A recent article post in The Hill (Canada) penned by Isobel O’Connell raises Canada’s continued reluctance to address modern slavery as a conduit to addressing broader business and human rights is a collective challenge that requires coordinated leadership.
Canada is not alone in catching up with drafting and enacting their own modern slavery legislation. However, Canada is in an ideal position to both lead and bring countries together to actually address the unique perspectives that countries with modern slavery acts in place may omit to raise – such as compliance, reporting and investing capital.
The most recent Canadian modern slavery legislation effort was the tabled Bill S-216, an Act to enact the Modern Slavery Act and to amend the Customs Tariff (the Bill). Bill S-216 was introduced to the Canadian Senate on October 2020 and updated the previous Bill S-211. Like its predecessor, the Bill S-216 aims to combat modern slavery by imposing supply chain reporting requirements on businesses that meet certain criteria and that produce, sell or import goods in Canada, or that control an entity that does one of those things.
The Government of Canada is also being urged to move swiftly on plans to tackle modern slavery as Covid-19 worsens fears about forced labour practices around the world – acting as a blue print to support post pandemic modern slavery efforts. The introduction of modern slavery legislation can also align with a broader trend of an ESG focus and be consistent with human rights reporting requirements in a number of OECD countries where Canadian companies may operate.
Simon Chorley , at UNICEF Canada, provided insights for this article from the NGO perspective: “While there are some Canadian companies that are playing their part towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of ending child labour by 2025, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to reverse recent gains. As 2021 marks the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, now is the time for Canadian legislation to address the critical issue of Modern Slavery.”
But the question remains, will Canada rise to the occasion in 2021 to enact its won Modern Slavery Act? Will a third time be a charm?
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