Corporate Responsibility to Protect Human Rights Act

An Act respecting the corporate responsibility to prevent, address and remedy adverse impacts on human rights occurring in relation to business activities conducted abroad


Peter Julian  NDP

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 March 29, 2022

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-262.


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

This enactment, among other things, requires businesses to establish processes to prevent, address and remedy adverse impacts on human rights that occur in relation to their business activities conducted abroad.


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.

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act, 2023Government Orders

December 12th, 2023 / 12:50 p.m.
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Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, we are already debating third reading of Bill C-57, the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement implementation act, 2023, which the Standing Committee on International Trade had the opportunity to study. Several of my colleagues here were present during the committee study.

Fundamentally, not much has changed about the reasons for our support. This time, the agreement puts some meat on the bones. The old version was pretty skeletal. This agreement will not make Ukraine a major trading partner for Quebec and Canada, of course. I would say Ukraine will remain a minor, not to say marginal, partner. However, this agreement does put meat on the bones. It is a real trade agreement, whereas the previous version was essentially a declaration of friendship.

We note that there are some promising opportunities for Quebec. Our pork producers will be able to export more to that country. Also, since Quebec is home to many highly reputable engineering firms, there could be some very attractive contracts for them when Ukraine rebuilds. This will also benefit Ukraine economically, and we hope that the rebuilding takes place as soon as possible and that peace is restored quickly.

However, I do want to point out that there is one clause I voted against in committee. I asked that it not be agreed to on division, like most of the clauses, and that we proceed to a recorded division. It is the clause concerning investor-state dispute settlement. I do not understand why, after removing this from the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, Canada would go back to negotiating agreements that include such provisions, which place multinationals on the same footing as governments.

Yes, it is written very cautiously. There are exceptions, and it is written far more cautiously than the infamous chapter 11 of the former NAFTA agreement, but the fact remains that this still allows multinationals to take states to court when government measures run counter to the company's right to make a profit.

Take the following case, for example. Ukraine seized property from Ukrainian citizens who were financing and supporting the Russian side. Under the guise of protecting foreign investors, this agreement would make it very difficult for Canada to do the same thing, that is, seize the assets and property of Ukrainian citizens here who support Russia. Our country could expose itself to lawsuits against public property, against the Canadian government, from these investors.

This is unacceptable. We do not understand why it is still in there. When I asked for a recorded vote on this clause, which is in itself undemocratic because it limits the power of the states to legislate and make political decisions, only my NDP colleague, the member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay, voted with me. The Liberals and Conservatives were quick to vote to keep this clause in the bill. The last thing they wanted to do was upset their buddies at the big multinational corporations, of course.

I should also point out that one chapter in the agreement is full of lofty principles that the government likes to brag about. These lofty principles include the fact that companies will now behave responsibly and Canadian companies will behave properly, so there is nothing to worry about. However, these are nothing but lofty principles. Of course, this refers to international concepts, and it is in no way binding. That is why I am very proud to say that the only amendment that was adopted was the one I proposed, the Bloc Québécois's amendment. I will read it:

That Bill C-57 be amended by adding after line 11 on page 6 the following new clause:

“Compliance with principles and guidelines — Canadian companies

15.1 (1) The Minister must ensure that Canadian companies operating in Ukraine comply with the principles and guidelines referred to in article 15.14 of the Agreement.

(2) The Minister must establish a process for receiving and responding to complaints of non-compliance with those principles and guidelines.

(3) On or before January 1st of each year starting in 2025, the Minister must prepare a report that summarizes activities carried out in relation to the Minister’s obligations under this section.

(4) The Minister must table a copy of the report in each House of Parliament on any of the first 30 days on which that House is sitting after the report is completed.”

Thanks to the Bloc Québécois's work in committee, there has been a shift from lofty principles to an obligation of political accountability that is written into the bill. I think that we can be very proud of the work we have done.

That being said, allow me to digress. The issue of Canadian companies respecting all human rights abroad is far from resolved. I want to read an excerpt from budget 2023. It is not partisan, I will read verbatim what is written:

Budget 2023 announces the federal government's intention to introduce legislation by 2024 to eradicate forced labour from Canadian supply chains to strengthen the import ban on goods produced using forced labour. The government will also work to ensure existing legislation fits within the government's overall framework to safeguard our supply chains.

The budget was presented in March 2023. It says “by 2024”.

May I remind the government that it has three days left to keep its promise to introduce legislation before the House adjourns, three days from now? May I remind the government of this, or will it add this to its long list of broken promises?

At the Standing Committee on International Trade, I also moved a motion to send the Minister of Labour a letter to remind him of the commitment in his mandate letter. My motion was adopted, with all my colleagues, including the Liberals, voting in favour. The letter was sent. I am glad. I am looking forward to seeing the government's response. Perhaps we will get a nice surprise. Perhaps when we wake up tomorrow morning, the bill will miraculously be introduced and the government will keep its promise. I just want to remind it that it has three days left.

Of course, the government may say that there was Bill S-211. That bill requires Canadian companies to prepare an annual report. It does not have much to do with respecting human rights. It only deals with forced labour. It does not cover human rights, which, according to international conventions, are indivisible. We are far from that. Under Bill S‑211, a company could comply just by reporting that it took no due diligence measures. All it has to do is submit a report in which it says it did nothing, and it will meet the requirement. The only consequences, the only fines, are for companies that fail to submit a report or that make false statements. Therefore, if the company reports that it did no due diligence, the government would say, “That is fine, thank you, good night”, and move on to the next company. Only companies with more than 250 employees that generate significant active revenue are covered.

Instead, I urge the government to move forward with Bill C-262, which was introduced by the NDP, but which I am co-sponsoring and supporting. It covers companies of all sizes, gets the affected communities involved, encompasses all human rights and, above all, provides meaningful recourse for victims.

Human RightsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 16th, 2023 / 12:20 p.m.
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Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today on behalf of many Canadians who support Bill C-262. They want to see Canadian companies represent our country well abroad, with a meaningful concern for human rights, and not just on a voluntary basis but on a basis where they are required to do so by government and where there are meaningful consequences for them if they do not ensure that they are adopting best practices in respect of human rights and reporting out on that regularly.

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

April 26th, 2023 / 6:50 p.m.
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John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank colleagues for participating in this debate. I am probably a bit more enthusiastic about some colleagues than others. Nevertheless, I thank them.

This is close to the end of a four-year journey for us. We have introduced this bill a couple of times. However, for World Vision, it has been a 10-year journey. I want to commend the work of Martin Fischer, Michael Messenger and Matthew Musgrave for their tireless work over the last 10 years to get this legislation to where it is today.

I also want to recognize my staff, Shawn Boyle; my colleague in the Senate, Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne; and her staff, Jérôme Lussier.

Yesterday, Stop the Traffik, a world-leading, U.K.-based anti-trafficking organization had a press release that began, “The Canadian Parliament Debate World-Leading Bill.” I will repeat that for my colleagues who seem to be a little skeptical. It said, “world-leading bill”.

The press release continues on the “supply chain transparency and the application of company law and then introduced the concept of governing body signing off on the modern slavery statement, to make the law more meaningful by triggering Director duties and other elements of the legal system.” I will note that it is not just anybody signing off on any statement anytime, anyplace.

It continues, “Canada is now proposing to take this legislative approach much further and to add serious penalties – including fines and direct criminal liability for noncompliance.” Those people, who are knowledgeable and working abroad, have noticed the work of Canadians working here at home.

Border controls have been tried with not a lot of success. Trade treaties, again, were tried with not a heck of a lot of success. Criminal prosecutions are spotty. ESG and social responsibility efforts are good and are to be encouraged, but again, they are non-enforceable and somewhat sporadic. We are not debating a phantom bill such as my colleagues in the NDP want to debate. Bill C-262 has little or no chance of getting on the floor. What is on the floor is Bill S-211, and Bill S-211 is a transparency bill which, over time, has morphed into more of a due-diligence bill with due-diligence characteristics.

I want to remind colleagues that Bill S-211 carries fines, and not insignificant fines. The bill would entitle the minister to search and seize computers and other records, entitle the minister to a warrant, create indirect criminal liability for non-compliance and false statements, and have financial consequences for failure to file a report. To be truthful, these have consequences, financial and regulatory, which some of my hon. colleagues may not fully appreciate. The bill would also give the minister the ability to draft regulations that may over time become tougher each year.

I sincerely want to acknowledge the work of the Minister of Labour and his commitment in budget 2023 to introduce legislation in 2024 that would eradicate forced labour from Canadian supply chains and to strengthen the ban on goods produced using forced labour.

I am not pretending that Bill S-211 is the final step. It is a first step, and the first step actually puts us at the head of all nations who have legislation such as this. I encourage my colleagues to vote in favour of the bill, as it is a useful way to move us from laggard to leader.

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

April 26th, 2023 / 6:40 p.m.
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Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to be one of the last people to speak to this bill. My colleague opposite and I worked together on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security when he was chair, and I know that he worked hard on this. I therefore commend him for his work. I also want to commend Senator Miville‑Dechêne for her work.

I know that almost everything has already been said about this bill in the House, but I think it is important to put things into context. In order to do so, I referenced the open letter that Senator Miville‑Dechêne wrote in La Presse last November. The letter had to do with a subject or a reality that we know very little about or that we are aware of but would prefer to cravenly ignore. I am talking about forced labour and child labour.

Like many of my colleagues mentioned, these types of labour help provide consumers in wealthy countries like Canada with all sorts of products at low prices. This is not a new concept. The International Labour Organization's Forced Labour Convention defines forced labour as “all work or service which is exacted from any person under the threat of a penalty and for which the person has not offered himself or herself voluntarily”.

The International Labour Organization estimates that in 2019, 25 million children and adults were in forced labour. World Vision Canada estimates that Canadian imports worth $43 billion may have been produced through the work of children and forced labour in 2020. That is nearly 7% of Canadian imports that come from forced labour.

It is likely that the pandemic brought this sad phenomenon into sharper focus. The race to procure personal protective equipment exacerbated the exploitation of the most vulnerable. For example, in October 2021, the United States seized at its border a shipment of medical gloves from a Malaysian company alleged to rely on forced labour. It was the fourth Malaysian business to be hit with this type of sanction in 15 months alone.

Our own country bought and used millions of gloves from two of these tainted suppliers, even though a law has been in place for more than a year at the border to ban the entry of such shipments. As you can see, this is not enough to prevent the phenomenon from spreading to our borders.

This forced labour or child labour—which is sometimes referred to as modern slavery—has infiltrated our everyday consumption for a very long time, especially in the western world. Unfortunately, on this issue, Canada has just sat idly by, unlike many European parliaments. The UK, France and Germany have already passed laws that require companies to investigate and report on the risks of forced labour in their supply chains.

While reading up on the topic yesterday, I came across a news report on Radio-Canada's RAD platform about fast fashion. It is a phenomenon that led to the 2013 factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed over 1,000 people. Ten years later, there are questions about whether working conditions in the textile industry have improved. This is an industry that produces clothes that we wear here—brands like Mango and Joe Fresh. The answer, unfortunately, is quite definite. The rights of the workers in this industry are still being violated and their working conditions are still poor. People even said they had concerns about their health.

As long as we do not change our economic model, then forced labour is here to stay. What is being done to prevent this, to ensure that Canada is not contributing to forced labour? We need to require companies to be more transparent about their practices in order to eradicate the risks of forced labour and child labour in their supply chains. That is a good place to start.

Is that enough? Unfortunately, the answer is no. That is where we see that Bill S‑211, although it is a very good bill, may not go far enough. I was given a comparative chart on the difference between Bill S‑211 and Bill C‑262. My colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot spoke earlier to Bill C‑262, which he co-sponsored.

When we ask the basic question of whether the bill ensures respect for human rights, the chart tells us that for Bill S‑211, the answer is no. That is because the entire responsibility for reporting and investigating is placed on the companies, but they are not asked to take action.

Conversely, Bill C‑262 “recognizes that companies have a responsibility to respect human rights, and must proactively take steps to prevent human rights violations throughout their supply chains and global operations.”

When we ask ourselves this basic question, we already know that if we have to choose one of these bills, we will choose the more binding bill.

We voted in favour of Bill S‑211 at second reading because, as I mentioned, it would require Canadian companies to be more transparent about the measures they are taking to prevent and reduce the risk that forced labour or child labour is used in their supply chains.

This is a very good thing, but the question is and remains: Can we go even further? The answer is yes. In reading about the subject, I learned that although the United States sometimes lags behind Canada, in this particular area, it is quite the opposite. The rules that apply at the borders are more restrictive in the United States. We would do well to emulate that country or to draw inspiration from it.

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

April 26th, 2023 / 6:15 p.m.
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Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank members of the community who have stepped up for the Simon Fraser University football team.

As members know, the administration at SFU cut the football program just a few weeks ago. This program has produced some of the best football players in Canada. We have had a remarkable reaction from the public, which put in place a financial plan that ensures the continuity of the program. It is now really up to the SFU administration to reverse its decision and stop the cuts to the program.

I am here to talk about Bill S-211. To avoid the problem that my colleague had, I will start by saying that the NDP will be voting against this bill because it is an empty shell. It does nothing to change the situation of people experiencing systemic human rights violations around the world. I will talk about a few cases later in my speech.

The fact of the matter is that this bill really does nothing to change an extremely difficult situation when it comes to human rights violations.

I just have to speak of three of the many examples of systemic human rights violations that have taken place on the grounds of Canadian companies. We can think about this for just a moment. Canada is standing up for human rights, but when it comes to some of our corporations acting abroad, they have acted in the most nefarious ways and trampled on basic human rights. Bill S-211 would not address any of the three examples I will give, which is why we need robust legislation.

I appreciate my colleague from the Bloc Québécois endorsing NDP bills, which I will speak about in a moment, from me and the member of Parliament for Edmonton Strathcona, the NDP foreign affairs critic.

The first example is about forced labour by Nevsun in Eritrea. Forced labour, or slavery, occurs on the grounds of a Canadian-owned company. This is the most outrageous abuse of human rights, and yet it is connected to Canada. We must all bear the shame of a company that acts in that way and allows systemic slavery on its grounds.

The second example is in El Salvador, and the company involved is Pacific Rim. We are talking about the most egregious, horrific torture and murder of environmental activists who were speaking up against the mine. Again, here is an example of a Canadian company functioning abroad with systemic human rights violations.

The third example is Barrick Gold in Papua New Guinea. We are talking about systemic sexual violence and torture of many women in the area of that mine.

In all these cases, the judicial systems simply do not work. There is no protection from government. We are talking about corrupt judicial systems and police who have been paid off. We are talking about a complete Wild West for human rights violations.

Each one of these examples, most egregiously, involves Canadian companies. Members can imagine the horrific results for the victims, whether we are talking about forced labour and slavery, systemic sexual violence or the torture and murder of environmental activists. This is why we need legislation that will actually do the job to force companies to comply and ensure that those companies are held liable and held to account.

There simply cannot be two fates for Canadian companies, one when they are subject to the rule of law here in Canada and a second in the Wild West, where the most outrageous, atrocious human rights violations can occur with impunity on the grounds of these Canadian firms, and where these companies can act without any regard for fundamental human rights and values. This is why I brought forward Bill C-262.

I want to state very clearly that this bill that I am presenting on the floor, Bill C-262, comes after incredible work by the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability. It includes activists from some of the most significant organizations in Canada, such as Oxfam Canada, Amnesty International Canada and Human Rights Watch Canada, along with a number of very important labour organizations, in both the private and the public sectors. They are all standing together to say that Canada's appalling corporate human rights violations abroad need to be treated with the rigour and the type of legislative framework that will force companies to stop these appalling abuses and practices. The Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability did much of the vital groundwork for the bill that I am bringing forward, Bill C-262.

This is a bill that would actually address human rights abuses. It would hold companies to account and force them to do their due diligence before an investment. It would make them liable. These are just three cases among many. If there was systemic sexual violence, torture and murder of activists, or slavery or forced labour, the companies would be held to account. The directors and leaders of those companies would be held to account.

That is why Bill S-211 falls so far short. It is just an empty box that asks a few companies to prepare some kind of report. It does not hold them liable. It does not hold them to account. It does not force them to stop the most egregious human rights violations that are taking place in their operations on their property.

If those companies can be proud of their relationship to Canada, I can say that Canadians are not proud of those companies' relationship with Canada; we have done nothing. The current and previous governments did nothing to address violations that continue to this day. It may be a different country. It may be a different set of appalling human rights violations, but the reality is that what we are seeing is these companies acting with impunity.

That is why Bill C-262 is so very important. It would force an end to slavery, forced labour and systemic sexual violence. It would force an end to companies' security guards torturing and killing activists, who are speaking up for their community, with impunity. These are all things that need to be addressed, and that is why I wanted to thank the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability and all its member organizations, which worked so assiduously on this for Canada to finally start addressing the elephant in the room. We pay lip service to human rights abroad, but we do nothing to force our companies, as well as their directors and leaders, to be accountable for the actions that they allow to take place on their property and in their operations.

The NDP, as the worker bees in this Parliament, tried to improve Bill S-211. We tried to give it a backbone. We tried to take the empty box that is Bill S-211 and bring some content to it. We offered half a dozen amendments that come from the activist sector, those organizations that are most attuned to the issue of human rights. We saw Liberals and Conservatives systematically rejecting each one of those amendments.

We can just think about that for a moment. Every member of Parliament is aware of the appalling human rights abuses that have taken place through Canadian companies acting abroad. A bill that pays only lip service to that is before a committee. The NDP offered amendments that would actually make the bill meaningful, and the Conservatives and the Liberals voted against them.

We will be voting against this bill, and we will be bringing forward very strong human rights legislation. That is what the world calls for, and that is what Canadians deserve.

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

April 26th, 2023 / 6:05 p.m.
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Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak this evening as the Bloc Québécois critic for international trade. The themes we are discussing are definitely linked to this issue. Of course, we are all in favour of trade, but not at any environmental, human or social cost. I believe that this means that we should study this bill very diligently.

Before dealing with the substance of the bill, I would like to salute the absolute sincerity of the member for Scarborough—Guildwood and also of Senator Miville‑Dechêne. Since 2018, they have tried three times to pass a bill about this issue. Therefore, I want to say that I admire their efforts.

We know that the member for Scarborough—Guildwood has been looking at potential corporate abuses abroad for a long time. Back in 2010, he introduced a bill to make Canadian mining companies abroad accountable. It was defeated. We had a minority Conservative government at the time. With support from the opposition parties, it could have passed, but it was defeated because too many members of his own party had fallen ill at the same time. Consequently, he did not have enough votes to get it passed. It is a shame, because it would have been a bit of a step forward at the time.

I also have to say that this is an issue that is very important to me, both personally and in my capacity as critic. I recall moving a motion for unanimous consent that set out what a true due diligence policy could look like. I think that is the right term. Unfortunately, I could hear shouts of “no” off to my right, in every sense. The Conservatives yelled “no” so it did not pass.

I also tabled a petition in favour of such a law, such a policy, last June, if I am not mistaken, signed by nearly 2,000 Quebeckers who were calling for due diligence legislation.

I also have here the report of the Standing Committee on International Trade that was tabled in the House not that long ago, regarding the study it did on the activities of Canadian mining companies abroad. We heard a lot of testimony on that subject, some of which made my blood run cold. We are talking about mining companies, of course, because we have often heard about the abuses committed by Canadian mining companies abroad. However, we could also talk about the textile industry, which, as members know, is hardly above reproach. Then there are the coffee, cocoa and palm oil industries. There are tons of industries like those, where we know that their activities and ways of doing things are having real consequences. Even if we like to have these sorts of products on our store shelves, there is an ethical and humane way of doing things.

It should be noted that Canada is a paradise for mining companies. Because Canada is a flag of convenience, a lot of companies that are not actually Canadian will come register here, incorporate here, because of the legal, tax and speculative advantages that the Canadian framework provides. After that, there is no real mechanism, except for this puppet ombudsman that was created by Ottawa a few years ago and that ultimately just gives this or that excuse, giving the government the right to say that it has taken action.

Taking action can be dangerous. Empty shells can be dangerous. Even certain policies can be dangerous, when they start out with laudable intentions but ultimately cause us to sit back and do nothing, unfortunately.

I would of course also like to talk about Bill C-226, which was proposed by my NDP colleagues and which I am co-sponsoring. I gladly put my name on it. A cause like that should not be partisan. It is too important. Lives are at stake; human dignity is at stake. That is why I am co-sponsoring the bill.

Unfortunately, I am going to have to make a comparison that is not very flattering for Bill S-211 and compare it to Bill C-262. The Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability produced an excellent document entitled “Don't Mistake Reporting for Accountability”.

The subtitle states, “Canada must require Canadian companies to respect human rights throughout their supply chains.”

This document contains a wonderfully clear, concise chart that compares the two bills. I would like to read it for all our colleagues who are present. This chart compares the features of Bill S‑211 and Bill C‑262, the bill I co-sponsored that was introduced by our NDP colleagues.

The first question is, “Does it require companies to respect human rights?”

In the case of Bill S‑211, unfortunately the answer is no. The chart states that the bill requires companies “to report annually on whether they took steps to identify and prevent the use of forced labour, and what they found. It does not require companies to respect human rights.” In the case of Bill C‑262, the answer is yes. The chart states that the bill “recognizes that companies have a responsibility to respect human rights, and must proactively take steps to prevent human rights violations throughout their supply chains and global operations.”

Here is the second question: “Does it require companies to prevent harm?”

In the case of Bill S‑211, the answer is no. The chart states that the bill “requires an annual report” but that it “does not require companies to prevent harm.” In the case of Bill C‑262, the answer is yes. The chart states that the bill “creates an explicit obligation for companies to prevent serious adverse impacts throughout their supply chains and global operations.”

Here is the third question: “Does it require companies to take steps to identify, mitigate, prevent and account for human rights and environmental harm in their supply chains?” We are talking about due diligence here.

In the case of Bill S‑211, unfortunately, the answer is no. The chart states that “[c]ompanies are not required to take any due diligence measures. A company may report that it has not taken measures and be in compliance with the law.” In the case of Bill C‑262, the answer is yes because there is “an explicit obligation for companies to put in place adequate due diligence procedures.”

The fourth question is, “Are there meaningful consequences if companies cause harm or fail to implement adequate due diligence procedures?”

In the case of Bill S‑211, the answer is no, because “[t]here are no consequences for failure to prevent harm or for failure to implement due diligence procedures.” In the case of Bill C‑262, the answer is yes because the bill “provides people with a statutory right to sue a company”. That is the important part. That is what is missing from the role of the ombudsman, which basically serves as an online complaints office. It is a nice website the government created a few years ago.

The fifth question is, “Does it help affected people to access justice or remedy?”

In the case of Bill S‑211, the answer is no. The bill does not address this. In the case of Bill C‑262, the answer is yes, because “[t]here are several ways in which the legislation helps address existing barriers to accessing Canadian courts.”

The sixth question is, “Does it provide agency to impacted communities / workers?”

In the case of Bill S‑211, the answer is “no”, because “[t]here is no role for impacted community human rights defenders and workers.” In Bill C‑262, however, “[c]onsultation with rights holders is required in a company's due diligence procedures.”

Here is the seventh question: “Does it apply to companies of all sectors and all sizes, down the entire chain?”

Bill S‑211 applies only to “companies with 250+ employees, with significant revenue or assets.” However, Bill C‑262 “applies to companies of all sizes, from all sectors, down the entire value chain.” Human rights abuses need to be called out, no matter how big the business is or how much money it makes.

Here is the eighth question: “Does it apply to all human rights?”

Bill S‑211 applies to forced labour and child labour. We applaud that and are quite pleased. However, “[t]his ignores the internationally accepted principle that human rights are indivisible, interrelated and interdependent, a principle upheld by successive Canadian governments.” In contrast, Bill C-262 “upholds the principle that companies must respect all human rights. It makes reference to the core international human rights conventions, the fundamental ILO conventions...” and even “makes specific reference to the right to a safe, healthy and sustainable environment.” Now that is real legislation with teeth.

Now, what do we do with Bill S‑211? Of course we know that it could be a step in the right direction. We know that an obligation to report cannot be a bad thing in and of itself. However, as with the ombudsman created by the government, these situations have extremely serious consequences, particularly at a time when we are thinking about a new world order post-COVID-19. In this new world order, trade would not be an absolute, and we could show more respect for sovereign states, the environment and peoples. Unfortunately—

March 27th, 2023 / 11:50 a.m.
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Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Thank you.

Minister, I would like to go to one of the other things that NGOs and other people working in the human rights sphere in Canada and around the world have been asking for.

In terms of Canadian companies working abroad, there's some due diligence legislation that would ask these companies to carry out due diligence exercises in order to ensure their operations, or operations their subsidiaries in other countries carry out, are not violating human rights. We could be sure Canadian companies abroad are working the same way they would in Canada and not damaging Canada's reputation abroad. Peter Julian has Bill C-262, which lays this out in very clear terms. It's a very simple bill.

Can you comment on whether you have considered this?

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 21st, 2023 / 11:25 a.m.
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Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, it is impossible for me to answer in 10 seconds. I would simply encourage my colleague to read Bill C-262 and Bill C-263, which contain all kinds of provisions that respond to that. I think everything is in there.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 21st, 2023 / 11:20 a.m.
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Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague. I really enjoy working with him on this issue.

We will always applaud any step in the right direction, but we also have a duty to point out that we think the bill is too timid. That is also part of democracy, debate in the House and political debate on this matter.

However, I disagree with my colleague about the nature of the differences between the two bills. I do not have the time to repeat everything I said, but I did go over the differences, which are mainly the size of the businesses and the sectors they work in, the revenue thresholds and the requirements imposed.

I believe that there are many differences between the bills, and they are not purely symbolic. Therefore, I would again urge the government to place Bill C-262 in the order of precedence. We are very enthusiastic about this idea.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 21st, 2023 / 11 a.m.
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Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, Nicolas de Condorcet used to say that the truth belongs to those who seek it, not to those who claim to own it.

With that in mind, I welcome this motion, and I voted in favour of it when my Conservative colleague moved it in committee. For me, it is a step in the right direction, the beginning of something, a project. I am really glad the Conservatives have moved this motion. The last time I moved a motion to bring in a real due diligence policy seeking to pass it by unanimous consent, I heard a lot of howling from the opposition on my right. I use the word “right” in every sense of the word. I am glad the Conservatives finally woke up a bit, although it took a while.

I also moved a motion on mining companies. The Standing Committee on International Trade has completed its study on mining, but we have not yet adopted the report. We have not yet heard from the Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development. When I moved my motion on the subject of mining, the Conservatives also opposed it, so I am pleased that they have come to their senses. It is better late than never, as they say.

I also want to thank the previous speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development. Recently, I was fortunate enough to go to Paris with him for the OECD summit, which focused on this particular issue. I am glad to see that the OECD and most countries are becoming aware of the problem. Unfortunately, this meeting turned into a bit of an exercise in one-upmanship. Everyone said they were taking this issue seriously and working hard in their communities to advance this cause. However, there is many a slip 'twixt cup and lip, as the expression goes.

This is a topic that resonates with me because I also tabled a petition in the House last spring, I believe, or early last summer, to bring in a meaningful due diligence policy. I have also co-sponsored bills. Bloc members never judge a bill by its cover. When a bill is good, we support it; when it is bad, we do not support it.

I have co-sponsored two NDP bills. The first is Bill C-262, which has yet to move past first reading. If we are serious about this issue, we need to get on it, we need to make this a priority. The second is Bill C-263, which seeks to establish an office of the commissioner in this matter because an office like that could act as an authority.

Let us take a step back in history. Once upon a time, there was colonization. We call many countries “developing” nations nowadays. They are southern nations, based on the old north-south divide. There used to be something called colonization. Colonial empires, or metropolises as they were called, wanted to get their hands on resources, so they went and took over other lands. They did not all go about it the same way. Some felt that the people on those lands, whom they considered inferior, needed to be civilized. Others took things even further: those people had to be exterminated, unfortunately.

For others still, colonization meant stripping these people of all power and reducing them to insignificance for as long as they did business with them. This was often the British colonization model. The people no longer had any political power, but the colonial powers would pretend that they did. They let them elect leaders with little power, local leaders from their own tribes. This gave them the illusion that they still had power over their lives, which was a complete lie. It was called indirect rule. Then decolonization happened, as we know.

Next came globalization. Starting in the 1980s, we were told that we needed to free up the multinationals and free up capital to ensure that it could be moved from one place to another, without borders, so that profits could be made, because all those profits would contribute to the common good. That was a very bad interpretation of the words of Adam Smith, who is credited with introducing the “invisible hand” theory. In reality, Adam Smith never came up with an invisible hand theory. The invisible hand is metaphor that he used three times to talk about different things. If we look at Adam Smith's work, we see that what he actually said is quite the opposite of what people took from his words in the 1980s and 1990s.

When the Berlin Wall fell, the Iron Curtain also fell. It imploded, collapsed. That led to the rule of unadulterated neo-liberalism. All of the supranational bodies were saying that the time for nations and sovereignties was over, that it was the end for the social safety net. The time for measures and policies was over. Now was the time for capital to be deployed, for it to move from one jurisdiction to another by any means and at any time. It needed to be freed up as much as possible so that anything could be done with it.

Obviously, today, that is no longer the case. We might say that globalization is in crisis, that we are returning to a multipolar world. It appears that there are several environmental and social consequences to these utopias. Among them, there is this idea of having a great global supply chain where every country can do its part. This also has consequences.

Quebec has fared well under free trade. It has been a beneficial experience. We certainly need to continue to diversify our trade partners, but not at all costs. We have seen the human consequences in terms of human rights, obviously, but also the use of forced labour. That is the point of today's motion on the importation of goods linked to the use of forced labour.

If we are going to address the problem, then we need to be serious. With what is referred to as dumping, a product can go through another country that is used as a flag of convenience. Then the product arrives here and we think it was made in places where forced labour is controlled and regulated, when in fact that is often not the case.

The Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, the CNCA, has made a number of demands. I am going to read them, because I think they are quite comprehensive. According to the CNCA, there are five essential elements in effective due diligence legislation which many Canadian and Quebec civil society groups agree on, and they are the following: require companies to prevent all human rights violations throughout their global operations and supply chains; require companies to develop and implement human rights due diligence procedures, and report on them, as well as require them to consult rights holders; require meaningful consequences for companies that fail to take these obligations seriously and guarantee impacted communities access to effective remedy in Canadians civil courts; be consistent with the United Nations guiding principles on business and human rights and apply this legislation to companies of any size, while possibly allowing small business in low-risk sectors to be exempt; and apply to all human rights, because all human rights are interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.

On June 22, 2022, I tabled a petition along those same lines:


some Canadian companies contribute to human rights abuses and environmental damage around the world;

people who protest these abuses and stand up for their rights are often harassed, attacked or killed. Indigenous peoples, women and marginalized groups are particularly at risk; and

Canada encourages companies to stop these harms from happening in their global operations and supply chains, but does not require them to.

We, the undersigned citizens and residents of Canada, call on the House of Commons to adopt legislation on due diligence for human and environmental rights that:

would require....

The rest of the petition contains more or less the same formal demands made by the CNCA which I just read. It also aligns with the motion I moved for unanimous consent, which, I would remind members, was rejected by the right in the House.

Let us now discuss the bill in question. I applaud the sponsor, who has attempted previously to bring forward legislation on this matter. There was Bill C‑243, which was withdrawn in favour of the very similar Bill S‑211.

We supported it and we will continue to support it, but it is just not enough, because if we ask ourselves whether the bill helps individuals who are affected obtain justice or redress, the answer is no. Does the bill seek to include communities and workers who are affected? No. Does the bill apply to businesses of all sizes in all sectors? No, it only applies to businesses with over 250 employees and “significant” revenue and assets.

Does the bill apply to all human rights? No, it only applies to forced labour and child labour. Those are hugely important issues, and this is a step forward, but it should go much further. Are businesses required to respect human rights? No, they are only required to report annually on whether they have taken steps to recognize and prevent the use of forced labour, but reporting is not accountability.

Does the bill require businesses to prevent harm? No, it only requires an annual report. Does the bill require businesses to take steps to identify, mitigate, prevent or report human rights violations and environmental damage in their supply chains, because the problem applies to the entire supply chain? No.

There are no compulsory due diligence standards for businesses. Do they face significant consequences if they cause harm or fail to implement due diligence standards? Again, the answer is no.

All the questions I just asked would be answered in the affirmative under the NDP Bill C-282, which I co-sponsored. This bill ticks all the boxes. I therefore encourage the government and the House to refer it to committee for study as soon as possible, because it provides a much better response to what is needed and to the urgency of the situation.

I would also like to talk about Canadian mining companies, which I suggested would be a good subject for study by the Standing Committee on International Trade. First, let me clarify one thing. It is a real stretch to call them “Canadian” mining companies, because they are just using Canada as a “flag of convenience”. Mining companies are often Canadian only on paper. They choose Canada because its lax laws make it ridiculously easy to incorporate here, to present themselves as Canadian companies and to benefit from speculative benefits offered through and by the Toronto Stock Exchange. Canada is just being used as a “flag of convenience”. It is basically a front.

I have seen this first-hand. The Bloc Québécois actually proposed a bill in 2009 that would have gotten to the heart of the issue, as it created an actual review commission that would have been politically independent and would have had the power to conduct its own investigations, without needing a complaint or a political directive. It would not simply have been a symbolic ombudsperson. This commission could have conducted its own investigations and publicly questioned Global Affairs Canada, or Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, as it was called at the time, if the department were even seen to support a mining company that was caught violating human rights.

I travelled to Chile and Colombia, and in Colombia, I saw a mining company that was originally Canadian fall into Chinese hands. Speaking of forced labour, we saw a bus full of prisoners arrive from the People's Republic of China. Once the local miners have been squeezed out, one of the arguments often used to gain acceptance for these projects in mining areas is that they will create jobs. However, bringing in prisoners from the People's Republic of China is not exactly creating local jobs. Furthermore, diplomats must not provide unequivocal support for the aggressive tactics used by Canadian mining companies abroad, as Canadian embassies have been known to do. Embassies are being ordered to provide support through diplomacy.

We also need to talk about money. It is important to talk about that, because Export Development Canada has investments in many problematic companies, including Baru Gold, which was mentioned several times. EDC continued to hand out loans to Teck Resources for its Quebrada Blanca mine in Chile, despite the political crisis and brutal repression going on in that country. In 2019 alone, EDC invested between $1 billion and $1.5 billion just in Chile's extractive sector.

Vale was involved in two recent tailings dam disasters in Brazil. At the company's Brumadinho mine, hundreds of people were killed in January 2019 when a tailings dam collapsed. It is also the co-owner of the mine near Mariana, where a similar disaster wiped out an entire village in 2015. Both mines had been built using the riskiest method regulators would allow. Vale's other activities include a railway along which residents are regularly struck by trains, and a mine that was ordered to shut down several times because of the impact it was having on indigenous tribes.

Vedanta Limited, a subsidiary of Vedanta Resources, received between $100 million and $250 million in loans in 2017. In 2018, there was a massacre at a smelter plant in India run by a subsidiary of Vedanta Resources. Police opened fire on a crowd of thousands who were protesting the planned expansion of the Tuticorin plant. Thirteen people were killed and dozens of others were injured.

According to Emily Dwyer from the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, who testified at committee, some of the other mining companies that received funding from Export Development Canada and were mixed up in human rights violations include Teck Resources and Kinross.

The mining industry in Canada received $6.524 million in funding in 2022. This is a serious matter.

When we talk about accountability and the origin of goods, we need to be serious and take a closer look.

I will now wrap up my speech in order to debate this issue with the rest of the House. We need some genuinely serious policies on this, such as Bill C‑262 and Bill C‑263, which I co-sponsored, and the bill that the Bloc Québécois introduced in 2009 about a review commission for mining companies.

This needs to be taken seriously, because the ombudsperson is currently nothing but a complaints office and a web site. That is no way to deal with the serious, violent, brutal violations happening around the world.

In closing, I want to wish everyone a happy end to the “no new clothes challenge”. March was dubbed “no new clothes” month. That lines up nicely with the theme we are discussing today.

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

March 6th, 2023 / 11:45 a.m.
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Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, today we are debating Bill S-211, which claims to fight against forced labour and child labour in supply chains. There is no question that global supply chains continue to be tainted with forced labour and child labour. Millions of people around the world experience conditions of modern slavery. Horrifically, this includes young children who, too often, harvest the food we eat and manufacture the clothes we wear.

Sadly, progress toward eradicating child and forced labour has stalled and even reversed during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, the report from the International Labour Organization warned that child labour was increasing for the first time in two decades. Between 2016 and 2020, the number of children in child labour increased to 160 million worldwide; 79 million of these children, some as young as five years old, are working in conditions considered to be hazardous, which means that the work is likely to harm their health, safety and morals.

Economic impacts of the pandemic, leading to school closures and income loss among low-income families globally, have pushed more children into these dangerous working conditions to try to earn a living. The reality is that forced labour conditions exist in nearly every country. Canada is deeply implicated in perpetuating these human rights abuses. Under the current legislative framework, there is no corporate accountability for companies that profit from the exploitation in their supply chains.

According to a report from World Vision in 2016, it is estimated that over 1,200 companies operating in Canada are importing over 34 billion dollars' worth of goods at high risk of being produced by child or forced labour every year. The agricultural and grocery industry is one of the worst offenders for forced labour and child labour: 71% of all child labour takes place in the agricultural sector, and many of these items end up on Canadian grocery store shelves.

In 2019, more than 3.7 billion dollars' worth of risky food products were imported into Canada, a 63% increase from 10 years ago. During the same pandemic period when Canada's major grocery chains raked in record profits, the use of child and forced labour in agricultural supply chains increased. As Canadians get gouged with greedflation at the grocery checkout, corporate giants fail to take action on ending forced and child labour in their supply chains. World Vision reported that corporate social responsibility reports from Loblaws, Metro and Sobeys, Canada's three largest grocers, yield “little meaningful information about what they are doing to address the risk of child labour in their supply chains.” There are record profits, yet zero accountability to respect human rights. This is egregiously wrong.

Unfortunately, we know that these issues extend far beyond the agricultural sector. In 2021, CBC reported that Canadian clothing brands sold items manufactured by North Korean forced labour at a Chinese factory. Recently, I spoke about the genocide against Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims. This is again relevant to raise, because these issues are connected. Many products sold in Canada are manufactured with Uighur forced labour. Between 2017 to 2019, it is estimated that more than 80,000 Uighurs were forcibly transferred out of the Uighur region to work in factories across China. In 2020 alone, reports reveal that 83 global companies were indirectly or directly involved in employing Uighur workers under conditions of forced labour. From food products, clothing and textiles to the supply chains of major auto manufacturers, the use of Uighur forced labour is widespread.

Canada can and must do more to uphold human rights and work to eradicate child and forced labour. The NDP wants to ensure that products imported into Canada are not produced with forced labour or child labour. New Democrats believe that Canada has a responsibility to ensure that supply chains of products sold in Canada are free from these egregious human rights violations.

The government has an international human rights obligation to do this, but due to the inaction of successive Liberal and Conservative governments, Canada is lagging behind other jurisdictions. European countries such as France have already passed due diligence legislation, which requires that companies take action to address child labour and forced labour. Importantly, this also provides legal recourse if efforts are shown to be inadequate.

The Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability has been calling for human rights and environmental due diligence legislation in Canada. The organization has even drafted model legislation, providing a blueprint for writing into Canadian law the corporate duty to respect human rights and the environment.

For over a decade, the CNCA has also been calling for an independent ombudsperson office with the power to investigate human rights complaints related to Canadian corporate activity abroad. The Liberals announced that they would create this independent ombudsperson office in 2018, yet today this is just another empty promise from the government. Instead, the government has created a powerless advisory post.

It is clear that there is much work to be done. That is why NDP members, in working with policy experts on these issues, have put forward two critical pieces of legislation. Bill C-262, the corporate responsibility to protect human rights act, would implement the human rights and environmental due diligence that is needed. It would hold companies accountable for their actions and allow victims of human rights and environmental harm the statutory right to bring a lawsuit against that company. Bill C-263 would give the Office of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise the powers needed to actually do its job and investigate and hold companies accountable.

The CNCA, which includes member groups such as Oxfam Canada, Amnesty International Canada and Human Rights Watch Canada, supports these steps, but it is yet to be seen whether other parties will do the right thing.

Today, we are here debating Bill S-211. From the outset, the NDP recognized that this bill was deeply flawed. New Democrats agree with the view that CNCA shares: that, unamended, this bill is damaging because it creates the appearance of action to end modern slavery without actually having that effect. As currently drafted, Bill S-211 advances none of the essential elements of an effective supply chain law.

According to the CNCA:

Bill S-211 would require companies to report on what steps, if any, they have taken to prevent and reduce the risk of forced or child labour in their supply chains. It would only apply to a small minority of companies; it does not require these companies to stop using child or forced labour or to conduct human rights due diligence; and it is silent on other egregious human rights abuses (such as mass rape, murder and torture), as its focus is limited to child or forced labour.

Recognizing the flaws of this bill, the NDP proposed six amendments at committee stage to improve the legislation based on expert testimony, yet the government rejected all of them.

Canada needs to do much more to fight forced labour and child labour. The Minister of Labour's own mandate letter instructs him to “introduce legislation to eradicate forced labour from Canadian supply chains and ensure that Canadian businesses operating abroad do not contribute to human rights abuses.”

Bill S-211 fails to do that. Therefore, the NDP will be voting against this legislation. We will continue to advocate for legislation that actually addresses the issue and commit to eradicating forced labour and child labour. Having the appearance under this bill to be doing something is not good enough.

February 9th, 2023 / 5:05 p.m.
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Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

I was just about to jump in and say that I don't know where C-262 is. On C-263, I know Heather is way out there. It's—

February 9th, 2023 / 5:05 p.m.
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John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

I just have a point of order, Madam Chair. I wonder if Mr. Cannings could offer to the committee where C-262 and C-263 are on the Order Paper. That would be helpful to members.

February 9th, 2023 / 5:05 p.m.
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Assistant to the National Director, United Steelworkers Union

Meg Gingrich

Sure. Thank you very much.

I think Mr. McKay explained it fairly well in terms of what some of the differences are. It sort of comes down to a difference in the expectation of what's possible right now. I agree that Bill C-262 and Bill C-263 are still possible to pass if we can get the political support for them. I don't think it's a question of them going too far or anything like that. Transparency and a requirement to report are important. Again, I think Mr. McKay has very good intentions, and everything like that, but I think it comes down to what we think is possible. I have high expectations that as a country and as a society we can pass bills like this, which put real responsibility on Canadian companies to ensure adherence to human rights, labour rights and environmental rights across their supply chains, including the subcontractors and so on.

In terms of the CORE, as I've said, that is something we have supported the creation of, but I think that as it stands right now, it is simply not strong enough to be able to do much. We're trying our best to use it in the government sector to see what will happen, and we're happy to try to use what exists, but we always want to try to make things just a bit better for everyone.

February 9th, 2023 / 5:05 p.m.
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Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

—for the all the work he's done over the years on this file. I really appreciate that, but I would say that Bill C-262 and Bill C-263 are on offer. They're on offer to the government, because this is what the corporate responsibility sector is saying is what is necessary.

I'd just like to offer the rest of my time to Ms. Gingrich to respond to your comments about the difference between those bills and why Bill C-262 and Bill C-263 will and should produce better results.