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1. Project title

Study on the respect for children's rights and the risk of child labor in the operations and foreign supply chains of Canadian apparel companies.

2. Purpose

The Canadian Ombudsman for Responsible Business Conduct (CORE) will study the efforts of Canadian apparel companies (excluding footwear) to strengthen respect for children's rights; in particular, by addressing the risk of child labour in their overseas operations and supply chains. The study will identify Canadian successes, emerging and best practices, assess risks and impacts, and explore the challenges of ensuring transparency and human rights due diligence ("HRDD") in the apparel supply chain.

3. Background

The July 1, 2020 amendments to Canada's customs tariffs prohibit the importation of goods produced in whole or in part by forced labor. The United States-Mexico-Canada Enforcement Act (CUSMA) provides the basis for the prohibition on the importation into Canada of goods extracted, manufactured or produced by forced labor.

Bill S-211, introduced in the Senate in November 2021, proposes to enact the Combating Forced and Child Labor in Supply Chains Act and to modify the Customs Tariff. It would impose an obligation on certain government and private sector entities to report annually on their measures to prevent and reduce the risk of forced or child labor occurring at any stage of the production of goods manufactured domestically, abroad, or for goods they import.

There are currently no mandatory HRDD standards in Canada.

Canada's efforts to address child labor coincide with 2020 global estimates that 160 million children - 63 million girls and 97 million boys - were child laborers, accounting for 1 in 10 children worldwide. For the first time in 20 years, there was a significant increase in child labor, with children between the ages of five and 11 accounting for more than half of the 160 million child laborers. Seventy-nine million children - aged five to seventeen - are engaged in hazardous work (work that may harm their health, safety or morals), an increase of 6.5 million since 2016.

The apparel supply chain has a high risk of child labour, and Canadian apparel companies face challenges in ensuring transparency in their supply chains. These challenges have particular dimensions for Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that may lack the capacity or resources to address the impacts that their overseas operations could have on human rights, including children's rights.

4. Objectives

The study will examine whether and how Canadian apparel companies address the risk of child labor and ensure respect for children's rights in their overseas operations and supply chains, including by integrating child rights impact assessment (CRIA) into HRDD. The study will do the following:

4.1 Identify transparency-related challenges and opportunities for Canadian apparel companies in their overseas operations, including their supply chain(s):

4.2 Obtain data that will help Canadian apparel companies, civil society and government assess improvements in strengthening respect for children's rights in the operations and overseas supply chains of Canadian apparel companies in the coming years, including:

4.3 Serve as a resource for Canadian apparel companies, policy makers and legislators seeking to strengthen or implement HRDD and other measures related to children's rights, including child labor in overseas operations and supply chains.

5. Key research topics

Key research topics include the following:

6. Methodology

6.1 Interviews with Canadian apparel companies

Nanos Research will lead the data collection by conducting confidential interviews with fifteen Canadian apparel companies with operations that include overseas supply chains. Nanos Research will select participants from a list of Canadian apparel companies operating overseas developed by CORE through public sources.

Each interview will be conducted in English or French and will last approximately 30-45 minutes. Nanos Research will not disclose to CORE or the study's technical experts (The Centre for Child Rights and Business and the Danish Institute for Human Rights) the identity of any company participating in the interviews without the participant's consent. Data collected through the interviews will be reported in aggregate form.

Nanos Research will consider the following factors when selecting participants:

Nanos Research will be responsible for the following:

6.2 Interviews with Canadian and international civil society organizations

CORE will conduct interviews with at least five civil society organizations working in:

These semi-structured interviews will take place virtually and will be based on a brief questionnaire.

7. Specialized technical knowledge

The Centre for Child Rights and Business (The Centre) and the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) (together, the "Technical Experts") will provide expert review, analysis and advice in relation to:

8. Final Report

CORE will publish a final report with a qualitative and quantitative analysis of the data collected through the interviews and make systemic recommendations aimed at strengthening respect for children's rights and addressing the risk of child labour in the Canadian garment sector's operations and overseas supply chains.

9. Second phase

Based on the initial results, CORE could launch a second phase of the study. The second phase would involve working directly with a small number of Canadian companies to strengthen tracking and HRDD with respect to the use of child labor in their overseas operations, including the supply chain(s). CORE will consult with Canadian civil society organizations and the Canadian Apparel Federation on the proposed objectives and methodology if proceeding to the second phase.

10. Calendar

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