House of Commons Hansard #164 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cybersecurity.



11 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

It is my duty to inform the House that a vacancy has occurred in the representation, namely Candice Bergen, member for the electoral district of Portage—Lisgar, by resignation effective Tuesday, February 28.

Pursuant to paragraph 25(1)(b) of the Parliament of Canada Act, the Speaker has addressed a warrant to the Chief Electoral Officer for the issue of a writ for the election of a member to fill this vacancy.

Address by President of the European Commission

11 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and if you seek it, I believe you will find unanimous consent to adopt the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any standing order, special order or usual practice of the House,

(a) on Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions, the House shall adjourn to the next sitting day;

(b) the address by the President of the European Commission to be delivered in the Chamber of the House of Commons on Tuesday, March 7, 2023, before members of the Senate and the House of Commons, together with all introductory and related remarks, be printed as an appendix to the House of Commons Debates for that day and form part of the records of this House; and

(c) the media recording and transmission of such address, introductory and related remarks be authorized pursuant to established guidelines for such occasions; and

(d) if a recorded division is requested in respect of a debatable motion after 2 p.m. on Monday, March 6, 2023, and before 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 7, 2023, it shall stand deferred to Wednesday, March 8, 2023, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

Address by President of the European Commission

11 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

All those opposed to the hon. member moving the motion will please say nay.

The House has heard the terms of the motion. All those opposed to the motion will please say nay.

(Motion agreed to)

Business of the House

11 a.m.

Ajax Ontario


Mark Holland LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the House that the opposition day designated for Tuesday, March 7, has been undesignated.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-211, An Act to enact the Fighting Against Forced Labour and Child Labour in Supply Chains Act and to amend the Customs Tariff, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

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

11 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

There being no motions at report stage, the House will now proceed, without debate, to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.

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

11:05 a.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

moved that the bill be concurred in.

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

11:05 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

If a member of a recognized party present in the House wishes that the motion be carried or carried on division or wishes to request a recorded division, I would invite them to rise and indicate it to the Chair.

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

11:05 a.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I request that it be carried on division.

(Motion agreed to)

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

March 6th, 2023 / 11:05 a.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, this has been quite a journey. We are close to the end of that four-year journey and hopefully we will move to a vote fairly quickly.

If I spent all my time thanking everyone who has helped us over the previous four years, I would use up all of my time, so let me confine my thanks to a select few who have helped us from Bill C-423 to Bill C-243, and from Bill S-216 to now Bill S-211.

We would not be here without Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne and her tireless efforts on Bill S-211 and Bill S-216, along with Jérôme Asselin-Lussier from her office and Shawn Boyle from my office, as well as the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River for his willingness to give up his preferred place in the Private Members' Business slot to me, for which I thank him.

I also want to recognize the very helpful contributions of two law firms, Dentons and Gowling, which have shepherded through the many iterations of this bill over the four years.

Finally I want to take note of World Vision, as it is aptly named. Over the past 10 years, World Vision has used its considerable resources to call attention to this international scourge, where Canadians play an unwitting role in enabling the distribution and consumption of slave products.

Before I turn to the bill itself, I want to offer a few comments on slavery in Canada.

As we know, prior to Confederation, Canada was really a collection of British colonies and as such was governed by the laws of Westminster.

In 1787, William Wilberforce, who, in my opinion, is the greatest member of parliament that the British Westminster system has ever produced, embarked on a mission to have the slave trade abolished, reasoning that if the slave trade was abolished, the abolition of slavery itself would surely follow. He was right.

To give us some context, 30% of the British Empire's GDP was dependent upon slave products. If ever an MP engaged in a formidable task, this was certainly it.

Twenty years later, the British Parliament passed the Slave Trade Act of 1807 and then 26 years after that slavery was formerly abolished in the British Empire on July 26. Wilberforce died three days later.

A committed evangelical Christian, Wilberforce was motivated by a deep conviction that the enslavement of another human being was a sin and an offence against God and mankind. As we know, deep moral convictions do not mean much in a parliament unless we can mobilize resources to push a bill to royal assent.

William Wilberforce showed his parliamentary and political genius in two ways. First, he was able to organize, rally and participate in probably the first citizens' movement that brought massive pressure on the Parliament of Westminster. Second, he was able to manipulate the legislative system to, over time, produce the desired outcome.

In fact, William Wilberforce gave a master class in British parliamentary procedures, strategies and tactics, which should be required reading for all parliamentarians.

The citizens' movement was pure genius. He took a ragtag group of quarrelsome evangelicals and attached to them some of the most committed abolitionists of the time. This was possibly the first time a group of deeply committed citizens confronted a deeply entrenched establishment and won.

For his efforts, William Wilberforce was branded as a traitor to his class. When he won, of course, we all won.

The laws of Great Britain applied to Canadian colonies. While some would argue that it is more complicated than that, and I might in another context agree, I would argue that it is a big improvement over the way the Americans handled the same issue.

Why a history lesson when we have an exceedingly modest Bill S-211 in front of us?

First, Bill S-211 is the product of a citizen's movement. World Vision and many others have pressured the parties to be proactive and commit to the legislation. Ultimately, this has resulted in both the Liberal and Conservative parties putting this kind of commitment into their platforms.

Second, getting worthwhile initiatives across the line is exceedingly difficult, especially from the weak position of a private member's bill in a minority Parliament.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the members for Thunder Bay—Rainy River, Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, Peace River—Westlock and Shefford, as well as Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne and the table officers of both houses for getting us here today.

With my remaining time, I want to talk about what Bill S-211 is, what it is not and what it could be.

Bill S-211 is a supply chain transparency bill. Companies of a certain size would be expected to examine their supply chains annually and certify that they are free of slave products, or if they are not, what are they going to do about it. Powers would be given to the Minister of Public Safety to examine the filing, and if not satisfied, cause an investigation to be made.

We expect that the mere existence of the bill will create a high level of compliance as companies worry about their reputational damage, government investigations, consumer disapproval and increased financial costs for non-compliance and additional financial risk.

Keeping it simple is the essence of this bill: examine our supply chains; certify there is no slavery; and if there is, tell us what they are going to do about it.

Why Bill S-211? The moral argument is blindingly obvious. No Canadian should be buying slave products, period.

The economic argument is equally blindingly obvious. Canadian workers cannot compete with slaves. Not only are people beggaring their neighbours by depriving them of a job opportunity, but Canada creates its own supply chain vulnerabilities by becoming dependent upon slave nations to produce critical products.

This is dumb on dumb. In our feverish and immoral desire to get the cheapest product any time, any place, anywhere, we deprive ourselves of business labour and economic opportunities. Stupid is an inadequate description.

Bill S-211 is not a due diligence bill. Failure to comply will not expose a negligent company to a human rights lawsuit.

There are two examples of due diligence legislation, Germany and France. The German threshold is 3,000 employees. The French threshold is 5,000 employees. We estimate that instead of the thousands of companies that would be captured by Bill S-211 under our transparency bill, fewer than 100 companies would be captured by a due diligence bill.

Our reading of due diligence legislation is that it has a limited upside with a massive non-compliance on the downside, in effect trying to run before crawling or walking. It may be that the government will in time move in that direction, but Bill S-211, a transparency bill, is what is in front of us for a vote.

I do not want to be presumptuous, but I believe that Bill S-211 enjoys support in the House, as it did in the Senate. Looking ahead, and I know that is dangerous, I do not want this to be a Potemkin bill, a bill that looks good on paper, but is ineffective because the bureaucracy finds all kinds of reasons to not be ready for the implementation date.

We have enjoyed the support of the four ministers to date, and I want to applaud them for following through on the platform commitments made by both the Liberal and Conservative parties in the last election. It will now be up to them to ensure the compliance is as easy as it is effective. Lessons can be learned from the U.K. and Australia, both of which have similar legislation.

This bill would transform Canada from laggard to leader in this space. It would compel all governments to adhere to the same standards that we expect from Canadian businesses. We can hardly impose these standards on businesses, and yet give governments in Canada a free pass.

I know that businesses are gearing up. I can tell from both my emails and my telephone calls. I would hope that Canadian governments will be as diligent in their preparations for the implementation of this bill. As I have said, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Models for the practicalities of this bill exist in other jurisdictions, and the minister can shape the demands of this bill to produce first-class data and first-class compliance.

In addition, I would encourage the Government of Canada to seek out other governments, in particular the governments of Australia and the United Kingdom, in order to maximize the collective opportunities. A three-nation web of mutually complementary reporting is far more effective than three nations operating individually.

As we can see, this bill is more carrot than stick. I hope that the stick of fines, investigations, naming and shaming will not have to be used too frequently. I am hoping that the carrot will create a high level of compliance deep into the business community to the benefit of us all.

While due diligence legislation may be ultimately the way to go, it is not what is on offer today. Properly executed at this time, I am prepared to trade a high level of compliance from a massively greater number of companies in exchange for a low level of compliance from very few companies.

Finally, this is what others have said about this legislation.

Matt Friedman, CEO of the Mekong Club, who has been in this business for around 30 years, stated, “The importance of this legislation is that it will educate Canadian companies/government agencies about this issue; help companies to look deeper into their supply chains to better understand their potential vulnerability; and ensure that those involved do what is needed to keep workers safe all over the world. It will also allow consumers to see which companies are stepping up to address this topic.”

Michael Messenger, president of World Vision, stated, “Canadians don’t want to be inadvertently contributing to the child labour crisis every time they shop. As child labour and risky imports continue to rise,—”

They have over the four years that we have been on this file.

“—supply chain laws are imperative to Canada’s efforts to protect and promote the rights of boys and girls around the world. With supply chain laws in place, consumers, companies, and the federal government will be able to work together to ensure every purchase in Canada is an ethical one.”

Stephen Pike, a partner with Gowling WLG, stated, “Bill S-211 has made outstanding progress to date through the legislative process. The House of Commons should take this unique opportunity right now to advance the interests of Canada and all Canadians in the fight against forced labour and child labour in supply chains.”

Lastly, Chris Crewther, the MP for Mornington in the Parliament of Victoria in Australia, stated, “When I was a Federal Member of Parliament...I instigated, led and undertook the Inquiry into Australia establishing a Modern Slavery Act, produced the recommendations in 'Hidden in Plain Sight', and brought about Australia's Modern Slavery Act....

“It has transformed the way Australian businesses, organizations and society looks at the crimes of modern slavery, resulting not only in entities paying attention to and reporting annually on modern slavery in their organizations...but working more deeply to actually look into, eliminate and remediate modern [supply chain] slavery....”

“...I've always adopted the saying: 'don't let the perfect get in the way of the good.' Thus, I encourage Canadian parliamentarians to see [this Bill] through....”

Madam Speaker, this bill is timely, it is broadly supported, it has ministerial buy-in and it puts our nation in a position of leadership. I recommend it to you and to our colleagues.

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

11:20 a.m.


Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

Clearly, there is an incredible amount of support for this bill in the House because it deals with an obvious issue. No one wants to encourage slavery or child labour. One has to wonder why Canada's current legislation and practices allow for the importation of such products. Now is the time to act, so let us do that.

One might also wonder whether the necessary resources will be allocated. It is all well and good to set out good intentions in a bill, but the government needs to put the necessary resources in place and ensure that it has the relevant information.

I had an opportunity recently to give a speech about the situation of the Uighurs and, at that time, I learned about forced labour in certain regions. That issue is also mentioned in this bill.

I would like my colleague to reassure me in that regard. Is his government prepared to allocate the necessary resources so that we have the information we need?

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

11:20 a.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, those are excellent questions. I wish I could wave a magic wand and give the member the absolute assurance that the government would do that, hence it is the reason for devoting part of my speech to the implementation part of the bill.

The first question is on gaps. Yes, there are immense gaps. In a relevant period of time, the United States has stopped 1,400 container loads of products, which are suspected to have slave components in them. In a similar period of time, we stopped one. It went to a lawsuit and was released. There was none.

We have gaps. I am hoping that this bill would stimulate the government to be far more diligent and devote the resources that are needed.

The resources on this particular—

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

11:20 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I have to ask for other questions.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Peace River—Westlock.

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

11:20 a.m.


Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his hard work on this file.

Part of the challenge with whatever we are doing on this is that the problem is immense. Could the hon. member talk about some trends in human trafficking around the world, and what is the estimated grand total of enslaved people around the world?

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

11:20 a.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member points to an enormous problem that is ever growing. In fact, I would point to the weekend's newspapers talking about an issue of Mexican labourers in northern Toronto. The numbers are very difficult to come by. Whatever estimates we have are way below the reality. In that respect, it is very difficult.

I want to cover off the issue of resources. I do not think this bill is going to be resource heavy. What it really requires is getting the Aussie and U.K. legislation, looking at them, taking what we think is best for us, putting up a website and making some elements in the public safety ministry responsible for it.

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

11:20 a.m.


Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, Oxfam Canada, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch want to hold companies accountable for their actions and to allow victims of human rights and environmental harm the statutory rights to bring a civil lawsuit against those companies.

This bill does not do that. The NDP tried to move six amendments at committee to make that change. The government members and the committee members voted against it. Some would argue that not ensuring there is action to hold companies accountable is more damaging than just pretending something is being done.

Why did the government members vote against the amendments that the NDP put forward to address the issues around child labour and modern-day slavery?

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

11:20 a.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, I take issue with the member saying this would require companies to do nothing. This is a substantial change in practice. That is number one.

Number two is that I disagree profoundly with the analysis the hon. member made. The two places where due diligence legislation has been applied have been ineffective with massive non-compliance. I think it has resulted in one lawsuit over the course of time.

What is on offer here today is not a due diligence bill. It is a transparency bill. I would argue that the Australian, British and other experiences have shown that companies that operate in those jurisdictions are in fact cognizant of their supply chains, much more than in the absence of this legislation.

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

11:25 a.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

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.

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

11:35 a.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Montarville, QC

Madam Speaker, I first want to address what our Conservative colleague just said. By his own admission, the bill is clearly flawed, but the Conservatives have decided to support it anyway simply to ensure that we do not take more time to get to the bottom of things. To me, that does not seem like the right or appropriate approach to take.

By way of introduction, I want to make three comments, which I hope will be rather brief, before I get into the substance of the matter and explain why we will be voting against this bill at report stage. Here is my first comment.

When he asked his question, my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé did a great job explaining why we are voting against this bill at report stage. We voted in favour of this bill in principle because we support the idea of having tighter controls on imports coming in from forced labour, slavery and child labour. However, as my Conservative colleague noted, as we listened to some of the witnesses we realized that this bill has major flaws. As the member who introduced it admitted, this is a bill that simply encourages transparency, essentially relies on corporate goodwill, and does not provide for the necessary checks or for what we call due diligence. As my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé noted, the government will not necessarily follow up to ensure that goods produced from forced labour or child labour are indeed not imported into Canada. I think that is a major flaw of this bill.

As my NDP colleague stated a little earlier, we tried to make some amendments to the bill in committee in light of the testimony we heard. However, the government had absolutely no intention of compromising. Considering the circumstances, we voted against the bill in committee. Consequently, and understandably, we will be voting against the bill given what has been reported today about what happened in committee.

My second introductory comment is simple: I believe that the sponsors of this bill, Senator Miville‑Dechêne and the member for Scarborough—Guildwood have very good intentions. I believe that their reasons for introducing this bill are honourable. They put their heart and soul into the bill and worked very hard on it. I believe they deserve our utmost respect for the work that has been done to date, but it is unfortunately not enough for us to vote in favour of this bill.

Third, I simply want to say that there is time before third reading to do something that would allow us to vote for this bill.

With that in mind, I would like to explain why we went from voting in favour of the bill in principle to voting against it in committee and today. As some of my colleagues have pointed out, the bill does not go far enough. It does nothing to ensure that the necessary checks will be performed to confirm that the spirit of the bill is being respected, in other words, to prevent the importation into Canada of goods made with forced labour, slavery or child labour. Beyond the principle, beyond the intentions, there is no follow-up. That is a fundamental flaw in this bill. Several witnesses who appeared before the committee told us that international experience has shown that once legislatures have passed legislation that simply calls for transparency, they stop there and do not go any further. If we want to go further than that, we should not pass a bill that does nothing beyond suggesting transparency.

Some might feel that this bill does nothing more than ease our conscience. It targets transparency and leans on corporate goodwill, but that is all.

My colleague from Edmonton Strathcona put forward amendments to make the bill more hard-hitting, to give it real teeth so we do not have to just cross our fingers and hope companies will get on board. The government and the Conservative Party rejected every single one of her proposed amendments.

Indeed, some people were in a big rush to shut down the committee's work, supposedly to avoid yet more delays, as my Conservative colleague said. Again, I do not think that rushing legislation is the right thing to do, especially when everyone knows the bill has some major flaws.

I asked that the Minister of Labour appear before the committee because there were rumours that the government had prepared a whole slew of amendments to improve the bill. To my surprise, when we studied the bill in committee, there was not a single amendment from the government, although we had been assured that the government had at least 20 amendments. Not a single one was introduced. What happened behind closed doors? I have absolutely no idea.

From what I understood, the Minister of Labour was persuaded by a number of people, including probably one of the sponsors of the bill, to withdraw the government's amendments and propose a more robust bill instead. I thought that was great, and I wanted the minister to come tell us about it publicly in committee. We invited him, but he declined.

I ran into the minister by chance at an event. He told me that he did not want to appear before the committee to say he had nothing to say because there were no amendments. That being said, he did tell me he intended to introduce a more robust bill along the same lines as Bill S-211.

I told him that that was great and asked him why he would not appear before the committee to tell us about it. He told me that he did not yet have the bill in his hands and he did not want to appear before the committee to say that the bill was not ready yet. I replied that, in that case, he needed to find a way to make public the government's intention in order to allay the concerns of some non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, that the bill would provide only for the transparency measure and would not go any further to ensure the necessary due diligence.

Since then, the minister has not made any public commitment to that effect, so the message he has been sending thus far is not very encouraging. There is still time, however, because we are approaching third reading stage.

In his speech, my colleague referred to a letter he sent to all members on February 28. That letter said this bill will transform Canada from laggard to leader on this issue.

I am sorry, but it takes more than just passing a bill on transparency to be a leader. If the government's position is that transparency would make Canada a leader, then I have concerns. That says to me that the Liberals do not have any real intentions of going further.

Accordingly, I have no choice today than to be consistent with the decision we made in committee and say that at report stage, the stage where we report on what happened in committee, we are voting against this bill. However, I want to assure my colleague, as I did in committee, that we are still open to the possibility of voting in favour of the bill at third reading provided we get a commitment from the government that it is ready and willing to go further than just passing a bill on transparency.

If my colleague can convince the minister to follow through on the informal commitment he made in my presence, he can be assured that we will vote in favour of the bill at third reading stage.

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

11:45 a.m.


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.

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

11:50 a.m.


Sameer Zuberi Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank all the members who have expressed themselves thus far on this extremely important piece of legislation, Bill S-211.

We need to take a step back and look at the path this bill has taken. First off, the very notion of forced labour being enacted into legislation has been something that this Parliament has been discussing for several years. Thankfully, we are on the cusp of actually passing something: from the vantage point of where we are currently of having nothing in terms of a piece of legislation that directly deals with forced labour to having a piece of legislation that will address forced labour head-on.

We can just take a step back and look at how procedure works. We know that it would be great to strengthen this legislation, but if we were to do so, it would require us to go back to the Senate to have those amendments approved within the Senate, and then it would have to wind its way back over here to the House, which would create a significant delay for us to actually pass something. That is why this is a moment that we actually must seize to pass this legislation.

In terms of Bill S-211, I would like to thank Senator Miville-Dechêne and the member for Scarborough—Guildwood for their advocacy on this issue and for shepherding this and bringing it to the point where we see it right now.

This legislation requires that large companies and the federal government examine supply chains and identify forced labour, so they have to go through their supply chains, which is a lot of work. It also has a compliance mechanism. Therefore, it has teeth. It would levy significant fines on companies that do not comply with the legislation, for up to $250,000. That is important, not only in terms of the monetary amount, but also in terms of the naming and shaming of those companies, which I will get to later on. The naming and shaming of companies, if they do not comply with this legislation, is quite powerful. It also requires that companies provide reports in terms of how their supply chains are operating and whether there is forced labour or child labour within those supply chains.

There is an added component in terms of teeth with this legislation, which gives the minister the authority to ban imports of products if this legislation is not respected by companies. It also gives power to the minister to have warrants to seize information within companies to ensure that there is compliance with the legislation. This is not just a value statement or an airy-fairy piece of legislation. It actually has teeth and mechanisms to force compliance.

Thus far, several of our allies, such as the United Kingdom and Australia, have similar legislation to this. This is critical so that we can send a signal to companies that forced labour is unacceptable. The Canadian government thus far has addressed this issue of forced labour and child labour through trade agreements that it has with other countries, but Bill S-211 will make it more robust.

A lot has been said about the Uighur region within the debate on Bill S-211. It has been highlighted that America has an interesting piece of legislation around a rebuttable presumption, where everything coming in from the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region is assumed to be produced with forced labour. This chamber has discussed the condition of the Uighur people, that at least one million are in camps where they are forced into labour. This chamber has heard that 48% of polysilicon, which is the base product of solar panels, is produced within the Uighur region. We have heard that 20% of cotton is produced within the Uighur region, and 35% of tomato products, which are the base material of pizza, pasta sauce, etc., are also produced within the Uighur region.

This is an issue that we have been seized by. This legislation would help us address that concern, to ensure that Canadians are not unwittingly importing forced labour products. While I would love to see and do hope that there will be more robust legislation in the future, I think this legislation, as it is currently, is an important mechanism and an important addition to what is already out there. As some have said, having something is better than having nothing, and we are going to do something important by passing this.

I would like us to take a step back and think about what happened several years ago in Bangladesh, when we learned about the garment industry and the factories that were destroyed. That caused us, as Canadians, to reflect upon where our goods are produced and the conditions in which our clothing is manufactured and created, and to be mindful about forced labour.

That really made us think about the products we are purchasing and ask a serious question: Are our products being produced by labour in terrible conditions, through forced labour or child labour? At that point in time, some companies were named and shamed. Canadians asked for a much higher standard with respect to the products that were being produced in these garment factories.

That is exactly what this legislation will do. It will give a chance for companies to be held accountable. If they do not reach the standard required or if we look at their supply chains and see that their products are produced from forced labour, they will be named and shamed. That is the power of this legislation. Similar to how several years ago the garment industry in Bangladesh was looked at critically and examined carefully, companies in the future would be given the same scrutiny.

I would also like to highlight that certain companies have actually stepped up and taken a hit in dealing with forced labour. H&M is one of those companies. It has pulled out of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and ensured that it is not taking goods and content produced within that region. We need to highlight the positive examples.

I will conclude by saying that it is important for Canadians, and not only legislators and those in government, to highlight this issue and pass laws around it. However, it is also important for Canadians to demand that their companies not take goods that are produced from forced labour and child labour. It is through this call that companies will change their behaviour. Canadians have asked that companies go green, that we produce goods that are respectful of the environment. This same call needs to be made when it comes to respecting labour and the workforce.

I will leave it at that. I am happy that members of the loyal opposition are supporting this legislation. I would ask that all parties in this House do the same, the reason being that we need to have something on the books that holds companies to account. This legislation not only puts out important values but also has teeth.

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



The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

The House resumed from December 1, 2022, consideration of the motion that Bill C-26, An Act respecting cyber security, amending the Telecommunications Act and making consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Telecommunications ActGovernment Orders



Gerald Soroka Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Kootenay—Columbia.

I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-26, the critical cyber systems protection act, introduced in June 2022 and split into parts 1 and 2. The former aims to amend the Telecommunications Act to include:

the promotion of the security of the Canadian telecommunications system as an objective of the Canadian telecommunications policy and to authorize the Governor in Council and the Minister of Industry to direct telecommunications service providers to do anything, or refrain from doing anything, that is necessary to secure the Canadian telecommunications system.

The latter outlines the introduction of the critical cyber systems protection act, which would create a new regulatory regime requiring designated critical infrastructure providers to protect their cyber systems.

I would like to emphasize that the safety and security of our telecom industry, with particular reference to foreign adversaries such as the Beijing Communist Party, has been a broad theme in communications lately. This is especially concerning the controversial Bill C-11, the online streaming act, or, should I say, government censorship, and new revelations from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS, flagging election interference from those involved with the Beijing Communist Party.

We Conservatives believe it is of paramount importance to defend the rights and interests of Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Thus, Canada's national security should be strongly well equipped to be prepared for cyberwarfare threats that could be presented by emerging digital technologies, intelligent adversaries or authoritarian artificial intelligence.

The NDP-Liberal government has had a long record of denying Canadians the truth. Instead of protecting their rights and freedoms, the government uses deflection tactics to divide Canadians, pitting them against one another to distract from the real issue: that the NDP-Liberal government has been too slow to address cyber-threats. For this critical lack of action, Canada has seen several serious incidents occur with no substantive legislative response for over seven years. After years of chronic mismanagement and utter failure, it is time for the government to step aside and let the Conservatives turn Canadians' hurt into hope.

We support the stringent and thorough examination of this legislation. We will always defend and secure the security of Canadians, especially with regard to cybersecurity in an increasingly digitized world. There is a pressing demand to ensure the security of Canada's critical cyber-infrastructure against cyber-threats. Let us not forget that these very systems lay the foundation of the country as a whole. It is these cyber systems that run our health care, banking and energy systems, all of which should be guarded against the cybercriminals, hackers and foreign adversaries who want to infiltrate them.

Akin to several other Liberal ideas, a number of aspects of this bill require further review, and it should thus be sent straight to committee where it can be further dissected and refined to ensure that all flaws are addressed. One can only imagine the disaster that a hospital system crash would add to the already horrible wait times in emergency rooms and shortages of medical professionals thanks to the NDP-Liberal government. The results would be disastrous. Furthermore, disruption of critical cyber-infrastructure in health care can bring severe consequences, such as enabling cybercriminals to access confidential patient health care information.

While we understand that it is imperative to provide the resources necessary to effectively defend against cyber-threats, it is still equally important to ensure that the government does not overreach on its specified mandate through Bill C-26. A research report written by Christopher Parsons called “Cybersecurity Will Not Thrive in Darkness” highlights some recommendations to improve Bill C-26. Among these recommendations is an emphasis on drafting legislation to correct accountability deficiencies, while highlighting amendments that would impose some restrictions on the range of powers that the government would be able to wield. These restrictions are critical, especially concerning the sweeping nature of Bill C-26, the critical cyber systems protection act, as outlined in parts 1 and 2, which I have explained in my opening statement.

The sweeping nature of this legislation is not new, particularly for the Liberal government. It even goes back to Bill C-11, the online streaming act, which essentially placed the Liberal government as the online content regulator controlling what Canadians see or listen to online. If members ask me, the government policing what Canadians view online is a cyber-threat in its own way, but I will not get into that right now.

There are other flaws in Bill C-26 that I would like to highlight, which brings us back to having Bill C-26 closely reviewed in committee.

In terms of civil liberties and privacy, some civil liberties groups have flagged serious concerns regarding the scope and lack of oversight around the powers that may be granted to the government under Bill C-26. In September last year, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, along with other groups, released a joint letter of concern regarding Bill C-26, highlighting that the bill is “deeply problematic”, like several other questionable Liberal policies. They went on to further explain that Bill C-26 “risks undermining our privacy rights, and the principles of accountable governance and judicial due process”.

From an economic perspective, the bill lacks recognition of foreseeable impacted enterprises, such as small and medium-sized businesses, which will undoubtedly bring forth unintended consequences. According to the Business Council of Canada, some concerns include the lack of transparency seen through the one-way sharing of information. This brings about serious concerns. Operators are required to provide information to the NDP-Liberal government, yet those same operators are not entitled to receive any information back from the government or other cyber-operators. This whole information-sharing regime is lacking and, simply put, completely misses an opportunity to implement a transparent information-sharing system that would benefit all parties involved.

There is also concern regarding government overreach. Considering what powers would be granted to the government to order what a telecommunications provider has to do under Bill C-26, I would have expected to see sufficient evidence to support this overreach. However, that was not addressed at all, if not vaguely, in this bill. This, on top of blatant disregard for the recognition of privacy and other charter-protected rights, proves how the government only cares about granting itself more and more power, even in the face of blatant transparency and accountability concerns like election interference or the Bill C-11 censorship bill.

I only highlighted a few of the several highly valid concerns regarding this critically flawed bill. Obviously, it is important to defend national cybersecurity and defend against cybercriminals or foreign threats. However, there is a fine line between upholding the best interests of Canadians and just using another faulty bill as a power grab for the NDP-Liberal government, despite concerns regarding cyber systems, privacy and security infrastructure.

We Conservatives believe that it is of paramount importance to truly defend the rights and interests of Canadians from coast to coast to coast. One of the best ways this can be done is by securing Canada's cyber-infrastructure from attacks. While we welcome the idea of protecting the interests of Canadians in terms of cybersecurity, we want to flag that Bill C-26 has some highly concerning content that should be closely reviewed and discussed in committee to correct flaws and prevent potential overreach from the NDP-Liberal government. In the interest of protecting Canada's cyber-infrastructure, we must also guard against the sweeping government powers outlined in the critical cyber systems protection act.

Telecommunications ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, on the one hand, the member says that he is really concerned about cybersecurity, and then on the other hand, the member is saying that the government is doing too much and that he is concerned about overreach and is very skeptical. Then he uses examples of health care and talks about waiting lists and so forth. I am a bit confused about exactly where the Conservative Party is with respect to the legislation.

Would the member not agree that, at the very least, many of the issues or concerns he raised might be somewhat irrelevant to the debate and that parts of his comments would probably be better served if the bill went to committee? He seems to give me the impression in his comments that the Conservative Party supports the principles of the legislation. Does the member believe that he will be voting in favour of the bill so that it can go to committee?