New report on child labour raises call for supply chain transparency law

A new report says Canadian consumers may be unwittingly buying goods made by child labourers.

OTTAWA — A new report says Canadian consumers may be unwittingly buying goods made by child labourers.

And those who want to make ethical buying decisions are largely in the dark about what companies are doing to prevent child labour in their supply chains, says the World Vision Canada report to be released today.

The organization is calling for a new law to force companies that do business in Canada to report annually on the measures they take to ensure that factories in other countries aren’t using minors to make products for the Canadian marketplace.

Similar legislation exists in other jurisdictions, such as the United Kingdom and California the U.S. Congress is reviewing a proposed federal law.

“There is an opportunity here for Canada to get on board,” said Simon Lewchuk, who has been heading up the initiative for World Vision Canada.

“It’s an issue of promoting the Canadian brand for responsible business it’s an opportunity to ensure that we are competitive too.”

Lewchuk said transparency legislation would be a way to pressure companies into doing more to prevent child labourers from working on goods made overseas.

“The legislation is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. The hope is simply by requiring companies to report on this, that will then be the basis of a better dialogue between consumers, investors and these companies.”

The recommendation is one of several in the report, which comes one day after Canada ratified an International Labour Organization convention on child labour that proclaims the minimum age for work should be 15.

The organization has been pushing the federal government for more than a year to craft transparency legislation. As a first step, Lewchuk said the government should set up a working group made up of representatives from civil society groups, businesses, and investors to develop recommendations on new legislation.

Government documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act show federal officials raised the idea last year to then-labour minister Kellie Leitch, writing that if there was a trend among allies to have transparency laws, it would “present an opportunity for Canada to show leadership by examining the possibility of adopting a similar legislation.”

Labour Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk said the government would have to study any proposal before crafting a new law.

“We don’t have child labour here, but some companies may use child labour somewhere along their supply chain,” she said in an interview ahead of ratifying the ILO convention.

Mihychuk said some multinational companies based in Canada already disclose information as part of a corporate social responsibility agenda.

Among those companies is apparel manufacturer Gildan, named in the World Vision Canada report as a model for other companies.

The Quebec-based company regularly runs surprise audits of overseas factories: In 2015, it ran 337 such audits to ensure the minimum working age in factories is 18, and that workers have adequate compensation, benefits, and hours of work. The results are posted online for consumers to read.

Peter Iliopoulos, the company’s senior vice-president of corporate affairs, said the company sees the work as key to their business strategy and brand image.

“It gives the assurance to our customers, and our customers’ customers…that they’re buying a product of superior quality that’s manufactured under the highest level of social compliance and environmental compliance practices in the industry,” he said.

“We feel that’s a very important differentiating factor for us versus competing products in the apparel industry.”

Just Posted

Man arrested in 2014 drug bust finally getting sentenced

Convicted drug dealer unsuccessfully tried to get case thrown out because of delays

New trail being developed through North Red Deer woods

This forest belt is known for having rough sleeper camps

Moms visit Red Deer’s overdose prevention site

Moms Stop The Harm meet in Red Deer

Lacombe County land dispute to be resolved

Landowners next to new Kuhnen Natural Area feared trespassing and liability issues

Average fall, cold winter ahead, The Weather Network predicts

Canadians can expect average temperatures this fall that will give way to… Continue reading

WATCH: 2019 Canada Winter Games will leave a lasting legacy, say organizers

It leaves Red Deer with the infrastructure and confidence to host future such events

Your community calendar

Wednesday Central Alberta Historical Society annual general meeting is 6 p.m. at… Continue reading

Opinion: City must aim for zero per cent tax hike

Red Deer city council is discussing the benefits of multi-year budgets, which… Continue reading

NHL players stay with CBA, labour peace set to at least 2022

The National Hockey League will play its next three seasons without the… Continue reading

Tre Roberson, Stampeders edge Tiger-Cats for third win in a row

Stampeders 19 Tiger-Cats 18 CALGARY — A little bit of insight from… Continue reading

Veteran quarterback Harris’s status questionable for Edmonton Eskimos

He’s one of only two CFL quarterbacks to start all of his… Continue reading

Rapid rise of co-working providing needed space as big cities feel crunch

TORONTO — When Rahul Raj was ready to move his small but… Continue reading

No Deal: Auto workers strike against GM in contract dispute

DETROIT — More than 49,000 members of the United Auto Workers walked… Continue reading

Most Read