Groups Against Chinese Slavery Face Legal Setback in Bid to Seize Forced Labour Products

by EditorK
Groups Against Chinese Slavery Face Legal Setback in Bid to Seize Forced Labour Products

A container ship belonging to Cosco, China’s state-owned shipping company, is seen near Panama City on May 2, 2017. (Rodrigo Arangua/AFP/Getty Images)

Amanda Brown
Updated: September 19, 2023

Organizations opposed to Chinese slave labour have suffered a legal setback in their attempts to force government agencies to confiscate slave-made goods. The Canadian Federal Court of Appeal has ruled that human rights advocates cannot file lawsuits solely based on principle.

“The appellants in the appeal have no right to request or obtain a ruling from Canada Border Services Agency,” wrote Justice Mary Gleason of the Court of Appeal. The ruling came after groups petitioned the court to intercept exports of slave-made goods manufactured in China.

A group of lawyers representing Uyghur Muslims interned in China have petitioned Canadian courts to deem cabinet in violation of the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, a convention that was ratified by Canada in 1952, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.

“By its acts and omissions the Government of Canada is violating its international obligations by failing to prevent the ongoing genocide in that region thereby contributing to crimes committed against the Uyghur population here and abroad,” wrote lawyers.

The Commons has in the last two years voted twice to condemn China for human rights atrocities.

In February 2021, a significant majority of MPs voted in support of a Conservative motion affirming that China’s actions in the western Xinjiang region align with the definition of genocide outlined in the 1948 United Nations Genocide Convention.

“We know that at least one million Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities are in concentration camps and have been forced into labour,” Quebec Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi told the Commons on Feb. 1, calling China’s actions “abhorrent.”

Members of Parliament have bemoaned the Canada Border Services Agency for having failed to halt any shipments of goods found to have been manufactured using slave labour.

Companies listed by the U.S. Congress for employing subcontractors associated with Chinese slavery include Adidas, Calvin Klein, Campbell Soup, Coca-Cola, Costco, Kraft Heinz, Nike, and Tommy Hilfiger.

“This is critically important,” then-public works minister Filomena Tassi testified at a 2022 hearing of the Commons government operations committee. “We know Canadians would not support any use of forced labour in our supply chain.”

In April 2022, Parliament passed Bill S-211, An Act to Amend the Customs Tariff, into law requiring importers with revenues of $40 million or more to each produce an annual report outlining how they are addressing the issue of slave labour within their commercial dealings. Failing to disclose the information can result in penalties of $250,000 for corporations.

“These people are harvesting our coffee or the sugar we eat or making the clothes we wear,” Conservative MP Arnold Viersen said in a final debate on the bill.

“While we finally will be updating our laws to prohibit imports made from slavery, our enforcement to this point has been terrible,” he said.

“No one is suggesting this bill is the only step Canada needs to take,” said Mr. Viersen, co-chair of an all-party Parliamentary Group to End Modern Slavery. “But it is in an important step nonetheless.”


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