The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs has missed an opportunity to enact real change to help end modern slavery.Yesterday, Bill S-211, the Fighting Against Forced Labour and Child Labour in Supply Chains Act, came back from the Standing Committee unchanged. This means that Bill S-211 remains a flawed and meaningless piece of legislation. The Bill is nonetheless expected to pass into law as early as next week with multi-party support.
Bill S-211 only requires Canadian companies to report on whether they took steps to identify the use of forced labour in their supply chains. It does not require companies to eliminate their use of forced labour or to respect human rights. Without consequences for their actions, companies have no incentive to prevent human rights abuses and those harmed have no recourse to justice.
“The bill came back from the Standing Committee as ineffective as ever. Bill S-211 merely creates the appearance of action to end modern slavery without actually doing anything about it,” said Emily Dwyer, Policy Director at the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA). “Simply put, a law that requires you to report but does not require you to stop the harm you are causing may be easy to pass, but it is also meaningless.”
The text of the bill is now final. Bill S-211 will do nothing to address the widespread reports of serious human rights abuses and environmental damage – from forced labour, to killings, to permanent land and water contamination – linked to the activities of Canadian companies and their supply chains.
What is needed is for Canada to enact legislation that would require companies to change their behaviour, not just report on it. What is needed is a Bill that would require companies to review all business activities, identify actual and potential risks to people and the planet, take steps to mitigate and address these risks, and ensure remedy for those harmed.
“We are calling on Canada’s Labour Minister to publicly announce just that in the coming days,” said Aidan Gilchrist-Blackwood, Network Coordinator at the CNCA. “The government can fulfil its commitment to eradicating forced labour and other serious human rights abuses in Canadian supply chains by promptly introducing a comprehensive due diligence bill, like bill C-262.”
Bill S-211 does nothing to prevent Canadian companies from profiting from operations around the world that harm both people and the planet.
“MPs should vote against it when the Bill comes before the House of Commons for final reading,” said Dwyer. “If MPs want Canada to take meaningful action on forced labour, saying ‘No’ to this flawed and meaningless anti-slavery legislation is now the right thing to do.”
- Comparative Chart: Don’t Mistake Reporting for Accountability
- Submission Summary / Cover letter
- Full CNCA submission to the Foreign Affairs Committee study on S-211
- Letter to Prime Minister signed by over 100 academics and legal experts calling for Canada to make human rights and environmental due diligence mandatory