Evidence of meeting #90 for Subcommittee on International Human Rights in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was slavery.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Kate Kennedy  Managing Director, North America, The Freedom Fund
Petra Bosma Kooman  Director, Marketing and Public Relations, International Justice Mission Canada
Edwin Wilson  Executive Director, International Justice Mission Canada

1:40 p.m.

Executive Director, International Justice Mission Canada

Edwin Wilson

I would draw the committee's attention to the policy itself. There are, as you know, a number of action areas. Under the fifth action area, which speaks of inclusive governance, one of the priorities is ensuring that the rule of law is upheld. There is a statement contained in the policy, which we think is very much on point.

Reform of the judicial system is also required to ensure that women and girls have equal access to justice, including equal protection of their rights by state institutions such as the police, prosecutors,...and courts.... Special measures may be needed to protect and support women's rights defenders who are subject to ongoing intimidation, violence and abuse.

True justice for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence cannot be achieved when perpetrators are not held to account.

That's a very appropriate description of the role that we would see International Justice Mission playing in a society: ensuring that the most vulnerable members of society, who unfortunately often are women and children, experience equal access to justice and experience equal protection of the law as well.

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

Thank you very much.

The final question is to Ms. Kennedy.

Would you agree, Ms. Kennedy, that in terms of what democracies such as Canada are empowered to do, it's appropriate and meaningful to put in place legislation such as the Modern Slavery Act that we see in the U.K.? Could something be put forth here in Canada, modelled on that and on other approaches that have been taken in the Netherlands, France, Australia, and California? That is a relatively small part of the overall solution. Really delving in and having a focused foreign policy, a focused development policy, is the way to address the problem of modern slavery, because the problem of modern slavery emanates out of the social structure—caste, gender, access to justice issues—and so many other challenges.

Would you agree with that perspective?

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Vice-Chair Conservative David Sweet

Ms. Kennedy, you'll have to make a note of that question. I'm sorry—and if you're feeling victimized, I'll understand—but our time ran out again. Maybe another member will allow you to go back and answer that question.

Ms. Hardcastle is next.

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank the witnesses for all of their insight here today.

Our role is ultimately to make recommendations in terms of what the government's role could be and what we could do. We heard from other witnesses about the importance of supply chain transparency. It was touched on a little here today with the example Kate gave about her experience of travelling with a cosmetic company. We also heard from IJM about the importance of law enforcement.

To IJM, I'm very intrigued by what you can share with me. You had some best practices, obviously, from some of the success stories you discussed, particularly in Cambodia and I think in the Philippines. I think Petra also said that you need help from the Government of Canada to invest in public justice systems.

I'd like to hear from the three of you on some of the opportunities that we're not seizing on right now as a government—not just supply chain transparency, but perhaps even, rather than side agreements in our trade agreements, their entrenchment right in main bodies of future agreements. I'd like to hear some more about that.

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Vice-Chair Conservative David Sweet

Ms. Kennedy, we'll give you the first crack at that.

1:40 p.m.

Managing Director, North America, The Freedom Fund

Kate Kennedy

Thank you.

Really quickly, and touching on some of the other questions as well, aid and trade and border control are really critical elements to these, but we at the Freedom Fund definitely believe that the early, easy reach to some of the people I spoke about earlier, those deep in the supply chain, is the supply chain legislation. We think the global movement also allows for multinationals to have consistent reporting and to be more deeply committed to the legislation globally. That's a really clear statement that we make. We think that's the best thing Canada could do right now.

I'll close it off there. I know that time is tight.

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Vice-Chair Conservative David Sweet

IJM, would you comment?

1:45 p.m.

Executive Director, International Justice Mission Canada

Edwin Wilson

Stressing the importance of investing in the development of local and national law enforcement systems is a consistent theme with International Justice Mission. I believe we are able to make a case for those kinds of investments based on our success stories in Cambodia and the Philippines. We are convinced that it will turn the tide on issues like child labour, forced labour, and sexual violence against women and children. We are investing in those efforts in other areas of the world as well.

Consistently, international development agencies, including donor governments, have invested, according to our research, not much more than 1% of the total aid given in the strengthening of justice systems. We think we will experience far greater returns for our investments in other areas if we are prepared, as donor agencies and governments, to strengthen the local law enforcement systems. It often simply means providing training and resources or educating police in these countries, who often are poorly educated and poorly paid but will respond well to the need to intervene on behalf of the poor in their country if they're given some encouragement and support.

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Vice-Chair Conservative David Sweet

Thank you very much.

Go ahead, Ms. Hardcastle.

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

In terms of investing in local justice systems, would you envision, then, that the capacity is built to the point where they can enforce, say, corporate conduct at home or abroad? How do you envision that? Who is legislating that corporate conduct? In terms of corporate access to any goods and services, who is the onus on? Is the onus on the government to make sure that's not there, or is there a balance? I just wonder how that works when we're talking about local economic activity and economic activity that comes from abroad and comes from a different jurisdiction.

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Vice-Chair Conservative David Sweet

Go ahead, Ms. Kennedy.

1:45 p.m.

Managing Director, North America, The Freedom Fund

Kate Kennedy

I believe that the supply chain legislation that was begun with the Modern Slavery Act and has gone through Australia enables us to put the responsibility on businesses for every layer of their supply chains, right down to the cotton that's milled, which we spoke about earlier. They report to government, and then governments have the opportunity to create penalties around that for poor performance. I hope that answers your question.

Really, we have to create an environment that motivates companies to have awareness when there are children and severe exploitation such as slavery in the supply chains that create the goods that they sell in Canada.

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Vice-Chair Conservative David Sweet

Go ahead, IJM, very briefly.

1:45 p.m.

Director, Marketing and Public Relations, International Justice Mission Canada

Petra Bosma Kooman

We'd agree with Ms. Kennedy. In addition to a supply chain policy or legislation, governments—and, as a result, police forces—remain the only entity with coercive power. They are the only entity that can actually restrain a perpetrator, a trafficker who exploits children, in the supply chain. That's why we believe that a cornerstone investment is in the public justice system.

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Vice-Chair Conservative David Sweet

Thank you very much.

Mr. Tabbara is next.

December 7th, 2017 / 1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Marwan Tabbara Liberal Kitchener South—Hespeler, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'm going to follow up on MP Fragiskatos' question that you weren't able to answer, Ms. Kennedy. I'm going to try to reiterate what he said.

The French and the U.K. have passed legislation, but that's for just one part of the problem. Passing legislation is the start of it, but in these countries that have such labour issues and modern slavery enacted in them, how do we ensure—Petra, you mentioned coercive powers—that law enforcement, NGOs, and women's activist groups are on the ground changing and transforming society and ensuring that this legislation is upheld?

1:50 p.m.

Managing Director, North America, The Freedom Fund

Kate Kennedy

Slavery is an incredibly complex crime and actually requires systemic change. There's just not one silver bullet. There's not one rescue or one reform that will change it.

It does require a role for Canadian aid through economic development programs and the access to capital that enables people to not drop into debt, which is often a great source of people migrating economically. The role of the Canadian aid arm is critical here.

Also, picking up on the earlier question about the role of women, as IJM has already said, women and girls are disproportionately affected by the exploitation of slavery in all its many forms. Equally, in our experience on the front line, the role of women and girls to be activists, to guide other women from falling into the same things and to lead adolescent peer-led groups to become survivor-led activists in front-line NGOs, is also really critical. That is part of the systemic change that needs to happen to ensure the whole system is effectively changed.

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marwan Tabbara Liberal Kitchener South—Hespeler, ON

Ms. Kooman or Mr. Wilson, could you comment as well?

1:50 p.m.

Executive Director, International Justice Mission Canada

Edwin Wilson

A very key element in our program, which I think will address your concern, Mr. Tabbara, is the fact that we are committed to ensuring that every one of our clients is supported to the point where they are able to develop a sustainable livelihood, which ensures they are not drawn back into an exploitative relationship. This again is conducted in partnership with local social welfare agencies and other civil society groups. We have made a two- to five-year commitment to each individual to develop their independence and a sustainable livelihood to ensure they remain free and independent.

Again, I think that speaks to the importance of societal transformation in these contexts if we are to see communities flourish in the way that we hope they will.

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marwan Tabbara Liberal Kitchener South—Hespeler, ON

I'm running out of time.

I know we focus on child labour, and that's generally what this study is about, but witnesses have also talked about looking at a family unit as a whole, with the parents having low-wage jobs, and there's kind of this reciprocal cycle.

Can you comment on that really briefly?

I'll hand it over to Ms. Kooman.

1:50 p.m.

Director, Marketing and Public Relations, International Justice Mission Canada

Petra Bosma Kooman

There is a piece of research that was not conducted by IJM but that did affirm what we have encountered, which is that children, especially in the slave labour industry in South Asia, are often recruited in family units. Their parents are recruited, and as a result, because children can increase productivity and output, they will be recruited alongside the parents. The entire family unit will then be found in a situation of slavery.

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marwan Tabbara Liberal Kitchener South—Hespeler, ON

Thank you.

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Vice-Chair Conservative David Sweet

Thank you very much, Mr. Tabbara.

We're going to go to Mr. Anderson, but I'm going to do something a little bit counterintuitive and just ask a question myself. I'm going to ask it to Ms. Kennedy, but it's about International Justice Mission.

I've been on this committee for almost 12 years, and I've had a number of things that have been epiphanic moments. One of them was when their U.S. counterpart released a book called The Locust Effect. It was in regard to the fact that if you invest aid without security, then you're asking for sometimes a portion of it or all of it to be lost, because of this locust effect in which gangsters come in and take it away.

What is your perspective on that in regard to aid with a balance of security and law enforcement?

1:50 p.m.

Managing Director, North America, The Freedom Fund

Kate Kennedy

The first thing I would say is that human trafficking is a criminal trade, and it's estimated that profit is at $150 billion per year, so there's money changing hands with recruiters. One of the preconditions we spoke about earlier for slavery to thrive is definitely corruption. In fact, if you look at the corruption index and overlay it with the countries with the worst slavery, you do see a massive parallel between those things.

You often have criminal activity in the places where slavery is, so you do need security around the investments you have. I think that's a critical point.

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I appreciate the opportunity.

I would like to follow that up. We had a couple of questions about sustainable livelihoods and those kinds of things, and security.

Freedom Fund, you talked about having a number of partners. Do you partner with anyone to encourage entrepreneurs? So much of this is an economic issue, and it creates so many of the other issues we're talking about here. Do you have partners who provide microfinancing or entrepreneurial skills and those kinds of things? IJM may want to answer as well. Could you tell us a little bit about that? Do you see that as a solution?