Letter to Minister Ng regarding launch of CORE study on possible use of child labour in supply chains of Canadian garment companies
December 14, 2021
The Honourable Mary Ng, MP
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Dear Minister Ng:
This letter is to notify you that I intend to launch a study of the establishment of human rights due diligence by Canadian garment companies operating abroad with respect to child rights including the right to be free from the worst forms of child labour.
Why the CORE is launching this study
The abuse of children’s rights and child labour in the garment sector is recognized domestically and internationally as a persistent and longstanding human rights issue.
The global garment supply chain is at high-risk for child labour as it faces unique challenges in ensuring transparency and accountability. These challenges have particular dimensions for Canada’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who make up 90% of our garment sector and for whom efforts to strengthen respect for child rights may be ineffective or undermined.
The following factors were considered in deciding to launch this study:
Child labour negatively impacts an internationally recognized human right: CORE considers child labour a human rights abuse in accordance with the standards in International Labour Organization Convention 138 to which Canada is a signatory. The International Labour Organization recognizes child labour as any work depriving children of their childhood, potential and dignity, and which is harmful to their physical and mental development and/or interferes with their schooling. It includes the worst forms of child labour, such as trafficking and slavery.
Systemic in character: Globally, child labour is a persistent and longstanding human rights issue affecting the garment sector. Information is lacking regarding its prevalence within the Canadian garment supply chain and the measures taken by Canadian garment companies to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for adverse impacts on child rights including the worst forms of child labour.
Underserved groups and communities: In 2020, approximately seventy-nine million children around the world were performing hazardous work, directly endangering their health, safety, and moral development. Overall, more boys than girls are involved in this work. Girls may bear disproportionate impacts because they are more likely to carry the added burdens of household and family care duties. Child labourers also tend to come from immigrant and refugee communities that are economically disadvantaged and excluded from social benefits.
Feasibility or appropriateness: Protecting child rights in the global economy is an important goal for governments, companies and the public. By focussing on a sector of Canadian companies operating abroad and utilizing external expertise where appropriate, the study will contribute to the growing body of knowledge relevant to assessing and establishing human rights due diligence including in relation to the worst forms of child labour.
Impact: The garment sector is a high-risk supply chain for child labour. It faces unique challenges in ensuring transparency in its supply chains. These challenges have particular dimensions for SMEs and this is especially relevant to Canada’s garment sector, where 90% of the companies are SMEs.
Strategic relevance: Increasingly, Canadian garment companies, policy makers, legislators and others in Canada are considering what measures are effective in combatting forced labour including the worst forms of child labour. Knowledge about the barriers to ensuring transparency in the supply chains of Canadian garment companies is relevant to this ongoing and growing consideration. Given that Canadian garment companies are overwhelmingly SMEs, the study will support the strengthening of efforts by Canadian garment companies to operate responsibly abroad.
Scope of the study
The study will consider the existence and extent of policies and practices in the operations abroad of Canadian garment companies that put children’s rights at risk, including those contributing to the use of child labour that is mentally, physically, socially, or morally dangerous and harmful to children. As well, the study will examine the establishment of human rights due diligence by Canadian garment companies to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for those risks. It will begin with an anonymous in-depth study of Canadian companies about the barriers to ensuring transparency in their supply chains and their establishment of human rights due diligence including child rights impact assessments.
This study will be conducted in two phases. Phase one is expected to conclude in the first half of 2022, at which time the scope and timelines for Phase two will be determined.
Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise
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