In 2016, the United States adopted a procedure allowing civil society to file complaints on products produced by forced labour. At the same time, more severe administrative measures were being implemented and more resources were allocated to institutions responsible for import control in order to investigate and, where appropriate, block the entry to national territory of goods produced by forced labour. This legislative reform targets not only the import of goods produced by forced labour, but also extends to the worst forms of child labour. Forced labour and the worst forms of child labour are prohibited by three of the fundamental ILO conventions: Forced labour convention, 1930 (No. 29); Abolition of forced labour convention, 1957 (No. 105); Worst forms of child labour convention, 1999 (No. 182); all of which have been ratified by Canada. These prohibitions form therefore an integral part of labour rights as recognized by the ILO. As a result, trade agreements signed by Canada prohibit the use of forced labour and the worst forms of child labour. However, Canada is implementing very little concrete measures to address the use of forced labour and the worst forms of child labour in supply chains of products imported into the country. Indeed, there is no procedure for the submission of complaints, no strengthening in the custom authorities’ investigative capabilities, and no obligations on companies to exercise appropriate due diligence.
Ways to curtail the importation of goods produced by forced labour and the worst forms of child labour
- Implementing a simplified procedure allowing civil society to file complaints. A government authority would then be mandated to review and investigate the complaint.
- Providing customs authorities with sufficient resources to investigate the import of goods suspected of being produced using forced labour or the worst forms of child labour.
- Incorporating specific measures into trade agreements (granting resources, simplifying examination procedures, simplifying filing complaints procedures, cooperation) in order to ensure cooperation between parties and not to impose the entire burden on national institutions.
- Creating an institution whose mandate would be to investigate the links in production chains, of products imported into Canada and located outside the country, in order to maintain a list of products to be banned.
- Funding NGOs interested in conducting investigations in their task to maintain a list of products to be banned.
- Requiring companies to inspect rigorously their supply chains and submit an audit certificate to customs authorities attesting that no forced labour or worst forms of child labour were involved in the production of their products.
- Providing authorities with the necessary legislative framework to ensure proper operationalization of relevant measures.