Wonderful. Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the subcommittee.
Throughout the developing world, fear of violence is part of everyday life for the poor. In fact, in developing and middle-income countries, poor people often name violence as their greatest fear or main problem.
Much of that violence is experienced by victims of modern slavery. Their labour is coerced, underpaid, or unpaid. Conditions are abusive and unsafe, and they are not free to leave the workplace. Although forced labour is prohibited by law virtually everywhere, those laws do not have meaning for adults and children suffering in slavery. Under-resourced, undertrained, and corrupt law enforcement officials cannot or do not arrest and charge criminals who traffic and exploit labourers, nor do they often gather evidence that could hold them accountable in courts of law.
Dozens of industries, as we know, are rife with trafficked, forced, exploited, and child labour. As most companies can attest, major corporations bear the weight of criticism when trafficked labour is exposed. No one should question the responsibility of importers and retailers to identify and scrub their supply chains for slave-produced goods, but trafficking is a corrupt and usually hidden criminal activity that presents a huge challenge. Moreover, the nature of labour slavery in many industries is such that even the most scrupulous corporations will risk purveying slavery-tainted goods if national governments of source countries do not take responsibility for the problem. It is governments that have the authority and the obligation to enforce national laws against these crimes. It is local and national police, prosecutors, and judges, not corporate executives, who can investigate, arrest, prosecute, and punish those whose presence is inevitable in every single slavery situation—the perpetrators.
There are several mainstream approaches for reducing exploited labour in the global supply chain. They can be helpful, but none address the issue of criminals who recruit, exploit, and profit from modern slavery with impunity.
The most common approach is voluntary self-regulating policies or codes of conduct. These can serve as a compliance checklist or diagnostic tool, but they have significant limitations. The most serious deficiency is that corporations cannot hold accountable perpetrators engaging in exploitation. Law enforcement is, again, the sole purview of governments. Regrettably, industry's and consumers' heavy reliance on corporate self-regulation may even weaken the political will of states and public justice systems.
A second approach to exploited labour is corporations' attempt to achieve full-chain traceability for supplies from raw materials to final product. The transparency movement is important in that it is motivating corporations to look more closely at their supply chains, and is thus spurring innovation. In fact, it may well be a stepping stone toward enforceable standards, but again, the approach entirely circumvents the issue of government responsibility for criminal behaviour among recruiters, traffickers, and slave owners.
While corporations have a strong role to play in reversing the incidence of trafficking in global supply chains, the UN's “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights” places the responsibility squarely upon governments to protect individuals from slavery, noting that:
States must protect against human rights abuse within their territory and/or jurisdiction by third parties, including business enterprises. This requires taking appropriate steps to prevent, investigate, punish and redress such abuse through effective policies, legislation, regulations and adjudication.
National governments, whose sole responsibility is to protect the vulnerable and deter those who prey upon them, are crucial players who all too often are missing from the conversation. Therefore, we maintain that transforming a public justice system within the country is a cornerstone in protecting children around the world from slave labour.
International Justice Mission's theory of change is simple: when laws against slavery and trafficking are enforced and perpetrators of slavery are brought to justice, it creates deterrence. Other criminals are less likely to commit the crime. As a result, violence against the poor decreases. In fact, IJM has seen that the reliable prosecution of trafficking can lead to substantial reductions in prevalence. In each of IJM's anti-labour trafficking programs, collaboration with local authorities on hundreds of real-time cases not only provides support to local law enforcement and brings relief to victims but also identifies gaps and weaknesses in the justice system. Then IJM implements system reform programs to develop the capacity of local law enforcement officials and strengthen the system's response.
To demonstrate the results of IJM's justice system transformation work, I'd like to share two examples of how system reform alongside other actors has achieved demonstrable results in reducing the prevalence of children exploited in the commercial sex industry.
In the early 2000s, research reported by the Cambodian government estimated that the prevalence of minors being exploited in the commercial sex industry was as high as 30% in the city of Phnom Penh. From 2004 to 2015, IJM partnered with the Cambodian justice system to investigate and prosecute cases of child sex trafficking. After more than a decade of collaboration, including the efforts of numerous organizations, a 2015 IJM study found that the prevalence of minors in the three largest commercial sex markets in the country dropped to 2.2%, with minors 15 and younger making up just 0.1% of the sex industry. We witnessed similar changes in our areas of operation in the Philippines.
After 16 years of sustained engagement and work with local authorities, IJM's study shows that the prevalence of children exploited in commercial sex establishments in areas where IJM partners with local law authorities has plummeted between 75% and 86%. Evidence indicates that an equipped and responsive public justice system can result in a decrease of children exploited in the commercial sex industry.
IJM has undertaken studies in its general areas of operation to assess the prevalence of bonded labour. In Ghana, IJM worked with local authorities to rescue children from slavery in the fishing industry on Lake Volta. A 2013 operational assessment found that 57.6% of children on southern Lake Volta's waters were trafficked into forced labour. The majority of children were 10 years old and younger. When Ghanaian communities were asked how they believed trafficking into forced labour could be stopped, one of the most frequently cited solutions was law enforcement. Although there is still more work ahead, in 2017, IJM has seen the Ghanaian government make a concerted effort to address trafficking of children on and around the lake.
Moreover, IJM has been invested in cases of bonded labour in India since the early 2000s. Since the outset, IJM and its partners have worked with local law enforcement to rescue over 15,000 victims of bonded labour crimes.
Even though bonded labour is illegal, a 2014 prevalence study of 11 industries in the state of Tamil Nadu found that 29.9% of manual labourers were bonded labourers. The highest bondage rates were found in brick kilns; in textiles, at 61.9%; and in rock quarries, at 59.2%.
Governments and the public justice system hold what corporations do not: coercive power to hold accountable perpetrators of heinous crimes like child slave labour. Governments of slavery-burdened countries need our help. They need help from the Government of Canada. Consequently, we ask the Government of Canada to invest in public justice systems in the developing world to protect children from slave labour.
Investment in public justice systems falls under the aims and objectives of the feminist international assistance policy, which affirms that strengthening a nation's public justice system defends the rights especially of women and children. Moreover, in alignment with the FIAP, by investing in a developing nation's public justice system, Canada will be able to sustain its efforts and contribute to building local capacity. IJM Canada recommends specific investments in the development of anti-trafficking police units, special prosecutors, and legal assistance for former slaves.
We also recommend that the Government of Canada contribute $20 million Canadian to the Global Fund to End Slavery. A non-profit, grant-making organization, it will help fund programs to combat trafficking and forced labour in countries with the highest prevalence of the crime.
With funding from donor governments and the private sector, the fund seeks to raise $1.5 billion to fund anti-slavery programs. To date, the United Kingdom has committed 20 million pounds and the United States has committed $25 million U.S.
Finally, as part of a holistic response, including the implementation of the recommendations already mentioned, on an annual basis the Government of Canada should require public disclosure of labour recruitment practices and supply sources from companies importing slavery-prone goods or from slavery-burdened countries.
Mr. Chair and subcommittee members, thank you very much.