Canada Announces New Measures to Address Human Rights Abuses in Xinjiang, China
January 18, 2021
The federal government announced a suite of new regulations intended to ensure that Canadian companies are not complicit in human rights abuses or the use of forced labour in China’s Xinjiang province.
The measures include new requirements for firms that do business in the region and a pledge to ban the export of products from Canada to China if there is a chance they could be used by Chinese authorities for surveillance, repression, arbitrary detention or forced labour.
“Canada is deeply concerned regarding the mass arbitrary detention and mistreatment of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities by Chinese authorities,” Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said in a news release shortly before leaving the department to become the new minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.
“Nobody should face mistreatment on the basis of their religion or ethnicity,” Champagne added.
UN experts and activists say more than one million Uighurs, Kazakhs and others have been arbitrarily held in prison-like centres for political indoctrination. China claims the centres are intended to combat extremism and teach job skills, but former residents and rights groups say they target Islam and minority languages and cultures.
A coalition of civil society organizations has also accused China of forcing hundreds of thousands of Uighurs and other minorities to pick cotton by hand. The vast western province produces 85% of China’s cotton and 20% of the global supply, which is sold to fashion brands worldwide.
Canada already bans the importation of goods produced through forced labour as part of its obligations under CUSMA.
The new regulations also require that Canadian companies in the Xinjiang market sign a declaration acknowledging that they are aware of the human rights situation in the province and pledging to conduct due diligence on Chinese suppliers to ensure they are not knowingly sourcing products or services from companies that use forced labour.
Global Affairs Canada also issued a business advisory warning Canadian businesses of the legal and reputational risks they face by maintaining supply chains associated with forced labour.