Modern Slavery Act

An Act respecting the fight against certain forms of modern slavery through the imposition of certain measures and amending the Customs Tariff

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.


John McKay  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Outside the Order of Precedence (a private member's bill that hasn't yet won the draw that determines which private member's bills can be debated), as of Dec. 13, 2018
(This bill did not become law.)


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment enacts the Modern Slavery Act, which imposes an obligation on certain entities to report on the measures taken to prevent and reduce the risk that forced labour or child labour is used at any step in the manufacture, production, growing, extraction or processing of goods in Canada or elsewhere by the entity or in the manufacture, production, growing, extraction or processing of goods imported into Canada by the entity. The Act provides for an inspection regime and gives the Minister the power to require an entity to provide certain information.
This enactment also amends the Customs Tariff to allow for a prohibition on importation of goods manufactured or produced wholly or in part by forced labour or child labour.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Fighting Against Forced Labour and Child Labour in Supply Chains ActPrivate Members' Business

March 6th, 2023 / 11:05 a.m.
See context


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, this has been quite a journey. We are close to the end of that four-year journey and hopefully we will move to a vote fairly quickly.

If I spent all my time thanking everyone who has helped us over the previous four years, I would use up all of my time, so let me confine my thanks to a select few who have helped us from Bill C-423 to Bill C-243, and from Bill S-216 to now Bill S-211.

We would not be here without Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne and her tireless efforts on Bill S-211 and Bill S-216, along with Jérôme Asselin-Lussier from her office and Shawn Boyle from my office, as well as the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River for his willingness to give up his preferred place in the Private Members' Business slot to me, for which I thank him.

I also want to recognize the very helpful contributions of two law firms, Dentons and Gowling, which have shepherded through the many iterations of this bill over the four years.

Finally I want to take note of World Vision, as it is aptly named. Over the past 10 years, World Vision has used its considerable resources to call attention to this international scourge, where Canadians play an unwitting role in enabling the distribution and consumption of slave products.

Before I turn to the bill itself, I want to offer a few comments on slavery in Canada.

As we know, prior to Confederation, Canada was really a collection of British colonies and as such was governed by the laws of Westminster.

In 1787, William Wilberforce, who, in my opinion, is the greatest member of parliament that the British Westminster system has ever produced, embarked on a mission to have the slave trade abolished, reasoning that if the slave trade was abolished, the abolition of slavery itself would surely follow. He was right.

To give us some context, 30% of the British Empire's GDP was dependent upon slave products. If ever an MP engaged in a formidable task, this was certainly it.

Twenty years later, the British Parliament passed the Slave Trade Act of 1807 and then 26 years after that slavery was formerly abolished in the British Empire on July 26. Wilberforce died three days later.

A committed evangelical Christian, Wilberforce was motivated by a deep conviction that the enslavement of another human being was a sin and an offence against God and mankind. As we know, deep moral convictions do not mean much in a parliament unless we can mobilize resources to push a bill to royal assent.

William Wilberforce showed his parliamentary and political genius in two ways. First, he was able to organize, rally and participate in probably the first citizens' movement that brought massive pressure on the Parliament of Westminster. Second, he was able to manipulate the legislative system to, over time, produce the desired outcome.

In fact, William Wilberforce gave a master class in British parliamentary procedures, strategies and tactics, which should be required reading for all parliamentarians.

The citizens' movement was pure genius. He took a ragtag group of quarrelsome evangelicals and attached to them some of the most committed abolitionists of the time. This was possibly the first time a group of deeply committed citizens confronted a deeply entrenched establishment and won.

For his efforts, William Wilberforce was branded as a traitor to his class. When he won, of course, we all won.

The laws of Great Britain applied to Canadian colonies. While some would argue that it is more complicated than that, and I might in another context agree, I would argue that it is a big improvement over the way the Americans handled the same issue.

Why a history lesson when we have an exceedingly modest Bill S-211 in front of us?

First, Bill S-211 is the product of a citizen's movement. World Vision and many others have pressured the parties to be proactive and commit to the legislation. Ultimately, this has resulted in both the Liberal and Conservative parties putting this kind of commitment into their platforms.

Second, getting worthwhile initiatives across the line is exceedingly difficult, especially from the weak position of a private member's bill in a minority Parliament.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the members for Thunder Bay—Rainy River, Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, Peace River—Westlock and Shefford, as well as Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne and the table officers of both houses for getting us here today.

With my remaining time, I want to talk about what Bill S-211 is, what it is not and what it could be.

Bill S-211 is a supply chain transparency bill. Companies of a certain size would be expected to examine their supply chains annually and certify that they are free of slave products, or if they are not, what are they going to do about it. Powers would be given to the Minister of Public Safety to examine the filing, and if not satisfied, cause an investigation to be made.

We expect that the mere existence of the bill will create a high level of compliance as companies worry about their reputational damage, government investigations, consumer disapproval and increased financial costs for non-compliance and additional financial risk.

Keeping it simple is the essence of this bill: examine our supply chains; certify there is no slavery; and if there is, tell us what they are going to do about it.

Why Bill S-211? The moral argument is blindingly obvious. No Canadian should be buying slave products, period.

The economic argument is equally blindingly obvious. Canadian workers cannot compete with slaves. Not only are people beggaring their neighbours by depriving them of a job opportunity, but Canada creates its own supply chain vulnerabilities by becoming dependent upon slave nations to produce critical products.

This is dumb on dumb. In our feverish and immoral desire to get the cheapest product any time, any place, anywhere, we deprive ourselves of business labour and economic opportunities. Stupid is an inadequate description.

Bill S-211 is not a due diligence bill. Failure to comply will not expose a negligent company to a human rights lawsuit.

There are two examples of due diligence legislation, Germany and France. The German threshold is 3,000 employees. The French threshold is 5,000 employees. We estimate that instead of the thousands of companies that would be captured by Bill S-211 under our transparency bill, fewer than 100 companies would be captured by a due diligence bill.

Our reading of due diligence legislation is that it has a limited upside with a massive non-compliance on the downside, in effect trying to run before crawling or walking. It may be that the government will in time move in that direction, but Bill S-211, a transparency bill, is what is in front of us for a vote.

I do not want to be presumptuous, but I believe that Bill S-211 enjoys support in the House, as it did in the Senate. Looking ahead, and I know that is dangerous, I do not want this to be a Potemkin bill, a bill that looks good on paper, but is ineffective because the bureaucracy finds all kinds of reasons to not be ready for the implementation date.

We have enjoyed the support of the four ministers to date, and I want to applaud them for following through on the platform commitments made by both the Liberal and Conservative parties in the last election. It will now be up to them to ensure the compliance is as easy as it is effective. Lessons can be learned from the U.K. and Australia, both of which have similar legislation.

This bill would transform Canada from laggard to leader in this space. It would compel all governments to adhere to the same standards that we expect from Canadian businesses. We can hardly impose these standards on businesses, and yet give governments in Canada a free pass.

I know that businesses are gearing up. I can tell from both my emails and my telephone calls. I would hope that Canadian governments will be as diligent in their preparations for the implementation of this bill. As I have said, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Models for the practicalities of this bill exist in other jurisdictions, and the minister can shape the demands of this bill to produce first-class data and first-class compliance.

In addition, I would encourage the Government of Canada to seek out other governments, in particular the governments of Australia and the United Kingdom, in order to maximize the collective opportunities. A three-nation web of mutually complementary reporting is far more effective than three nations operating individually.

As we can see, this bill is more carrot than stick. I hope that the stick of fines, investigations, naming and shaming will not have to be used too frequently. I am hoping that the carrot will create a high level of compliance deep into the business community to the benefit of us all.

While due diligence legislation may be ultimately the way to go, it is not what is on offer today. Properly executed at this time, I am prepared to trade a high level of compliance from a massively greater number of companies in exchange for a low level of compliance from very few companies.

Finally, this is what others have said about this legislation.

Matt Friedman, CEO of the Mekong Club, who has been in this business for around 30 years, stated, “The importance of this legislation is that it will educate Canadian companies/government agencies about this issue; help companies to look deeper into their supply chains to better understand their potential vulnerability; and ensure that those involved do what is needed to keep workers safe all over the world. It will also allow consumers to see which companies are stepping up to address this topic.”

Michael Messenger, president of World Vision, stated, “Canadians don’t want to be inadvertently contributing to the child labour crisis every time they shop. As child labour and risky imports continue to rise,—”

They have over the four years that we have been on this file.

“—supply chain laws are imperative to Canada’s efforts to protect and promote the rights of boys and girls around the world. With supply chain laws in place, consumers, companies, and the federal government will be able to work together to ensure every purchase in Canada is an ethical one.”

Stephen Pike, a partner with Gowling WLG, stated, “Bill S-211 has made outstanding progress to date through the legislative process. The House of Commons should take this unique opportunity right now to advance the interests of Canada and all Canadians in the fight against forced labour and child labour in supply chains.”

Lastly, Chris Crewther, the MP for Mornington in the Parliament of Victoria in Australia, stated, “When I was a Federal Member of Parliament...I instigated, led and undertook the Inquiry into Australia establishing a Modern Slavery Act, produced the recommendations in 'Hidden in Plain Sight', and brought about Australia's Modern Slavery Act....

“It has transformed the way Australian businesses, organizations and society looks at the crimes of modern slavery, resulting not only in entities paying attention to and reporting annually on modern slavery in their organizations...but working more deeply to actually look into, eliminate and remediate modern [supply chain] slavery....”

“...I've always adopted the saying: 'don't let the perfect get in the way of the good.' Thus, I encourage Canadian parliamentarians to see [this Bill] through....”

Madam Speaker, this bill is timely, it is broadly supported, it has ministerial buy-in and it puts our nation in a position of leadership. I recommend it to you and to our colleagues.

Canada—United Kingdom Trade Continuity Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

March 9th, 2021 / 7:50 p.m.
See context


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House tonight to talk about the benefits of Bill C-18, an act to implement the Agreement on Trade Continuity between Canada and the U.K.

I will be splitting my time with the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan. It is probably the first time I have ever split with the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, and I daresay it will likely be the last time. I am here in two capacities: as the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, but also as a chair of the Canada-United Kingdom Inter-Parliamentary Association. I am interested in all matters pertaining to Canada and the U.K.

All companies stand to benefit from the predictability and stability that this agreement would provide. The U.K. is one of Canada's most important trading partners. The U.K. is Canada's largest market in Europe. It is a key source of foreign direct investment and of science and technology partnerships. Two-way partnerships between Canada and the U.K. amounted to $29 billion in 2019, making it Canada's fifth-largest trading partner after the U.S., China, Mexico and Japan.

The trade continuity agreement before the House today would ensure that Canada could sustain and build upon those relationships by preserving the main benefits of CETA, the trade agreement that Canada had entered in place with the European Union in 2017, the benefits of which are just rolling out.

Replication of the CETA benefits would mean that 98% of products would continue to enter the U.K. duty-free. These include key exports from Quebec and Ontario such as manufactured goods, metals and mineral products. As of January 1, 2024, we are hoping that will increase to 99% of goods receiving duty-free treatment. The Canada-U.K. TCA would also preserve preferential access, established under CETA, for agriculture and agri-foods to the U.K. market, further strengthening the bilateral Canada-U.K. trade relationship. At the same time, this agreement would fully protect the dairy, poultry and egg sectors and would provide no new incremental market access for cheese or any other supply-managed products.

The U.K. is Canada's second-largest services trade partner, behind only the United States, with services exports totalling nearly $7.1 billion last year. Under the Canada-U.K. TCA, just as in CETA, service suppliers would have preferential access to, and greater transparency in, the U.K. services market, which would result in better and more secure and predictable market access for things such as environmental services.

In terms of investment, the U.K. is Canada's fourth-largest foreign direct investor, valued at $62.3 billion in 2017. Canadians are also key investors in the U.K., to the tune of $107 billion, making the U.K. Canada's second-largest direct investment destination. As in CETA, the Canada-U.K. TCA before us today would guarantee access to investors to and from Canada with greater certainty, transparency and protection for their investments, while preserving the rights of those governments to legislate and regulate in the public interest. Just as in CETA, the Canada-U.K. TCA would create more favourable conditions for exporters from Canada and Quebec through important commitments to address non-tariff barriers and establish mechanisms under which Canada and the U.K. could co-operate to address and seek to resolve non-tariff barriers as they may.

While I believe that the House will support this bill, but not necessarily unanimously, I wanted to bring to attention one element of the negotiations that could be either a unifying point or a sticking point.

Most Canadians will not knowingly purchase goods produced by slaves. Britain has been a world leader when it comes to legislative response to supply chain slavery. In the U.K., all major companies are expected to publish a statement on their websites saying they have examined their various supply chains and are satisfied that no element of slavery exists anywhere in their supply chains. This has proved to be a popular initiative with both the public and legislators. It is likely to undergo some revisions shortly to strengthen the resolve and impose more significant consequences. Inevitably, this will be a point of some negotiation, maybe not in this agreement, but in subsequent negotiations. Britain will likely ask for a commitment to parallel legislation so the U.K. is not put at any trading disadvantage. It would be preferable, therefore, that Canada have similar legislation so there is no discrepancy between the two countries.

Currently languishing in the Senate is Bill S-216, formerly my bill, Bill C-423. It is stronger than the current British legislation and would be a complete answer for any issue raised by the U.K. I have had some very positive conversations with the very able and distinguished British High Commissioner, Susan le Jeune d'Allegeershecque. Regrettably, she is leaving this year. She has represented her country brilliantly these last three years. She expressed great interest in Bill S-216 and was quite willing to support the bill in whatever way possible.

Canada imports more than $34 billion worth of goods annually that are tainted by slavery. This includes everything from garments to shrimp, tomatoes and possibly even some high-tech items. It is a competitive disadvantage if one country is governed by strict legislation and another is not. Just as Canadian companies and workers cannot compete with slave labour, also one country cannot disadvantage itself in a trade agreement by allowing the scourge of slavery in the other. I would therefore urge the Government of Canada to adopt this legislation sooner rather than later so that any trade irritant can be reduced and Canada and Britain can form a common trade barrier to slave labour.

The agreement also carries forward from CETA trade facilitation measures designed to reduce red tape at the border, including some of the costs prohibiting companies from doing business.

Diversifying trade has the potential to increase Canadian wealth. SMEs are looking to us to provide market opportunities for their exports. By ensuring there are accessible opportunities abroad, and by maintaining attractive conditions within these markets for SMEs, we are supporting their prosperity and the creation of new jobs in Canada. The Canada-U.K. TCA furthers the same.

As we look to turn the corner from COVID-19, and Lord knows we cannot turn that corner quickly enough, it is even more important that we continue to provide Canadian businesses with as many options and opportunities as possible. The Canada-U.K. TCA maintains crucial ties and preferential trade terms with one of Canada's key trading partners and ensures Canadian businesses do not face yet another disruption at this time. Indeed, if this agreement were not in place this would be yet another setback that businesses could ill afford.

Successful trade provides good employment opportunities. With one in six Canadian jobs linked directly to exports, we remain committed to growing trade and providing opportunities for all Canadian SMEs. That is why I encourage all hon. members to support Bill C-18. Their support will help SMEs continue to succeed in the U.K. market.

I look forward to questions from colleagues.

Opposition Motion—Religious Minorities in ChinaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 18th, 2021 / 4:45 p.m.
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John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for Wellington—Halton Hills for tabling this motion, but with a caveat. In this chamber, we pretty well say what we wish to say within the rules of parliamentary decorum, but it is ultimately the government and the government members who will have to deal with the fallout, if any, from this debate. This chamber, however, has an opportunity to reflect the deep anger of the people of Canada toward the Chinese Communist Party: the current Government of China.

There is no question that the arrogance and ignorance of the Chinese government, as expressed by its officials and so-called diplomats, has inflamed the passions of Canadians. The most obvious point of contention is the hostage kidnapping of the Michaels by the Government of China. The Government of Canada is necessarily constrained when it deals with the reality of kidnapping. I think that was the point that my hon. friend, the member for Winnipeg North, was trying to make: there is a constraint imposed upon the Prime Minister when dealing with a government that kidnaps citizens of another country.

Kidnapping works. It is the hallmark of terrorists, organized crime, rogue nations and the Communist Party of China. It is contrary to the rules and values of any civilized nation, let alone the rule of law. Necessarily, the Government of Canada has had to deal with the Government of China as one would with terrorists or Mafia thugs; therefore, this has had relational consequences, as does this debate. No trade deal, convention, memorandum of understanding or contract is worth the paper it is written on with this government. Any vulnerability will be exploited by the Government of China, and there is no basis for any trust, for any undertakings or for any understandings.

It is clear that the Government of China has decided that it has no respect for any other nation, large or small. The goal is to have all nations as vassal states, including Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Great Britain. Even Donald Trump was at least dimly aware of the threat to the United States.

It did not have to be that way. Going back to the historic Nixon visit, it was the intention of the family of nations to bring China out of its backward state by a series of favourable trade deals, the most significant of which was admission to the World Trade Organization. For years, China has regarded the laws, conventions and rules of the WTO as casual suggestions to be ditched when convenient. It appears that cheating pays.

Widespread theft, one-sided trade admissibility, off-tariff blockage and outright corruption have fuelled China's spectacular rise in wealth, and the west has been slow to respond. Simultaneously, unanswered military aggression in the South China Sea, with the creation of artificial islands and the intimidation of other nations' navies, particularly those of the Philippines and Vietnam, has further entrenched China's bully status.

The use of its vast financial resources to buy or intimidate other nations is legendary. The government of Sri Lanka is completely at the mercy of China. Many African states are so compromised that their own people cannot get either work or food in their own nations. It is not just developing nations: widespread theft of intellectual property by Chinese entities, at the behest of the Chinese Communist Party, occurs here daily. The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and the CBC have all documented vast slave networks producing all kinds of goods, many of which infect Canada's supply chain.

Recently, CBC's Marketplace ran a piece on slave labour used in the making of PPE products that we use daily. Members will recollect that we were desperate in the last few months for products such as those.

The Globe and Mail recently reported about solar giant Canadian Solar and two mining companies that are in grave danger of having their supply chains tainted with slave labour. The Toronto Star wrote a devastating piece on shipments coming from foreign sources. The U.S. will not allow them to be sold in its country but allows them to be transshipped into another country, namely Canada.

Canadian workers and companies cannot compete with slave labour. The practice is so widespread that consideration should be given to a change in the presumptive balance, the assumption being that goods coming out of China have slave elements in them unless it is demonstrably shown to be otherwise.

In the last Parliament I introduced Bill C-423, the modern slavery act. That bill has been picked up in the Senate and is now Bill S-216. As its successor, it is making a painful way through the Senate. The Government of Canada would be well advised to take it over. It works on the presumption that Canadians would not knowingly buy products made by slaves. Companies of a certain size would be required to certify to the Minister of Public Safety that they have examined their supply chains and are satisfied that no slavery exists in them.

Wealth built on theft, intimidation, duplicity and slavery is the hallmark of this Chinese government. It should therefore be no surprise that human rights, let alone moral integrity, are foreign concepts to this deeply corrupt government. We saw the human rights of the people of Hong Kong rolled up last summer, despite the protests of millions and the treaty protection of the Sino-U.K. treaty. Taiwan endures an ever-increasing series of aggressive military provocations, regardless of the democratic aspirations of the Taiwanese people. China regards these as “internal matters”, even though they are manifestly not internal matters. There are other international concerns: border skirmishes with India, the occupation of Tibet, the abuse of its own citizens, the substantiated allegations of organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners and the wanton destruction of Christian churches.

Therefore, it should be no surprise that when credible human rights organizations make credible allegations of extensive abuses of the human rights of Uighurs and Turkic Muslims, including but not limited to torture, enslavement, restrictions of freedom of movement, denial of freedom of religion and belief, denial of the right to a fair trail and so on, all the evidence points one way and all the state disinformation points the other way. The observations of any objective report point one way and one way only. Unfortunately, these are all the requisite elements of a genocide taking place against the Uighurs and Turkic Muslims.

Unfortunately, I have to support this motion. I say unfortunately because the labelling of “genocide” is very serious business and the Prime Minister is right to be cautious. The Government of China has no respect for the rights of other nations, no respect for the rights of other peoples, no respect for the rights of its own citizens and certainly no respect for the rights of minority groups. I dare say the Government of China will have no respect for the passage of this motion.

I look forward to questions from colleagues.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

February 16th, 2021 / 10:40 a.m.
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John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the opportunity to speak to colleagues in the chamber today.

I am here in two capacities, one as the member of Parliament for Scarborough—Guildwood, and the other as the co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group to End Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking. The APPG has two tasks, one with respect to supply-chain slavery and the second with respect to human trafficking. Today we are speaking about the second task, but I also want to take this opportunity to speak about the first a little later.

I do not know whether members know the name William Wilberforce and whether it means anything to them. To me he is one of the finest examples of what a determined non-cabinet member can do when the legislative odds are stacked against him or her. Wilberforce was the member for Yorkshire from 1780 until 1825, some 45 years. He was asked several times to become a cabinet minister in several different governments, but declined each time because God had set before him two great tasks, one of which was the abolition of slavery in the British empire. At the time, the British empire reigned supreme throughout the world. Its economic foundation was the slave trade. Slaves went from Africa to the Americas; then slave products came from the Americas to Britain; then the slaves returned back to Africa to pick up more slaves. The monies generated from those slave products constituted 80% of Great Britain's foreign income. Wilberforce set out to turn the economic underpinnings of the British empire on their head. It was a formidable task from a relatively weak position. However, with persistence, luck, procedural smarts and hard work he was witness to the passage of the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833. He died three days later.

I tell that story to say two things: first, that slavery is still not being abolished in Canada, and second, that persistence, hard work and some luck can yield results. Humans are still being trafficked in 2021. I know it is shocking and I do not know how a country like Canada that calls itself civilized can allow this to continue. Members will hear statistics repeated over the course of this debate and realize that statistics do not necessarily tell the entire story. Of the victims who are reported to police, 45% are between the ages of 18 and 24, and 97% are girls and women. According to a 2014 report by the Canadian Women's Foundation, 50% of trafficked girls and 51% of trafficked women are indigenous. These are statistics that, frankly, do not speak to the human suffering behind them. Stalin once said, “If only one man dies of hunger, that is a tragedy. If millions die, that's only statistics.” Let us not forget that behind every statistic is a human tragedy.

This day is long overdue. Initiated by Joy Smith, the former member for Kildonan—St. Paul, February 22 has been proclaimed by Ontario, Alberta, multiple Canadian cities and indeed the United States. Thanks to the persistence of my colleague, the member for Peace River—Westlock, the able assistance of the member for Shefford, Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne and the welcome support of the members for Edmonton Strathcona and Saanich—Gulf Islands, February 22 is about to be designated human trafficking awareness day.

I also want to recognize those who work with us on these initiatives. In my office they are Shawn Boyle, Jenisa Los and Inessa De Angelis, and in the member for Peace River—Westlock's office, it is Joel Oosterman. These are the kinds of initiatives that are really full-on efforts by entire offices, and I want to recognize each and every one of these people for their considerable efforts to make sure that we talk about this today.

This was originally conceived as a unanimous consent motion, and I particularly want to thank the leadership of the government for cooperating in this anticipated motion. The fact that the unanimous consent motion has been overtaken by this concurrence motion is irrelevant in the greater scheme of things, and the member for Peace River—Westlock can take some satisfaction for a job well done.

Shortly, members will hear about all of the government's efforts to rid our nation of this scourge. Some will criticize it as too little, too late, but just before members get too enthusiastic in criticizing the government, I would encourage them to look in the mirror. Governments, after all, are elected and reflect our priorities. Has human trafficking received enough attention? Of course it has not. Should it receive more attention? Of course it should. Will it receive more attention? I would like to think that our efforts today will help, and hopefully this motion will shine a light on this national scourge. That, after all, is the point of this motion.

At this point I want to turn to the other initiative of the APPG, namely, the effort to expose the supply-chain slavery in Canadian products. World Vision estimates that Canadians consume about $34 billion in goods annually that contain some elements of slavery in the supply chain. World Vision further estimates that 1,200 Canadian companies are importing slave-made products, and the Walk Free foundation conservatively estimates that some 40 million people are enslaved globally.

Bill S-216, sponsored by Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne, and its predecessor Bill C-423, sponsored by me, stipulated that companies of significant size be required to report annually to the Minister of Public Safety that the company has examined its supply chain and is satisfied that no slavery exists in it. The bill has been enthusiastically embraced by many NGOs and corporations, all of which understand the moral hazard argument and the human rights arguments against slavery, but also find themselves in an economically disadvantaged position when competing with slave labour. Multiple examples have been highlighted recently in the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and by the CBC. We are urging the government to take over this bill, not only for its obvious human rights and moral arguments, but also because Canadian companies find themselves at a competitive disadvantage when competing with slave labour.

In addition, it should be noted that the Canadian government will be negotiating a free trade agreement with Great Britain in the next number of months. Great Britain has been a legislative leader in this field. Its own legislation is a model not only for our Bill S-216, but also for a number of other pieces of legislation around the world. Great Britain will be hosting the G7, and while no one publicly knows the agenda, Canada would be in a much better position if we had robust supply-chain legislation, rather than what currently exists.

In conclusion, I would urge my colleagues to support this motion. I encourage the good work of the APPG. In the words of William Wilberforce, “You can choose to look the other way but never again can you say that you never knew.”

I thank the House for its time and attention.

Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2020Government Orders

January 26th, 2021 / 11:40 a.m.
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John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, happy new year to you and to colleagues. I sincerely hope that 2021 is a big improvement over 2020.

I will be sharing my time with the member for Acadie—Bathurst.

When this government was first elected in 2015 and subsequently in 2019, it rightly identified growing income inequality as a serious threat to a free and democratic society. Several initiatives were taken, including the raising of the upper tax bracket and the lowering of a middle bracket, a worthy initiative. However, clearly the most significant initiative was the creation of the Canada child benefit, a direct cash benefit to low-income families with young children. Pre-pandemic, this meant more than $100 million had been allocated to Scarborough—Guildwood. This in turn led to the largest reduction of child poverty of any riding in Canada.

During the pandemic, the additional CCB funds had been allocated to the benefit of Scarborough—Guildwood and all other ridings. Bill C-14 is proposing a $1,200 benefit for each child under the age of six for eligible families. It is estimated to be an increase of 20% over the maximum Canada child benefit. For Scarborough—Guildwood, that will likely mean an additional $20 million directly into the hands of low-income families. The CCB has had, and continues to have, the desired effect of lifting kids and families out of poverty, supplementing family incomes and reducing wealth inequality.

I do wish there was a definitive study showing the economic return of the $100 million distributed locally, now estimated to be $120 million spent locally. I would imagine there is a significant economic multiplier. Regrettably, however, a benefit is not a job. Life and economics are never that simple, but I dare say that given the choice, most parents would prefer to have a decent, if modest, job that feeds their family rather than a government benefit.

Then along comes the pandemic and knocks the most vulnerable for a loop. It is hard for people to provide for their families when they do not have jobs. Quite properly, the Government of Canada stepped in with an array of benefits, the most significant of which is the Canada emergency response benefit, known colloquially as CERB. I do not know the gross amount of CERB funds given to Scarborough—Guildwood, but it is certainly in the tens of millions of dollars, if not hundreds of millions. However, again, a benefit is not a job.

What has been revealed over time is really a tale of two pandemic economies. Those earning salaries calculated to be in the order of $40 per hour or more have not only survived, but thrived. They have in many instances prospered with both increased income and increased capital assets, such as homes, businesses, properties, etc. However, those in the $15 to $20 range have been devastated, slipping closer and closer to absolute poverty, with attendant worries about food and housing insecurity. Regrettably, the biggest pop-up business in Scarborough—Guildwood has been the proliferation of food banks. Unfortunately, they are doing roaring business.

This has been a huge setback for income inequality and for the catchphrase “those in the middle class and those wanting to join it”. If this economic disruption continues for much longer, Canada risks a permanent structural inequality that will be devastating for all of us, rich and poor alike. Permanently impoverished citizens are unstable and make the lives of others insecure, hence the rise of security devices and gated communities.

The pandemic has exposed our vulnerability in supply chains as well. There are no jobs in the $15 to $20 range because of globalization's desire to get the cheapest product the fastest.

We do not make PPE, for instance. We cannot create our own vaccines. We line up at box stores to purchase products made everywhere else but here. It is good for others, but not so good for us. These are vulnerabilities that could be papered over in prosperous times, but not so much now.

I am not so Pollyannaish as to think that Canadians are going to rush out and start buying more expensive Canadian-made products just because they are Canadian. Canadians are pretty tight with their money. I would, however, argue that they might well buy Canadian products made in their community by their neighbours if they thought or knew that the competing product was made by slaves in a foreign country. I would like to believe that Canadian consumers, if they knew, would find the purchase of slave-made products repugnant. However, here we are in 2021 with massive amounts of products being sold in Canada through a supply chain infected with slave labour.

According to a conservative estimate from the walk free initiative, 40 million people are engaged in modern slavery. World Vision estimates that 1,200 Canadian companies are importing goods made with slave labour.

Recently, CBC's Marketplace ran a piece on slave labour in the making of the PPE products that we use on a daily basis. The Globe and Mail ran two articles on how Canadian companies use slave labour to build products in China. The Toronto Star wrote a devastating piece on goods coming from foreign sources that the U.S. will not allow to be sold there, but we allow their transshipment into Canada.

Polls are starting to show that Canadians are becoming increasingly alarmed. Some frame this argument against supply chain slavery in terms of moral repugnance. I share that view. Some frame this argument in terms of universal basic human rights. I also share that view. Few, however, frame it in terms of societal and economic suicide.

If we as consumers knowingly or unknowingly purchase a product infested by supply chain slavery, we are destroying a job opportunity for a friend or a neighbour or a family member. Remember the tale of the two pandemic economies. Those in the $15 to $20 range are most devastated by the absence of jobs. Any goal of redistributing income equality is out the window. The risk of permanent structural damage to the economy is increased.

What to do? I appreciate the government seems to becoming more alive to the moral and human rights argument and stepping up the authorities it does have. Time will tell how effective that increased surveillance will be. I, however, would suggest four specific initiatives.

The first is the intentional use of the government procurement process to shorten the supply chain from global to Canadian. As one person put it in our pre-budget consultation, the supply change should be run up and down the 401.

Second, let us give the Canadian ombudsperson for responsible enterprise the power to compel companies to respond to inquires on human rights abuses.

Third, let us make it abundantly clear that the failure to cleanse supply chain slavery from a company's business will immediately result in the denial of consular and/or government financial support.

Fourth, let us adopt and/or take over Bill S-216, formerly my private member's Bill, bill C-423. It would compel all companies of a certain size to certify to their shareholders and to the Minister of Public Safety that they have examined their supply chains and are satisfied that there is no slave labour present.

Not only is slavery morally repugnant and a gross abuse of human rights, but it is also in our economic interest to ensure that the products Canadians buy are free of slave labour. Canadian workers are among the best in the world, but they cannot compete with slaves.

The government's laudable goal of reducing income inequality will never be achieved if infected supply chains are allowed to exist. The Speech from the Throne has many laudable and supportable initiatives, but to not deal forcefully and effectively with supply chain slavery is, in fact, self-defeating.

I thank the House for the time and attention. I look forward to questions from colleagues.

Modern Slavery ActRoutine Proceedings

December 13th, 2018 / 10:05 a.m.
See context


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-423, An Act respecting the fight against certain forms of modern slavery through the imposition of certain measures and amending the Customs Tariff.

Mr. Speaker, in the arc of Judeo-Christian history, the seminal event is the enslavement of the Israelites by the Egyptians, and the subsequent flight to freedom. That is embedded in the theology and psyche of Jews and Christians alike.

The gospel of Jesus talks about freedom throughout. Of course, unfortunately, the lineup of theology and practice does not always occur. Regrettably, the entire British Empire was built upon the notion of slavery, and its economic underpinnings were slavery.

It took possibly the most significant member of Parliament in the history of Westminster Parliament, namely William Wilberforce, to destroy the underpinnings of the British Empire by destroying slavery.

Unfortunately, slavery is still here. In fact, members will be shocked to know that there are more people enslaved now than there ever were at the height of the Atlantic slave trade.

This bill gives an opportunity for consumers to know whether, in fact, anywhere along the supply chain of the product they are buying or the service they are using, slave or forced labour conditions applied.

I am anticipating that this bill will receive both pan-Canadian support and cross-party support. It is my honour to introduce this bill and my hope that it moves through the process quickly.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)