Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise during this last week of the 42nd Parliament to represent my riding of Windsor—Tecumseh and voice our concerns and issues with free trade agreements in general, and specifically with Bill C-100, an act to implement the free trade agreement between Canada, the United States of America and Mexico.
New Democrats understand the importance of our trading relationship with the U.S., our largest trading partner, and we believe that a better NAFTA can improve the welfare of all North Americans. New Democrats are in favour of international trade agreements that respect human rights, the rights of workers, the environment and all of our international obligations. In fact, we supported the bill at second reading and proposed some excellent amendments that would have made for a truly progressive free trade agreement, the very sort of agreement that the current government pretends to support but never actually seems to sign.
The other parties like to take simplistic jabs at the NDP, as happened earlier tonight with the parliamentary secretary saying that the NDP has never supported a free trade agreement, ever. Well, I would ask the other parties to name just one trade agreement that actually respects human rights, the rights of workers, the environment and all of our international obligations, including to indigenous people. The other parties cannot answer that, because it has not happened yet. However, we had the opportunity to improve this key trade deal and make it about improving the lives of Canadians, forging ties for sustainable jobs and really leveraging our relationship.
In my role as vice-chair of the subcommittee on international human rights, one important issue related to trade agreements is supply chain transparency, or supply chain due diligence. How exactly does a nation ensure that no product finds its way into its borders that was not made by utilizing child labour or forced labour? This issue surrounding modern slavery is complex and includes multi-faceted problems.
According to recent figures released by the International Labour Organization, a total of 152 million children, 64 million girls and 88 million boys, are all in child labour globally, accounting for almost one in 10 of all children worldwide. Nearly half of those in child labour, 73 million children in absolute terms, are in hazardous work that directly endangers their health, safety and development. Children in employment, a broader measure comprising both child labour and permitted forms of employment involving children of legal working age, number 218 million. Widely reported instances of child labour and forced labour in the global supply chains of everyday goods, such as coffee, seafood, apparel, palm oil and the metals used in our electronics, have linked multinational companies with some of these human rights abuses.
Canadian companies are not immune from these risks. According to World Vision's research, 1,200 companies operating in Canada imported goods at risk of being produced by child labour or forced labour in 2015, worth a total of approximately $34 billion. The majority of companies in Canada disclose very little meaningful information about the policies, practices and due diligence they have in place to prevent child labour and forced labour in their global supply chains. Obviously, this makes it hard for our friends in civil society, not to mention consumers, investors and trade unions, to constructively engage with these companies. It is even more difficult to hold them accountable to their human rights responsibilities.
This is not for want of proposals out there that might bring an end to forced labour in these supply chains. First and foremost, we must get children into schools. As enrolment rates increase, child labour declines. Since 2000, governments have increased the number of children in school by 110 million, making it much less likely that those children will end up in the labour market.
Next, a strong legal framework must be enacted. When governments enforce child labour laws through effective inspections and penalties for employers who exploit children, child labour is less likely to flourish.
Without targeted legislation requiring more information on corporate supply chains, we can only guess whether abuses perpetrated by Canadian corporations overseas, as alleged in several civil lawsuits in Canadian courts, are common occurrences or isolated incidents.
Human Rights Watch calls for the beginning of a process for the adoption of new, international, legally binding standards that oblige governments to require businesses to conduct human rights due diligence in global supply chains. UNICEF has made similar recommendations.
Free trade agreements are international treaties that should put human rights at the forefront, not as side agreements. These are the issues that should be focused on first and foremost and form the basis when we are renegotiating trade agreements. NAFTA 2.0 is a perfect example of that.
The original NAFTA was negotiated by Conservatives and signed by Liberals in 1994. People were promised jobs, rising productivity and access to the largest market in the world. Instead, Canada lost over 400,000 manufacturing jobs and its textile industry. In addition, Canada paid millions of dollars in court fees and penalties when sued by corporations under investor state dispute resolution mechanisms.
The Democrats in the U.S. are working hard to achieve a better NAFTA. They want improved labour provisions that will protect jobs; they want to fight big pharma on the extension of drug patents, which will result in higher costs; they want to ensure that the environment is protected, and they want to ensure clear, meaningful enforceability.
Canadians expect the Liberal government to push for these progressive changes. The new NAFTA, or CUSMA, resulted in illegal tariffs on aluminum and steel for over a year and the devastation of Canadian businesses and workers. The tariffs were lifted on May 20, 2019, and the cost has been incredibly high. Canada has lost over 1,000 well-paying, community-building jobs while watching these businesses close.
In my riding of Windsor—Tecumseh and the rest of Windsor-Essex County, we know the devastating effects of poorly negotiated trade agreements like the first version of NAFTA: the race to the bottom. The Liberals scoffed at our warnings then, and now they are presenting today's version, which is CUSMA.
At its core, the new NAFTA is about giving more power to corporations, as it gives enforceable rights to investors and limits the powers of current and future governments and the citizens who elect them. For New Democrats to support this agreement, CUSMA must not set the stage for exploitation, and it must protect the poorest and most marginalized people. For that reason, I move an amendment at this time.
I move, seconded by the member for Windsor West:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-100, An Act to implement the Agreement between Canada, the United States of America and the United Mexican States, because it:
a) fails to improve labour provisions that are necessary to protect good jobs;
b) allows for an extension of drug patents that will significantly increase the cost of medicine for Canadians;
c) leaves the environment vulnerable due to the absence of clear, enforceable protection provisions;
d) is being rushed through the legislative process, without adequate time and attention for such a crucial trade agreement;
e) will shift the levers of power within the economy away from governments and workers, in favour of corporations, by weakening public regulations on public health and the environment; and
f) puts the poorest and most marginalized Canadians at further risk by failing to ensure the protection of human rights, gender equality and inclusive economic growth.