Read our Submission to the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development on Canadian Business and Human Rights in the Global Supply Chain.
1. Modern Slavery, Globalization, and International Responses
Various sources suggest that 40 million people continue to be enslaved globally. There is often a
significant relational distance between Canadian companies and the entity using slaves or engaging in
other labour-related human rights violations. However, as the architects of the layers in the supply chain and in the labour chain, it is reasonable to expect businesses to take steps to ensure that the
outsourcing model is not being carried out at the expense of core human rights. While absent in
Canadian legislation, international organizations have had business and human rights on the forefront
for some time. The growing body of soft law includes contributions from the ILO, United Nations and the OECD and other standards are provided by Social Accountability International and ISO. Canada is a signatory to many of these.
2. Changing Business Environment
Frameworks and models for responsible business include shared value, conscious capitalism,
stakeholder approach and others. Most businesses ascribe to responsible business practices on some
level. Businesses have both the ability and responsibility to limit adverse impacts on human rights and
there are numerous supports offered by governmental organizations, professional associations and
consultants to aid businesses in addressing their human rights impacts.
3. Considering Supply Chain Legislation
Other ways of encouraging businesses to address human rights issues in their supply chains include
market-based pressures and civil litigation, which we are seeing an increase of in Canada. Some
countries are now using supply chain legislation to encourage or mandate responsibility for corporate
supply chains. Examples of regions implementing disclosure legislation include California, United States and the United Kingdom. Countries with legislation that mandates specific actions like due diligence are France and the Netherlands. Australia, Switzerland and Hong Kong all have pending supply chain initiatives or legislation, with the United Kingdom exploring legislation that goes beyond their current disclosure requirements. The information on existing supply legislation and its results is increasing, with both improvements in practice being noted and challenges to some of the legislation also reported on.
4. Supply Chain Legislation in Canada
Our recommendations on supply chain legislation in Canada include: focusing on disclosure legislation
now with practices being mandated later, a robust working group to develop such legislation, and
specific components that should be included in Canadian legislation.
The Canadian Poverty Institute is an inter-disciplinary institute housed within Ambrose University that
seeks to heal poverty through teaching, research, and public education. Ambrose University is a private university in Calgary, Alberta, that offers arts and science, business, education, ministry, and seminary programs. This submission was prepared by Angie Redecopp, Associate Professor at Ambrose University, and a faculty associate with the Canadian Poverty Institute. Ms. Redecopp teaches in the business program and community development minor at Ambrose University and her research focuses on business and human rights. Prior to Ambrose, Ms. Redecopp worked with International Justice Mission, an international NGO that does human rights work in developing countries and prior thereto, Ms. Redecopp was a partner with Borden Ladner Gervais, a large Canadian corporate law firm. This submission will focus primarily on business practices and labour-related human rights in the context of the global supply chain, both in terms of general responsibilities of businesses and the unique position that businesses are in to reduce the prevalence of forced labour, child labour, and similar human rights violations globally.
The Canadian Poverty Institute recommends that:
The Government of Canada commit to introducing supply chain legislation that would, at minimum, require companies of a certain size doing business in Canada to publicly report on steps they are taking to addresses human rights issues, including forced labour, in their global operations and supply chains.
The Government of Canada convene a working group consisting of representatives of business and civil society, as well as other experts and advisors, with clear timelines and deliverables to aid in the drafting of supply chain legislation.
Canadian supply chain disclosure legislation include:
- Provisions for wide applicability to public and private companies, requiring annual, publicly available disclosure.
- Effective penalties for non-compliance.
- Requirements for a federally maintained list of companies that must report.
- Clear framework on what needs to be reported on, including the areas of: leadership structure concerning supply chain efforts, policies, processes, performance indicators and metrics, and related training.
- Suggested best practices and a requirement for companies to report against them.
- Specific parameters on the depth of reporting required, such depth to go beyond direct operations and first-tier suppliers.