Canada could also be lastly one step nearer to addressing issues of pressured and youngster labour in company provide chains. Lately, the federal government signalled its help of Invoice S-211, which requires firms to yearly report on the steps they’ve taken to stop and cut back the danger of pressured or youngster labour going down of their provide chains.
The invoice has made it by means of the Senate and a second studying within the Commons, suggesting that its possibilities of turning into regulation are sturdy. It’s subsequently unlucky that even when Invoice S-211 turns into regulation it should do little to deal with issues of pressured or youngster labour in provide chains of Canadian firms.
It’s because the invoice, in its present state, is actually a duplicate of the U.Ok.’s Fashionable Slavery Act, which has proved to be ineffective.
When it was first launched in 2015, the Fashionable Slavery Act was regarded as groundbreaking. It raised company consciousness of recent slavery points and drove some firms and traders to hunt methods to eradicate these labour issues. But, research have discovered that, finally, the act didn’t lead to systemic modifications to company behaviour to eradicate labour issues, even in excessive threat areas.
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Equally, in its report, the U.Ok. Monetary Regulatory Council concluded that company reporting below the Fashionable Slavery Act was inadequate and insufficient and that the act had not enabled fashionable slavery points to develop into a priority in lots of boardrooms.
Partly, the failure of the Fashionable Slavery Act to drive systemic modifications in company behaviour is as a result of it focuses solely on reporting necessities, not on truly eradicating pressured or youngster labour from provide chains. Invoice S-211 accommodates this identical flaw, solely holding firms accountable for failing to report on their provide chain practices.
The invoice additionally doesn’t include a mechanism to confirm the accuracy or high quality of the reporting. In consequence, the invoice might give rise to a state of affairs wherein a Canadian firm employs youngster labour in its provide chain, because of solely taking minimal or inadequate steps to stop such abuse, but not be held accountable so long as it duly stories on the steps it took.
A greater method could be to introduce legal guidelines that undertake a “failure to stop” mannequin. Underneath such a mannequin, firms could be held accountable in the event that they failed to stop pressured or youngster labour of their provide chains, topic to a due diligence defence. That’s, if there was proof of pressured or youngster labour in an organization’s provide chain, it might be thought-about to have breached the regulation, until it might show that it was duly diligent in taking all affordable steps to stop the hurt from occurring.
The “failure to stop” mannequin is already utilized by some nations of their bribery legal guidelines. In France, such an method types a part of its Devoir de Vigilance regulation, which seeks to carry firms chargeable for human rights and environmental harms. France has already initiated an motion in opposition to French multinational, Complete, below this regulation.
The French regulation additionally raises questions concerning the scope of company accountability. Each the French regulation, and quite a few different governments — together with Germany, Japan, Norway, and the European Union, amongst others — have launched, or are introducing, due diligence laws that holds companies accountable for each human rights and environmental harms.
With such a motion for broader company accountability underway across the globe, it’s curious why the federal government is myopically targeted solely on addressing labour points. One wonders if that is an try and make up for its failure to stick to its dedication below the renegotiated NAFTA Settlement (now often called CUSMA) to ban the importation of forced-labour items.
In any case, if the federal government is really dedicated to making sure that Canadian companies don’t contribute to human rights harms, it must look past Invoice S-211, as is at the moment drafted. Each the due diligence legal guidelines in France and elsewhere, in addition to circulating personal members’ payments, present alternatives for creating stronger company accountability laws that can assist susceptible individuals and partially restore Canada’s repute as a human rights defender.