Modern Slavery Act

An Act to enact the Modern Slavery Act and to amend the Customs Tariff

Status

In committee (Senate), as of March 30, 2021

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill S-216.

Summary

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 production of goods in Canada or elsewhere by the entity or in the production of goods imported into Canada. 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 the importation of goods manufactured or produced,

in whole or in part, by forced labour or child labour as those terms are defined in the Modern Slavery Act.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board ActPrivate Members' Business

March 12th, 2021 / 2:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Patrick Weiler Liberal West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure to join the debate today on the private member's bill of my hon. colleague from Cowichan—Malahat—Langford. It raises some important questions on the role of the Canada pension plan.

I believe that the vast majority of Canadians do not want their money invested in companies that do business in a way that is abhorrent to Canadian values. Increasingly, Canadians, especially younger Canadians, are insisting that their entire portfolio be invested in companies that have robust environmental, social and governance standards. Some studies have shown that over 75% of those born after 1965 see it as increasingly important to consider ESG standards when investing and that responsible investing is the way of the future. Members can firmly count me as one of those people.

Canadian banks are starting to take note, but they too have a long way to go to meet this growing demand. Definitions of responsible investing by the big five banks still allow them to invest in areas that may run afoul of the topics that Bill C-231 brings forth.

Portfolios should not only put their money in companies with strong ESG standards because there is a growing demand from consumers. We know that companies with strong ESG standards tend to vastly outperform the market, and evidence demonstrates that a better ESG score translates to about 10% lower costs of capital. The reasons for this are obvious. These companies have cost efficiencies from use of inputs and other resources, better regulatory relationships and investment optimization, and less overall risk when robust ESG and anti-corruption compliance measures are in place.

As the world swiftly transforms to a lower-carbon and net-zero future, companies that currently actively manage their emissions can assure their investors that they will be prepared for regulatory risks down the road. In this regard, Mark Carney, the former governor of the Bank of Canada, former governor of the Bank of England and current UN special envoy on climate action and finance, said, “...those who invest in [achieving net zero]...and who are part of the solution will be rewarded. Those who are...still part of the problem will be punished.”

Just as Canadians want their private money invested in companies that are not complicit in human labour or environmental crimes, they also expect that public money, especially their pensions, will follow similar guidelines. That brings us to the matter at hand today.

The Canada pension plan has steadily grown over time, and its returns have vastly outperformed the market average. The CPP Investment Board was created as an organization independent of the government in 1997 to monitor and invest funds held by the CPP. The board reports quarterly on its performance and annually to Parliament through our Minister of Finance, and board members are appointed by the Minister of Finance in consultation with the provinces and a nominating committee. Its model is recognized internationally for sound management and governance, and its independence is highlighted as one of the reasons for this. As of the end of last year, the assets under management of the CPP exceeded $475 billion.

While the CPP has provided strong growth of pensions over time, the changing nature of investor preference is not isolated to private banks. Canadians are also expecting that their investments are not unduly put at risk through exposure to companies that are not prepared for the energy transformations that are currently under way, or that could be debarred or otherwise ostracized for committing acts of bribery or human rights abuses.

In terms of monitoring investments, the CPPIB currently asks that companies report material ESG risks and opportunities relevant to their industry and business models. It has also indicated a preference for companies to align their reporting with the standards of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, or SASB, and the Financial Stability Board's Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, or TCFD.

Both SASB and TCFD have created standards for businesses to identify, manage and communicate financially material sustainability information to their investors. Generally, they divide climate risks into two major categories: risks related to the transition to a lower-carbon economy and risks related to the physical impacts of climate change. Where companies in its portfolio do not follow such a standard, the CPP has the ability to utilize its proxy voting rights to push for disclosure along these lines and to improve ESG performance more widely. While completely divesting a company holds appeal to many, oftentimes much more can be accomplished from driving change in practice and reporting as a shareholder, as unpopular as that can sometimes be.

The approach that CPP takes on climate involves bottom-up assessments for new investments from the perspective of climate change and a top-down approach to measure its entire portfolio risk over time. This is smart from both an environmental and economic perspective, and it has informed a couple of notable shifts.

The first is a steady departure from fossil fuel investments. Last May, former CEO Mark Machin noted that fossil fuel producers and services made up only 2.8% of the board's investments as of March 31, 2020. That is a reduction of 4.6% from two years earlier.

The second, as showcased in the CPP's latest report on sustainable investing, is that investments in global renewable energy companies more than doubled to $6.6 billion in the year to June 30, 2020. These are important changes because the numbers show that renewable energy investments are greatly outperforming those in the fossil fuel sector. Reports have shown that over the last five years, investments in fossil fuels have yielded an average of a 7.2% loss, while renewable energy investments have grown by 73%.

Of investments in the last year, the top 30 global clean energy companies have grown between three and four times in size. I know this very well because I have some of these leading clean-tech companies, Carbon Engineering for example, in my riding.

We need transparency in markets so investors can adequately assess risk of carbon exposure. The driving force behind the creation of Canada's expert panel on sustainable finance in 2018 was for it to make recommendations that could scale and align finance in Canada with our country's climate and economic goals.

Among the 15 recommendations outlined to attain our goals, the panel recommended we embed climate-related risk into the monitoring, regulation and supervision of Canada's financials systems. It further recommended that we promote sustainable investment as business as usual within Canada's asset management community.

This is also one of the reasons to support Bill C-12, Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, which, among other things, would require the minister of finance to report annually on how it is managing its financial risks and opportunities related to climate change. This obligation would require the government to report on all of its operations, including crown corporations such as Export Development Canada and the Business Development Bank of Canada.

I believe that this disclosure should extend to CPP. Canadians should have a full picture of the climate-related risks associated with their investments, both those made in Canada and those made internationally, as well as the areas where we can profit. CPP officials have been leading calls for such disclosure within that portfolio. The same can be said for ensuring that CPP does not support companies that are committing human rights abuses and risk undermining our proud commitment to upholding human rights in the world.

The current government has already introduced numerous policies and mechanisms to make sure that Canadian companies are not complicit in human rights abuses in Canada and abroad. Notably, to further strengthen Canada's commitment to responsible business conduct, we appointed a Canadian ombudsman of responsible enterprise in April 2019, whose duty it is to review claims of alleged human rights abuses rising from the operations of Canadian companies abroad in the mining, oil and gas, and garment sectors. Following credible reports of human rights violations affecting Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinxiang, China, Canada adopted several measures to address the risk of goods produced by forced labour from any country from entering Canada and to protect Canadian businesses from becoming annoyingly complicit in the abuse.

A further step I would like to see this Parliament take is to adopt Bill S-216, an act to enact the modern slavery act and to amend the Customs Tariff, which would impose an obligation on entities to report on the measures being taken to prevent and reduce the risk of forced labour or child labour being used at any step in the production of goods in Canada or those imported into Canada. Like Bill C-12, the standards contained in the proposed modern slavery act should apply to the CPP. These disclosures are not just about the moral imperative. Any smart investor seeks to understand the level of risk in its investments, and the CPP is no exception.

To the bill itself, I very much agree with its intents and purposes. Few Canadians would believe we should support businesses running afoul of the human labour or environmental abuses it mentions. I do, however, have serious concerns about the way it has been drafted. The language of this bill is dangerously vague and overly broad in stating that:

...no investment may be made or held in an entity if there are reasons to believe that the entity has performed acts or carried out work contrary to ethical business practices....

This could include just about any unsubstantiated report rather than actual, factual occurrences. To ascertain when there may be a reason to believe something had occurred could result in absolute paralysis of the CPP. As well, companies would be considered guilty until proven innocent.

It also does not define what would constitute a human labour or environmental rights violation that would bar investment. For example, I think we can all agree that we do not want to invest in—

Canada—United Kingdom Trade Continuity Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

March 9th, 2021 / 8:35 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I hope that my colleague will not find this question difficult to answer because I really wanted to ask it of the hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan. It is about the issue of slavery in supply chains. I am really encouraged to see how much discussion we are having. It is tangential to the Canada-U.K. trade agreement, but given that the U.K. has tackled this issue of slavery in supply chain, I am wondering if I could take it up with her as well. We have Bill S-216 sitting in the Senate. We need to move ahead with these measures to help Canadians know that the goods we are consuming here are not produced with slave labour.

We do have a problem, though, that the general agreement on tariffs and trade and the World Trade Organization generally has identified these kinds of concerns as what it calls “PPM”, process and production methods that are outside the scope of government action. I am wondering if the hon. member for Kelowna—Lake Country would agree that we should grab the momentum toward taking action against slavery in supply chains while we have the chance and try to move Bill S-216 ahead as quickly as possible?

Canada—United Kingdom Trade Continuity Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

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.
See context

Liberal

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 / 12:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague for Lethbridge.

In this debate there have been excellent speeches by members across the House who bring different perspectives and different aspects of knowledge and experience to the table, and I have learned a lot by listening to them. I want to particularly recognize the members of the all-party group who have been working on this issue, and especially my friend for Peace River—Westlock, who has been a tireless champion of justice for the oppressed and for victims of human trafficking since he came to this place. I have no doubt he will continue to be that advocate for as long as this terrible scourge remains with us.

This issue has an international dimension and a domestic dimension. It is important for us to be aware of and respond to both, because while the nature of the violence and the victimization may be similar, the nature of our response, and what we can do about it internationally versus domestically, is quite different. I have the honour of serving for our party as the shadow minister for international human rights, so I will focus on the international dimension, although I will make a few comments about the domestic dimension as well.

Members here are increasingly aware of the horrific situation of Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in China. This is a situation of systemic sexual violence, mass detention in concentration camps, and efforts to reduce or eradicate the population through mechanisms including preventing births within the group by forced abortion, forced insertion of IUDs and forced sterilization.

Another human rights abuse that we see against Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims is slave labour. An Australian think tank released a powerful report called “Uyghurs for sale”, which details how people, simply on the basis of their faith and ethnic background, are effectively sold into slavery and are producing products for international markets. They are producing products that recognizable brands are buying and selling to us here in Canada and in parts of the world beyond China. We have a responsibility to become aware of that, respond to it and do all we can to make sure at the very least that we are not complicit in these horrific violations of fundamental human rights: that we are not wearing shirts or eating tomatoes produced by people who were violently enslaved and compelled to work on products that were exported to us. There is so much more that Canada can do.

We have heard testimony at the foreign affairs committee about some of these issues. We heard recently from a representative of the International Justice Mission, an excellent organization working hard to advance justice around the world. We heard that Canada was really behind many other countries in terms of tracking, identifying and responding to the human rights violations that happen within our supply chains.

It is important to know that there are major concerns about production of the personal protective equipment that all of us increasingly rely on in the midst of this pandemic. We have to do more to ensure that the personal protective equipment we may be importing from China is not tainted by the enslavement of people who are forced to produce those products.

Canada has fallen behind, we have heard. We need to do more. Following pressure from our party especially, but also from many individuals in other parties who played key roles in this, the government put forward a policy that, facially at least, addressed the issue of supply chains, specifically in the context of Uighur forced labour. However, in my estimation these measures are far too little and far too late. They do not get to the nub of the issue, which is identification and enforcement. The government said in its release that it was not going to allow products that had been produced by slave labour, but it has still failed to put in place effective mechanisms and tracking to address that.

We had a technical briefing in which these new measures were explained to us, and it was pointed out that many aspects of these measures are still being worked out. The government came out with an announcement saying it was going to do this, but so much has not been done in terms of knowing how to identify a product produced from slave labour. What we have so far is a sense that this process will be complaint-based, and it will be adjudicated by CBSA.

People who are victims of slavery have no way of ensuring that their rights are going to be protected in a process where someone would have to have evidence and make a complaint to the Canada Border Services Agency.

Other measures have been put forward. I am very supportive of Bill S-216, which was discussed previously in this debate. It is a bill that would go farther toward addressing these issues, in terms of the supply chain. However, more work needs to be done, even on top of that.

In the United States, a bipartisan initiative called the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act created a presumption that products sourced from certain regions involved slave labour. It was a presumption that in a sense created a reverse onus. If somebody was importing products from there, they would have to prove that slave labour was not involved. If a company is sourcing products from East Turkestan or Xinjiang in China, it should not be a mystery to anyone what is going on there. The extreme risk of slave labour being involved in a place where this is systematically done and supported by the government is too high for us to do anything other than presume that products produced in those regions are indeed tainted by slave labour.

In terms of information gathering and enforcement, Canada could do so much more to collaborate with our allies. There is a lot of work to be done in terms of gathering and tracing this information, but we do not have to do it alone. We could look at best practices from other countries. We could partner with our allies.

I am part of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, a global network of legislators working to address various issues of human rights, security and other things created by the current direction of the Chinese government. It is such a pleasure, through that group, to work with legislators from all different political traditions in various countries: U.S. Republicans and Democrats, British Conservatives and Labour members, members from Japan and from other parts of the world.

The collaboration that should be happening, not just at the legislator level but at the government level, to address slave labour in our supply chains is so important.

Finally, we need to note and understand that this is not just an international issue or a supply chain issue, but that violence, human trafficking and slavery are happening right here in our country of Canada.

A few days ago a class action lawsuit was filed against MindGeek, the parent company of Pornhub, for posting videos of two underage children being drugged and raped. Two weeks ago, at the ethics committee, we heard witness testimony from Serena, who at 14 found an explicit video of herself posted online without her consent. She fought to get the video taken down. Afterwards, every time it was taken down, it was reposted.

I applaud the committees that are looking into this issue at MindGeek, of sexual violence being filmed and posted online. We hear so many stories about incidents of human trafficking here in Canada. Police services in Canada have reported over 1,700 instances of human trafficking since 2009, and about half of all victims were between the ages of 18 and 24. About a third of the victims were under the age of 18.

This is a form of violence that is affecting children and young people, and people of all ages. Other colleagues have spoken in detail, which I do not have time to go into, about the domestic situation and the domestic response.

When we think about human trafficking, it is important to understand that this is something that happens very far away and it is something that happens right here at home. This awareness day, and these efforts to address human trafficking, are critically important, both to recognize and note it in awareness, but also to go further and advance the legislative proposals that I and others have talked about for ending human trafficking here and around the world.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

February 16th, 2021 / 11:30 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a consistent and ongoing effort by my colleagues in the All Party Parliamentary Group to End Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking. My colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood also spoke about Bill S-216, which addresses another issue that has more to do with supply chains. We are therefore dealing with different issues.

As I said, we met with a group of women who talked to us about human trafficking and modern-day slavery. In my speech, I talked about the fact that this year's theme is listening. The all-party group is listening to groups that came to tell us about their reality. I want to recognize the work of my colleague from Peace River—Westlock, who has been raising this issue regularly for months now. We have met to discuss these realities. Steps have been taken with lawyers to see how we can better support victims. This group does outstanding work, and I am very pleased to be part of it.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

February 16th, 2021 / 11 a.m.
See context

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I recognize that the member has done a great deal of work with respect to Uighurs and other human rights issues.

Let me first speak about the economic consequences of Wilberforce's initiatives. I do not think it can be understated. This was a member for 45 years in the House of Commons in Great Britain who, from a position of weakness, literally upended the entire economic underpinnings of the British Empire with the abolition of the slave trade. It had huge consequences. It even had consequences here. When we were a colony of Great Britain and when the British Empire abolished slave trade, we necessarily followed suit. The member is right to point out that this will potentially have economic consequences, particularly in the supply chain.

I want to talk about an incident. I have a good friend who represents a very large fish and seafood products company based in the east coast. They are highly supportive of Bill S-216 because they find themselves competing with shrimp boats that have slaves on them from the South China Sea. Those slave boats, for lack of a better term, can produce fish and seafood products at an extraordinarily low level and they get imported into Canada. The consequence of that is that my friend's company ends up at an economically competitive disadvantage and also—

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

February 16th, 2021 / 11 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I found my colleague's discussion on the economic impact on the British Empire of the abolition of slavery or the potential impact particularly interesting. I know a bit about the story of Wilberforce, but this was a detail of which I was not aware. It really underlines how doing the right thing can often involve economic sacrifice and we should not pretend otherwise when we are fighting for fundamental justice.

Further to the issue of supply chains, could the member share his perspective on the government announcement with respect to supply chains in East Turkestan? This was presented as a measure to address the trafficking of Uighurs and slave labour involving Uighurs in the People's Republic of China. Some have considered this measure inadequate.

What is the member's response to it? Could he make any comparisons between those measures and what is called for by Bill S-216?

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

February 16th, 2021 / 10:55 a.m.
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Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would be very encouraged if enforcement mechanisms were stepped up. It is not as if this is an unknown problem; it is a known problem. It would be encouraging if, as a result of awareness, the Canadian public said to those enforcement agencies, whether the RCMP or others, that they want them to act on these matters. That would be a welcome outcome of this day where we recognize human trafficking.

The second outcome is, as I alluded to, with respect to supply-chain slavery. Not only is trafficking of human beings inextricably linked to supply-chain slavery, but supply-chain slavery is inextricably linked to human trafficking. Were the government to see fit, I think it would be a happy outcome if in fact Bill S-216 or some version thereof be adopted sooner rather than later.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

February 16th, 2021 / 10:40 a.m.
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Liberal

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.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

February 16th, 2021 / 10:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to this important concurrence motion moved by the member for Calgary Skyview. I would like to thank her for her work and the status of women committee for its work on this important issue.

Today we are discussing the recognition of February 22 as Canada's national human trafficking awareness day. Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that turns people into objects to be used and exploited. It is vicious, profitable and growing, and it is happening right here in our country and across the globe. It takes on many forms such as sex trafficking, forced labour, forced marriages, organ trafficking and cybersex trafficking.

While exploitation and slavery have existed for all of humanity, so has the responsibility to abolish it. In the 8th century BC, the prophet Isaiah brought God's words to the people of his time, saying they should:

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

The responsibility to stand for justice and exploitation is a responsibility for all of us.

Here in Canada, human trafficking remains far too common. Within our ridings and across the nation, each day, more and more people fall victim to traffickers in Canada. I often say that human trafficking is happening within 10 miles of where one lives. Even in my large rural, northern Alberta riding, human trafficking is taking place. Last year, the RCMP charged a 30-year-old man from La Crete, Alberta, with trafficking of a minor.

In Canada, 93% of Canada's human trafficking victims come from within Canada. The predominant form of human trafficking in Canada is sex trafficking. We know that in Canada, 97% of sex trafficking victims are women and girls. Three-quarters of these victims are under the age of 25. Fifty percent of these victims are indigenous, and 75% of those in prostitution were forced into it as children.

Many examples of forced labour also exist in Canada. Victims of human trafficking can be found in restaurants, in the agriculture industry, in the mining sector, as live-in caregivers, or in the manufacturing industry. Just two years ago here in Ontario, over 20 men from Mexico were rescued from forced labour within the hospitality industry, enslaved in plain sight within hotels.

Globally, more than 40 million people are in some form of slavery today. That is more than the population of our country and more than ever in human history. Worldwide, slavery is a multi-billion dollar industry that generates more than $150 billion annually. These global and national numbers are truly terrifying. It is incumbent upon each of us to help end it.

That is why the designation of February 22 as Canada's national human trafficking awareness day by this House would matter. This is important because ending human trafficking cannot be done merely by governments alone. It requires the participation of all of us.

By adopting this motion, this House would not only be recognizing February 22, but also encouraging Canadians to hear from victims and survivors of human trafficking, raise awareness of the magnitude of modern-day slavery here in Canada and around the world, and to take steps to be able to identity and combat human trafficking.

As a national day of human trafficking evokes in all of us the responsibility to learn, educate and act, the words of this motion point to this individual and collective responsibility as a nation. That is why the all-party group to end modern-day slavery here in Canada, the APPG, has been hard at work to get February 22 designated as the national day of awareness. This date recognizes the unanimous adoption by this House of former MP Joy Smith's Motion No. 153, which happened back in 2007. That motion condemned the trafficking of women and girls, and called for Canada to combat the trafficking of persons worldwide. Joy Smith was the trailblazer in the fight to end human trafficking and is an inspiration to many of us today.

The APPG also consulted organizations and survivors from across Canada and the selection of February 22 was close to unanimous. The APPG co-chairs have produced motions since 2018 to designate February 22 as a national day of human trafficking awareness, and members will notice that currently there are three motions on the Order Paper tabled by Conservative, Liberal, NDP, Bloc and Green MPs, which is all five parties.

I would like to thank my fellow co-chairs for their relentless work: the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, the member for Shefford and independent Senator Miville-Dechêne. Each has worked hard to advance the recognition of February 22 as national human trafficking awareness day. I was delighted to see the status of women committee improve our wording by adding the necessity to listen to victims and survivors. Their voices are critical.

I would like to share with this House, and all Canadians, the words of Timea Nagy, a tenacious Canadian survivor and hero, who said, “Having a national human trafficking awareness day would mean that we are no longer invisible to society and to the Canadian people. It would mean that more people would finally learn about this terrible crime and how to protect their children. It would mean that we are taking serious [action]...to eradicate this in our lifetime.”

An awareness day for human trafficking would bring us together as a nation to end modern-day slavery. It is a fight that unites us across political lines, and despite religious beliefs and geographical divides. Working together on this actually works.

We have seen this right here in Parliament with Bill S-216, an act to enact the modern slavery act. This bill is a result of the work of my colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood. It was introduced in the Senate by our Senate co-chair and supported by all APPG chairs. If we, a Conservative, a Liberal, a Bloc Québécois and an independent senator, can come together, I have great confidence in our country to unite and abolish human trafficking.

I want to challenge Canadians with four things they could do on Canada's national human trafficking awareness day: learn, share, act and support. Number one is to learn more about it. What does it looks like in one's community or province? Would Canadians be able to identify a victim of human trafficking? Do they know of the national human trafficking tip line? All Canadians should visit The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking website to learn more about awareness that can lead to action.

Number two is to share, to tell other people about it. Joy Smith always says that, when it comes to human trafficking, education is our greatest weapon. Canadians can organize webinars for their churches, communities or workplaces. I would be happy to speak at that webinar, and I am sure that any of the APPG co-chairs would as well.

Number three is to act, to take steps to eliminate one's role in the fuel for the demand of slavery. Do Canadians know who harvested their coffee or the clothes they buy? Do they know that looking at pornography likely involves victims of sex trafficking? Canadians should make sure the choices in their lives reduce the demand for human trafficking.

Number four is to support. There are incredible organizations across this country that are fuelled by passionate individuals who are hard at work to end human trafficking and support survivors. They would benefit from people's time and support.

Recognizing human trafficking awareness day on February 22 would give voice to survivors, increase awareness, and unite Canadians in their efforts to abolish human trafficking and modern-day slavery in our time. I want to thank all the individuals who have worked tirelessly with me over the last number of years to bring forward an awareness day for human trafficking in this country and all of the organizations that work hard in their communities to end modern-day slavery.

One of the organizations I would like to highlight is the #NotInMyCity campaign headquartered in Calgary, Alberta. The ambassador for that program is a country music singer everyone may have heard of named Paul Brandt, who has done amazing work in bringing together all sectors of Canadian society to end human trafficking in Calgary. One of its really cool partners is the Calgary International Airport. One of the universities is also on board and helps out. It has been amazing project, and I want to congratulate them on that.

The other organization that I would like to recognize is called CEASE. It is located in Edmonton, Alberta. It does amazing work helping trafficked victims get back to a normal life and reintegrate into Canadian society.

Finally, I want to thank the member for Calgary Skyview for her advocacy on this and her work at the committee to bring this forward. When we all work together, we can accomplish great things. I want to thank the House and colleagues I have worked with across party lines to bring this forward.

February 4th, 2021 / 4 p.m.
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Liberal

Peter Fonseca Liberal Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Thank you.

I have a question for Ms. Canjanathoppil.

On October 29, 2020, Bill S-216, an act to enact the modern slavery act and to amend the Customs Tariff, was introduced in the Senate. I know it's something that you've backed. Why is it important that Bill S-216 or legislation like it become law in Canada?

February 4th, 2021 / 3:45 p.m.
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Anu George Canjanathoppil Executive Director, International Justice Mission Canada

Greetings. Namaste. My name is Anu George Canjanathoppil and I'm the executive director of IJM Canada. We are the world's largest anti-human trafficking organization and we believe that we can end slavery in our lifetime.

We are present in all regions where the most vulnerable populations are, and my testimony comes from that experience.

I want you to picture a woman, a mother in her sari, like me, with a baby, caught in the midst of a lockdown just trying to get home. She died of hunger and thirst on the train platform. The media was flooded with painful images of her hungry child tugging at her sari to wake his dead mother, and trying to drink milk from this dead woman's breast. It makes me ask whatever happened to that baby, or the millions of children who are more vulnerable now more than ever. She was just one of the 14 million people displaced in India because of the pandemic.

The phenomenon of reverse migration has left millions of poor, vulnerable people stranded, exposed to extreme violence and a life that makes death feel like a relief.

Online child sexual exploitation tripled from 400,000 to 1.2 million in 2020. In the Philippines alone, 65% of the time it's a relative forcing these children to commit sexual acts. This is in sharp contrast to the notion that we are safer at home. There were more than 56 million children out of school in just one country in South Asia. Of those, more than 10.1 million are child labourers. Globally, we witnessed a spike in child marriages during the pandemic, resulting in 13 million more girls forced into early marriages.

This evokes a pertinent question. Are our children safe? We should care because we may have been responsible for this.

The year 2020 changed many things, but not the way we consume goods. Consumption has, in fact, increased. The products we consume continue to be made by those enslaved and trafficked. It is our irresponsibility that has contributed to getting people into this vicious cycle. Therefore, it is our responsibility to respond.

Our privilege is what causes us to think that as long as education is provided, jobs are there, drinking wells are there and poverty is addressed.... However, if a child or a woman is raped on the way to school or the well, or a father is working as a slave to provide one meal a day for his family, then we have a serious lacuna in what we believed was a solution in addressing poverty.

Communities need food, water and education, but before poverty in these communities can be addressed, the violence must be dealt with. IJM is focused on addressing that gap. We do this by rescuing victims, bringing criminals to justice, restoring survivors, strengthening justice systems and ending violence by ending impunity.

There are three regions I want to talk about today: Latin America, Southeast Asia and South Asia. All these regions have targeted the Canadian government as allies in the pursuit of the advancement of international development.

The feminist agenda is meant to elevate the rights and privileges of women throughout the world. For women to be elevated to an equal place in society, economic empowerment is needed. That's what the Canadian government has fought and continues to fight to accomplish. However, true economic empowerment cannot happen amidst a context of rampant violence. The story of the woman in the beginning is a clear example of that.

Global Affairs Canada is a crucial player in the pursuit to protect women and children from violence in the Northern Triangle. Canada can help fund a tech consortium, which will scale protection through innovative approaches. They can help Guatemala fund a gold standard of trauma-informed services for the healing and restoration of victims of violence. Andean countries have identified Canada and GAC as a stakeholder in making the protection of women and children a priority in their countries. Seven out of 10 women and girls are victims of violence in Bolivia. There is an opportunity right there for us to impact change.

Southeast Asia, the area oftentimes referred to as the manufacturing corridor, is largely powered by migrant workers and their children who are under extreme exposure to violence, trafficking and slavery, all of which have been exacerbated by COVID-19. With Canada's investment, we believe we can produce an intervention model to end slavery in the supply chain in these areas. This alone has the potential to provide protection for 17 million people—all because of Canada's commitment to freedom.

Finally, that leaves us with South Asia. As you know, India is a valued trading partner and is a strong economic force. Canada's proposed supply chain legislation, the modern slavery act, will require higher scrutiny for companies importing goods into Canada. By investing in initiators to partner with the Government of India to protect its citizens and children from violence, we can dramatically mitigate these potential negative effects. The act would actually do what it says, which is end modern-day slavery.

As a survivor of violence myself, I have committed my work to the theory of change because I have seen it work. It is what motivated me to lead the rescue of 10,000 people, but I have had a second motivation as well. It is fear. It is the fear of not having anyone show up. Fear always lies with the victims, which is so often women and children and never with the perpetrator.

I'm not a powerful influencer. I'm just another one of those women who fall into the statistic of being a victim of violence once, but each one of you—everyone sitting here—has the capacity to make history at a time like this. It's a time where everyone takes comfort in looking inward and trying to protect themselves, their community and their country. You have been willing to use your influence to impact change. You have the power to no longer allow violence to happen unchecked and to no longer tolerate it as a nation and as people. Imagine what that could mean to the lives of those languishing in violence, slavery and hopelessness.

What will you do so you don't have to see pictures of a precious baby boy orphaned because of the effects of violence on his now-dead mother?

Namaste.

February 2nd, 2021 / 3:45 p.m.
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Martin Fischer Director of Policy, World Vision Canada

Let me conclude, then, by taking things in a slightly different, albeit very much connected and relevant, direction: reducing the risk of children being exploited in global supply chains.

COVID-19 is pushing millions of children into exploitive work as families' livelihoods evaporate and poverty increases. Whether boys mining metals for our smartphones in DRC, girls being sexually exploited on palm oil plantations in Indonesia, or migrant children being enslaved in the Thai seafood industry, this work is seriously compromising their health, safety and well-being.

There is a clear Canadian connection. In the last months alone, committee members have no doubt seen the media coverage of labour abuses in PPE supply chains, but the problem is much bigger and more pervasive.

In fact, tomorrow, World Vision is releasing a report revealing that imports of food products at risk of being produced by children totalled $3.7 billion in 2019. That's a 63% increase over the past decade, and nearly 10% of all foods coming into Canada.

We'd be remiss to not expect the companies at the top of these global supply chains to be doing their part, but governments have a key role to play here.

Other jurisdictions, including the U.K., Australia, France and the Netherlands, have passed legislation requiring companies to report and take action to prevent child labour and other human rights abuses. In 2018, this very committee tabled a report that recommended the federal government pursue such legislation.

Despite initial consultations, Canada has yet to commit or make this a priority. Now, Bill S-216 has been introduced in the Senate, but really, why wait on the Senate? If Canada is truly committed to championing a just recovery at home and abroad, common sense legislation like this needs to be part of that.

We urge members from all parties to make this legislation a priority.

Chair and members of the committee, we've worked with my colleagues here to ensure we provide you with a complementary overview of these impacts.

To conclude, then, all these issues are linked. That 14-year-old girl in South Sudan experiencing years of conflict and displacement isn't just facing economic uncertainty, food insecurity and increased violence in isolation. She and millions like her are experiencing this all at once, contributing to a vicious cycle. With the effects of COVID-19 layered on top of already dire situations, the consequences are devastating.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. We look forward to your questions.

Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2020Government Orders

January 26th, 2021 / 11:40 a.m.
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Liberal

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.