one of them. That was referred to in 2022. The 's letter to the minister was back in 2021. It does take time, as a great deal of consideration must be factored in. From a good governance, corporate perspective, companies want to ensure that supply chains are being supported by non-forced labour, and those that are prepared to put in that extra effort will ultimately have more security going forward.
I do not believe that Canada is alone. I believe it is working with other like-minded nations in recognizing the harm that forced labour causes. Forced labour takes many different forms. There is exploitation of individuals here today in Canada. When we think about exploitation of labour, we should not believe it is just something beyond our borders. There is a role for provinces in particular, along with the federal government, in looking at what is not only happening abroad but also happening here in Canada.
I know it exists. I have advocated consistently in the past against the exploitation of human beings. It is just wrong, and as parliamentarians we would like to make sure we are making progress in dealing with that. Human smuggling takes place, and it is pure exploitation, whether it is getting an individual into a factory or selling an individual for sexual services. Unfortunately, it is something that happens.
I believe the United Nations said that it could be as high as 10%. Members should not quote me on it, but I believe it is somewhere in that neighbourhood worldwide, with about 10% of the population of the globe being exploited in one form or another.
I mention children more than anything else because that is where my primary focus is, but there are other vulnerable groups, some more than others, that need to be taken into consideration. I like to believe that, as Canada continues to move forward on this file, we will continue to have healthy discussions. My colleague's legislation will be coming forward at some point in the future once the appropriate consultation has taken place.
I believe this is an issue that has been here since well before any of us have been around. I am not just talking about inside the House of Commons. I am talking in life in general. It is something that is not going to be cured overnight. At the end of day, we do have a responsibility, a responsibility that has been taken very, very seriously.
The government has seen the benefits of trade. Canada, more so than most countries around the world, is dependent on trade. It is dependent on exports and imports. It is not like we are a self-sufficient country in producing that does not require the importation of products. We are far from that. That is one of the reasons that, as we move forward, and we will move forward on this file, we do so in a way Canadians can get behind and support.
Interestingly enough, there was reference to the North America trade agreement. We saw, incorporated into that trade agreement, the issue of workers' rights and environmental concerns. As a government, we have signed off on more trade agreements than any other government before us because we recognize just how important trade is to our country. At the same time, we have very much taken a keen interest in the supply chain and getting rid of the exploitation of people. I believe we are going to see more effort on that issue in the coming months and years ahead.
With those few words, I am thankful for the opportunity to share some thoughts and look forward to any questions, if there are any.
Mr. Speaker, I do intend to split my time, but I just cannot quite notice the member I intend to split my time with, so when I get there and see the member, I will name his riding. It is possibly in the Wellington region.
I am glad to be joining this debate, because this is, for me, about the accountability of the government on the enforcement portion of passing legislation, regulations, rules and advisories that come from the work we do here, so it is about holding the government to account. Part of holding the government to account is doing the work the member for did. He believed the government was not doing enough to prevent goods made with forced labour from coming into our country, so we asked ourselves questions.
In this House, we have the option to ask an oral question during question period, or we can write a written question and then submit it to the government to respond to, and that is exactly what the member did. They are called Order Paper questions. They are written questions. One was Question No. 1112, which basically asked the government the very simple question of how many goods made with Uighur forced labour coming from the Xinjiang province were seized at the border since 2016 by the Canada Border Services Agency or the RCMP, and the answer was a big fat zero, nothing. The government had stopped one, but as the member before me from commented on, it was then released.
In the same time, the United States government seized over 2,300 shipments of goods at the border, because that government was directed by the U.S. Congress to four specific areas that the Department of Homeland Security was told to watch for. It is on their website. Members can go on the website. In fact, the member for has repeatedly stated in the House that he has that list. I looked it up and I have the list, too. We would be happy to provide the government with the list, and then the Liberals could use it. This is great. This would be bipartisan co-operation. We are trying to help the government do its job. The Liberals could just come over to this side, and we would give them the list. There is even something called “electronic mail”. I do not know if members have heard of this. We could send them the email list and they could actually use it and adopt it.
The four areas the Department of Homeland Security said were of special concern were apparel, cotton, tomatoes and polysilicon. Based on those four categories or sectors they are especially concerned with, they have seized thousands of shipments of goods that were found to be using Xinjiang as the source region and Uighur forced labour.
Uighur forced labour has gone up in its use in the People's Republic of China since 2017. Those labour camps were established in 2017. There is a generalized acceptance that this is when that program started. The program was intentionally created by the Communist government in Beijing. It started early on. The level of repression has been going up since Xi Jinping was first elected in 2013. He is on his third term, and now likely his permanent term, as essentially a dictator in the People's Republic of China.
We can compare the timelines. The member for has done the investigative work a parliamentarian is supposed to do and has proven that the government has not been enforcing the rules or, if it has been enforcing them, it has been incredibly lax. It basically has not done anything.
Since then, we have had one government caucus member after another, and parliamentary secretaries, come out and give the best possible version of events. They really try incredibly hard. In the future, I hope never to be before a court, but if it ever comes to that, I would look to that side to find one of those members to defend me, because they really gave it the best possible face they could have. They talked about convening things, declarations, meetings they have had, advisories that were posted and attestations. People can click on the website and read the terms of reference about what they are not supposed to do, and they can click an attestation and move on. Actually, I was speaking to the member for , and based on attestations, the government's own officials say that nobody has been found guilty of breaking them and there has been no follow-up on this attestation.
This reminds me of a Yiddish proverb. It is a great one. I was looking for this one. It is from a book called Kvetch, so it took me a while to look it up and find it in there: “A drowning man will reach even for the point of a sword.” In this case, it proves the point we are making on this side of the House, that the Liberals have done nothing, if all they can point to is advisories, websites, web pages, an ombudsman, and attestations, which have not done much of anything.
We have a written question in the House with a response that says we have zero goods from this particular region, a region that is so egregious with its known violations of the human rights of the Uighur people that the United Nations has written successive reports on it. We have had rapporteurs go there, actual rapporteurs doing work on the ground and trying to ferret out what has been going on. It was Bachelet in this case. We have had repeat congressional hearings. We have had hearings in the different parliamentary committees of this House and in the United Kingdom as well. We know what is going on. We have heard the stories of the Uighur people.
I went online to see the People's Republic of China's response to the United Nations report. They said everything is okay and there is full employment in the Xinjiang province. They said everything is good and all laws are being respected. They especially drew attention to something on page 109 of their response, if anyone wants to read it, which says that the religious rights of the Uighurs are being respected. There are so many mosques outside of the Xinjiang region they can go to. There are nice pictures of very happy workers. I am sure all of them knew what was going to happen here.
I notice that the member for is getting ready to speak after me and add to my contributions. I will share my time with him.
That is the point. The government has reached for the sword and it is pointing to what we are pointing to, but it only has pretty words. It only has attestations and declarations, websites and web pages, while we have its own words showing the proof of its work, that it has done nothing since 2016. No goods have been stopped at the border and actually seized. As we said, one shipment was stopped but eventually released. The Americans have proof that they have actually obtained results, and we want results.
This reminds me of our sanctions regime. Equally, there have been members of the public who have come to testify before the Canada—People's Republic of China special committee of the House, and they have basically said that enforcement is lacking on the sanctions regime we have. I profess that I believe this is part of the sanctions regime we have against regimes of the world that do things we disagree with, where we find profound violations of people's human rights.
This House has found that the People's Republic of China is committing genocide against Turkic Uighurs in the Xinjiang province. The House has said that. In fact, the government was so inspired by its own principles that it abstained on that motion. It sent in a minister at the time, who has now resigned from this House, to say that they are abstaining as a government. As a cabinet, they are choosing to abstain on the matter. That is deeply embarrassing for them, and it should be embarrassing for them. It is embarrassing for all of us that they would do that.
We have passed a motion since then calling on the government to expedite this and ensure that another 10,000 Turkic Uighurs would be brought to Canada as refugees and that we would identify who they are. This is an incredibly important part of ensuring that we have accountability in the House. When the Liberals are not doing their jobs, they need to be raked over the coals for it.
If the has the time to hand out a sweetheart $25,000 contract to a friend, she has the time to expect that her cabinet, the rest of her colleagues and she herself are all doing the job that they were sent here to do. She was named to cabinet. She should be doing her job. We have proof that she is not. She is failing on the job to deliver the results that are needed. It has been seven years since 2016.
I just heard a member say that it is the pandemic. We blame the pandemic. When world trade was collapsing and fewer goods were being shipped, it is not as if the CBSA officers stopped doing their work. They were still on the job. It is not as if goods were being stopped all over the world at borders; we still had many goods coming into the country.
I see, Mr. Speaker, that you are giving me the signal. I almost wish I had not shared my time with the member for . I could have used the extra 10 minutes to lambaste the government for its failure.
We owe it to the people in Xinjiang province to ensure that we have a regime in place that stops goods at the border and seizes the goods made with their labour. The Americans have done it. Other western governments have done it. We have the results showing that by the government's own accounting, it has not done it. It is a shame.
Mr. Speaker, the government can introduce all the legislation it wants and Parliament can adopt all the legislation the government presents. The government can introduce all the regulation it wants and it can sign all the treaties it wants. However, if it does not operationalize that legislation, does not operationalize those regulations and does not put into effect those treaties, it is all for nought. What is going on with Xinjiang is a good example of this.
Clearly, a genocide is taking place in Xinjiang. As members know, Canada is obligated under the genocide convention to prevent genocide. Article 1 of that convention says, “The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.”
One of the elements of a genocide is “[i]mposing measures intended to prevent births within the group”. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the birth rate in Xinjiang plummeted by 50%, one half, between 2017 and 2019. In two short years, 24 months, the birth rate went from 16 births per 1,000 people to eight births per 1,000 people. Clearly, one element of the genocide is taking place.
Two other elements of genocide under the convention are “[c]ausing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group” and, second, “[d]eliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”. There is evidence that both of these elements are also in place in the massive detention camps the PRC has set up in Xinjiang. There is evidence based on satellite imagery, survivor testimony, investigative journalism, leaked documents, smuggled videos and so many other pieces of evidence, documenting hundreds of detention camps built by the PRC in Xinjiang province.
It is estimated that more than two million Uighur Muslims have been detained in these camps. Some experts have called these camps the greatest detention of a group of people since the Second World War. PRC authorities first denied the very existence of these camps, but when presented with high-resolution satellite evidence, they recanted and explained them away as simply educational camps.
Documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists have highlighted what is going on in these camps, including torture and forced labour. There is evidence that Uighurs are being forced to pick cotton and produce tomatoes that the PRC is exporting around the world, which is just like what happened during another genocide. During the Holodomor in Ukraine in 1932 and 1933, millions of Ukrainian peasants were forced to produce grain that Stalin then exported to the rest of the world, leaving them with nothing, not even seed grain for the next year's planting and harvest. As a result, over three million Ukrainians starved to death. Therefore, clearly, a genocide is taking place in Xinjiang. Parliament recognized that a genocide was taking place in early 2021 by adopting a resolution in the House.
It is now time for the government to uphold the international rules-based order. It is now up to the government to uphold two treaties to which this country is a party. It needs to uphold, first, the 1948 genocide convention by preventing genocide from continuing, by preventing the importation of products like tomatoes and cotton that have been produced using forced Uighur labour. Another treaty that the government should be upholding, if it is serious about upholding the international rules-based order, is our obligation under the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement. Article 23.6 of the agreement requires Canada to ban imports produced by forced or slave labour. The agreement says, “Accordingly, each Party shall prohibit the importation of goods into its territory from other sources produced in whole or in part by forced or compulsory labor, including forced or compulsory child labor.”
Subsequent to the signing of the USMCA several years ago, Canada and the United States adopted legislation to implement the elements of the CUSMA treaty that ban imports that have been produced using forced or slave labour. Parliament amended the Customs Tariff Act in July 2020 to bring Canada's laws into conformity with CUSMA, and the government published regulations stemming from those changes to the Customs Tariff Act that came into effect that same month, July 2020, some two and a half, almost three, years ago. A year later, the United States also changed its laws to bring them into conformity with the CUSMA treaty, but here is where the similarities end.
While the similarity between Canada and the United States is that both of us have implemented laws bringing CUSMA into effect, and both are party to the genocide convention, it ends there. Since these laws have come into force, the United States has stopped thousands of cargo container shipments from entering the United States from Xinjiang, but Canada has not stopped a single shipment from entering this country. In fact, the government temporarily halted one shipment from coming into Canada and subsequently released it. I believe that was in the province of Quebec.
No shipment has been blocked, interdicted and prevented from entering Canada, despite the fact that, south of the border, the U.S. government is upholding the rules-based international order and has prevented the importation of thousands of cargo containers containing things such as tomatoes, cotton and solar panels that have been produced using a labour force of millions of Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang province. Despite the U.S. interdicting thousands of shipments, the U.S. government has admitted that this is not good enough. In fact, it has plans to hire over 300 new positions at the border to continue to interdict even more products coming into its country from Xinjiang. It has plans to implement new computer systems and new training, and to conduct outreach to importers to prevent further shipments from arriving on American shores.
However, in Canada, nothing has happened, despite the fact the law came into effect almost three years ago. One shipment was temporarily blocked and then admitted into Canada. Meanwhile, thousands of cargo container shipments have been blocked from Xinjiang by the U.S. government because it is upholding its treaty obligations, its laws, the regulations it has published and the rules-based international order, which the current government says it supports. However, as the CBC, The Globe and Mail, and so many other investigative journalists have reported, tomatoes and cotton produced in Xinjiang, likely with forced labour, have continued to flood Canadian supermarket shelves and retail shops. The government turns a blind eye despite the fact it has these treaty obligations under CUSMA, it has these laws in place, and there are regulations that have been gazetted.
Let me conclude by saying this. The government can introduce all the regulations it wants, Parliament can pass all the laws it wants and the government can sign all the treaties it wants, but none of this has any effect unless the Government of Canada and its agencies operationalizes these laws and regulations, upholds these treaties and starts putting the work in place to actually block shipments from Xinjiang from coming into Canada.
That is why I will support the motion in front of the House. If the government is truly going to uphold our international reputation and the rules-based international order that it says it so deeply believes in, then that starts with doing exactly what we are calling for in this motion: to start blocking cargo container shipments at the Port of Vancouver and other Canadian ports that contain tomatoes and cotton from Xinjiang that have been produced using forced and slave labour.