Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today and speak in support of Bill S-211. It is an important bill, and the Conservative caucus supports it. We have sought to advance it through the process, and we look forward to seeing it come into force at the beginning of next year, as per the coming-into-force timelines.
I was in the hon. member's neck of the woods this weekend, in Toronto, having meetings with some different communities that are concerned about various justice and human rights issues that our foreign affairs committee and others have been seized with. I was pleased to meet with the Pakistani Christian community, which continues, among others, to call for a repeal or reform of the blasphemy law in Pakistan.
I met with members of the Ethiopian community, the Tigrayan community specifically, who want to highlight the continuing need for the full implementation of the peace deal, for humanitarian access to Tigray and for support for processes around justice and accountability. I look forward to continuing to work on those important issues as well.
Bill S-211 would take a transparency or disclosure approach to combatting the issue of forced labour around the world. It would seek to encourage companies to take action to combat forced labour in their supply chains by having them report on the activities they are undertaking within those supply chains.
It is not a perfect bill, in that it would not solve every problem. Respectfully, I could probably say that about every piece of legislation that comes before the House. The question for us, at third reading, should not be whether the bill is the full realization of human perfection that is theoretically possibly, but rather would the bill be an improvement on the status quo. I think it very clearly is.
The bill would push companies to be engaged in the process of being accountable about the efforts they are undertaking to combat slave labour. It would seek to also bring further awareness to the reality that many of the products we buy may be tainted by the ongoing scourge of slavery that still continues in the 21st century.
One of the areas where we need to go further, and this is a matter for subsequent legislation, is to take a targeted approach to those very specific hot spots in the world where we know there is a high level of slave labour and the government is complicit in it. We have discussed before in the House the issues of the Uighur genocide, the slave labour and the forced labour that are associated with the repression of the Uighur people.
In the United States, on a bipartisan basis, they have passed something called the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which effectively creates a reverse onus for the region of Xinjiang or East Turkestan. The reverse onus is that goods coming out of that region are presumed to have involved slave labour, unless someone can prove otherwise.
This recognizes the reality that many products coming out of that region are tainted by slave labour. As much as one might try, on faith, to say we are banning products made by slave labour, then we are not paying attention to what is going on. In every case, if we require CBSA or other countries' border services agencies to conduct a thorough investigation to know for sure that a product had a problem before it was imported, then we are not going to have an effective approach.
Recognizing the prevalence of slave labour, the government's complicity in that and imposing particular import restrictions, as the United States has done, makes sense. This is the reverse onus presumption that came in through the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act in the United States.
We have seen how efforts to combat forced labour in the United States have led to many shipments being blocked. In Canada, they have not led to a single shipment being blocked. The member across the way said there was one shipment blocked, but my understanding is that shipment was stopped and then subsequently released.
The worst possible consequence so far in Canada, if one is complicit in forced labour, is that one would face a delay. I think that many members on all sides of the House would agree, certainly privately and in many cases publicly, that this is an unacceptable situation.
In general, when it comes to combatting forced labour, we should be thinking more about aligning our approaches with those of other like-minded countries and collaborating on enforcement. Part of our commitment in our free trade deal, the USMCA with our partners in the U.S. and Mexico, is to stop forced labour from coming in. Why, therefore, would we not have common standards, such that if a ship carrying supplies is not able to bring those supplies into the United States on the basis of concerns of forced labour, then that same ship should not be able to shift course and travel to Canada?
We should have a common approach among allies, in which we are sharing information and intelligence as well as working together to enforce these kinds of standards. This would make it a lot easier from a resource-investigation perspective for our country and would help to have that united front to combat the problem of forced labour and modern-day slavery.
These are some of the areas where I think we should be doing more. One is to recognize these hot spots and to acknowledge the need for a specific, targeted approach in the case of these hot spots. Another is to ramp up the enforcement around our existing rules and to try to collaborate more on enforcement.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in Japan for an IPAC conference ahead of the upcoming G7, which is going to be hosted in Japan. I can share that there was a great deal of interest among Japanese legislators for a common approach to these kinds of challenges, including human rights approximated from forced labour. The G7 summit coming up in Japan will be a great opportunity to discuss these things, for these issues to be on the agenda and for the G7 to talk about leading a global approach where like-minded countries share standards, share information and collaborate to prevent products made from forced labour from coming into their countries.
Those are a few of the additional areas, but again, I do not expect one private member's bill to cover everything.
There was some debate at the committee stage of Bill S-211 on whether we should have amendments, and I think I signalled in my second-reading speech that there were some amendments I wanted to propose around the bill. It would have been nice if we had treated the bill earlier in the committee process. However, because of time and the fact that we are in a minority Parliament, if we had passed the bill with amendments, it would have gone back to the Senate and we would have gotten into a sort of ping-pong match that I think would have caused further delay and risked us not passing any legislation.
Recognizing that Canada has been way behind until now on this issue of recognizing the gaps, it makes much more sense to support legislation; move it forward; and then also continue to talk about the problems, the need for further action and what the areas are in which we can strengthen the framework, which we are gradually building.
As well, I know that there were commitments from all of the major parties, including the governing party, to take legislative action on this particular issue. I do not think that Bill S-211 exhausts the obligation to take legislative action. I am still hoping that we see government legislation that would address some of the specific issues I have raised as well as have government engage with our partners and allies. Therefore, I hope that nobody is planning on saying, after the bill before us is passed, that our work is done, because it is not done. However, this is a good bill. Conservatives are pleased to support it and we look forward to seeing it pass into law.