May 11, 2023, TORONTO, CANADA – After a decade of advocacy, Canada’s Modern Slavery Act (formerly known as Bill S-211: An Act to enact the Fighting Against Forced Labour and Child Labour in Supply Chains Act and to amend the Customs Tariff) has become law. The Bill was passed on May 3, 2023 and will come into full effect on January 1, 2024.
This law provides the Canadian government and corporations with concrete and meaningful ways to ensure that their supply chains are free from forced and child labour. There are approximately 27.6 million people trapped in forced labour slavery and the latest estimates indicate there are more than 160 million children are involved in child labour. These forms of exploitation threaten a person’s safety, health and in some cases, their lives.
For children, the impact of doing dangerous or risky jobs has a lasting impact on their physical, mental, and social development - impeding their ability to lead healthy adult lives. Injustice like this can affect communities for generations.
This new law, sponsored by Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne, applies to government procurement and corporations producing, importing and selling goods in Canada. It includes:
- A yearly reporting requirement for government institutions and corporations of a certain size to report on the measures they have taken to reduce the risk of forced labour or child labour in their supply chains as well as address instances of forced or child labour.
- A requirement to share the report with the public.
- An independent investigation tool designed to verify compliance with the law.
- Fines and other punishment for companies found in non-compliance with the law.
In addition to the above requirements, the Act amends the Customs Tariff to prohibit the importation of goods produced by forced or child labour. It also requires importers to provide information to the Canada Border Services Agency about the country of origin and production of the goods they import.
"This is a significant step towards eradicating modern-day slavery and child labour in Canada’s supply chains and abroad," said Anu George Canjanathoppil, CEO of International Justice Mission Canada. "We commend Senator Miville-Dechêne for her leadership in championing this bill and the Canadian government for taking action to ensure that Canadian consumers are not inadvertently supporting forced labour."
For years, Canadians have advocated for action by the Canadian government and corporations to increase transparency in supply chains for goods sold in Canada. Canadian consumers want to be confident that they were not contributing to forced labour or child labour. International Justice Mission (IJM), along with other organizations who have pressed the government to create this kind of law, are pleased that this action is finally being taken.
IJM has been advocating for the passage of Bill S-211 since it was introduced in the Senate in 2018. IJM believes that Canadian corporations who are sourcing supplies or final products from countries using forced labour and child labour must change, and in doing so have an opportunity to positively impact justice system reform.
Unhealthy justice systems contribute to an unstable society for everyone, including corporations. It is in the best interest of corporations to ensure stability in their supply chains to achieve their business objectives.
By examining their supply chains and identifying forced labour or child labour (even the risk of it), corporations will then be able to inform police, justice officials and governments of their findings. By sharing evidence of their findings with law enforcement, companies can drastically increase the likelihood that criminals exploiting the vulnerable will be caught and held accountable for their illegal activities.
IJM Canada is grateful to Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne, M.P. John McKay and the rest of the All-Party Group to End Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking for their relentless perseverance to protect vulnerable people from violence.
Read the Act here: https://www.parl.ca/DocumentViewer/en/44-1/bill/S-211/third-reading