Canada Gets Labelled as A Dumping Ground for Procuring Forced Labour Goods of Chinese Origin
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This delegation in association with the Consulate General of India, US Commercial Service of Dallas, IACC of Greater Houston, the Greater Houston Partnership and Economic Development Offices is another step in IACC’s development of relations with the United States of America.
Canada Gets Labelled as A Dumping Ground for Procuring Forced Labour Goods of Chinese Origin
Ottawa Promises Crackdown
The Canadian government will introduce legislation next year to eradicate forced labour from Canadian supply chains, the Minister of Labour said Monday.
Seamus O’Regan Jr. made the announcement to mark the United Nations Annual World Day Against Child Labour, meant to raise awareness about forced labour practices.
Human rights activists told Global News the promised legislation is badly needed and overdue, citing numerous examples of products linked to forced labour allegations in China’sXinjiang region, which are widely available for sale in Canada.
“Canada is a dumping ground for products made by the use of Uyghur forced labour,” said Mehmet Tohti, executive director of the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project.
Ottawa’s Inaction Is a Fall Out in The U.S. And Mexico!
Ottawa’s inaction on the importation of items thought to be made through forced labour in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is a growing concern in the United States, say advocates there and in Canada.
This week, during a committee hearing in Washington, D.C., witnesses said there is concern Canada has only seized one shipment of such goods and that this country risks becoming a dumping ground for items denied entry into the U.S.
“Canada’s inaction seems to be getting some attention in the U.S. Capitol,” Mehmet Tohti of the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project said. “There is also growing concern the U.S. cannot do it alone unless the neighbouring countries like Mexico and Canada take the necessary action.”
Tohti said there are also fears shipments of goods denied entry to the U.S. over concerns they were made from Uyghur forced labour are being bounced across the border to Canada, where they are then sent back to the states and getting through customs.
The rights of Uyghur and other Turkic minorities in China have been under scrutiny in recent years. China has conducted a campaign of massive surveillance and incarceration of the mostly Muslim population of the region.
What Are the Allegations Behind Forced Labour?
Allegations of forced labour, physical and sexual abuse have been made by those who have spent time in the camps, including to a Canadian parliamentary subcommittee. In 2021 Canada’s Parliament, with cabinet abstaining from the vote, declared the actions a genocide with a non-binding motion.
Concerns about inaction on the part of Ottawa came up during a hearing in Washington earlier this week on the implementation of the country’s Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act (UFLPA).
Who Are the People Blamed for This?
The alleged culprits include one of the world’s most popular fashion brands: Shein, the Chinese online retailer, targets young shoppers with low prices and was the world’s most popular fashion brand last year.
The company is accused of making its billions on the backs of forced labourers.
“We see (the product) is cheap. It is cheap because it is made by forced labour,” Tohti said.
He accused Shein of using cotton produced in Xinjiang, where human rights groups say Beijing is conducting a genocide against Uyghur Muslims involving forced labour camps.
What Was the Exporter – Fashion Brand Shein’s Reaction?
In a written statement to Global News, a Shein spokesperson denied the allegations.
“We take visibility across our entire supply chain seriously, and we are committed to respecting human rights and adhering to local laws in each market we operate in,” the spokesperson said.
“We have zero tolerance for forced labour. We have no manufacturers in the Xinjiang region.”
What Is the Action On the Part of the Neighbouring Countries?
The law, passed by the U.S. Senate in December 2021, prohibits goods made in the Xinjiang region from being imported to the United States.
During the hearing Tuesday, Anasuya Syam of the Human Trafficking Legal Centre in Washington raised concerns Canada is “seriously lagging behind” on enforcement. Canada amended its customs tariff in 2020 to target forced labour but has seized only one shipment, which was later released.
“We are concerned by the slow implementation from our neighbour,” Syam said. “Mexico, on the other hand, did announce its import ban in February 2023 and will begin implementing it in May.”
By contrast the U.S. has denied 490 shipments under the UFLPA, according to the country’s Customs and Border Protection dashboard.
Syam called for all three countries to take a region wide approach to the forced labour issue, pointing out under the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) all three countries are obligated to track cross border movement of goods made using forced labour.
Canadian Government’s Commitment!
Media relations manager Guillaume Bérubé said in an email, the Canadian government is “committed” to eradicating forced labour from the country’s supply chains through working with partners. But Bérubé also pointed out the responsibility also rests with companies.
“The Government of Canada expects companies to take every step possible to ensure that their supply chains conform to Canadian law,” Bérubé wrote. “It is the responsibility of the importer to exercise due diligence to ensure forced labour is not directly or indirectly used in the production of the goods it imports.”
The Government of Canada expects companies to take every step possible to ensure that their supply chains conform to Canadian law with respect to the prohibition on the import of goods produced by forced labour.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) defines forced labour as “the extraction of work or service from any person under the threat of penalty and for which the person has not offered himself or herself voluntarily.” The international community, including Canada, condemns forced labour. It is a long-standing and persistent global issue.
What is forced labour?
In the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), the ILO defines forced or compulsory labour as: “all work or service which is exacted from any person under the threat of a penalty and for which the person has not offered himself or herself voluntarily.
Forced Labour in Xinjiang, China
The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is the largest Chinese province, situated in the northwest of China.
The Uyghurs are a Turkic ethnic group that have origins and cultural roots within Central and East Asia. The Tarim Basin in southwest Xinjiang has been home to the Uyghurs for more than 1,300 years.
When the area came under control of China in 1949, Xinjiang’s population was over 75% Uyghurs and 2.5% Chinese. After decades of Han Chinese in-migration, the Uyghurs now make up less than 50% of the region’s population of 26 million but comprise 85% to 90% of the population in and around the ancient city of Kashgar, near the Kyrgyzstan border.
In the Xinjiang Region, the People’s Republic of China is using otherwise legitimate programs for retraining and relocation of unemployed workers as instruments of a broader campaign of oppression, exploitation, and indoctrination of the Uyghur Muslim population into Han Chinese culture.
Non-voluntary participation in retraining and relocation programs provides forced labour to the bottom of the supply chains for textiles and apparel, food products, and semiconductor-based products, including solar panels.
The forced labour allows cheap raw materials (e.g., cotton, quartz sand, polysilicon, tomatoes, etc.) to be offered (along with tax breaks and subsidized coal-fired electricity) to companies the next step up the supply chain, who in turn make products for the next step up the supply chain, et cetera.
The PRC involvement in this activity, the remoteness of the region, and state involvement complicate the process of human rights due diligence. Independent, unannounced, third-party audits of Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers may not reveal the forced labour taking place several layers further down in a company’s supply chains. By the time the bottles of tomato paste, the designer clothes, and the solar panels enter the retail markets of Western economies, the products are far removed from the forced labour that goes into them.
While the problem is concentrated in the Xinjiang Region, the issue is further complicated by the use of otherwise legitimate state-led development initiatives to move “retrained” Uyghurs to other regions of China.
The “Xinjiang Aid” program encompasses education, talent management, housing, infrastructure, and emergency control. While not itself a policy for transferring Uyghurs from the “retraining camps” to other parts of China, there are reports of alleged forced labour in programs under the “Industrial Xinjiang Aid” policy.
Not every victim of forced labour will be in a publicly known facility; they can be sent to work anywhere in the country. The fact that the facilities using Uyghur workers are state sanctioned renders accurate tracking of forced labour extremely difficult.
Canadian companies should be aware that the most common ways that they will be linked to forced labour in Xinjiang is not through direct partnerships and relationships with factories and suppliers in Xinjiang but rather through indirect relationships deeper into their supply chains.
Proprietary blog of Karma Global Management Tech LLC
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