A new report by World Vision Canada says consumers in this country could be unwittingly perpetuating the global child and forced labour problem by purchasing a variety of goods made by the millions of underage workers in other parts of the world that are coerced, trapped and intimidated into jobs which put their lives and futures at risk.
Published to coincide with World Day Against Child Labour, the Canada’s Child & Forced Labour Problem report uncovers the high risk of child and forced labour in many common Canadian household products, while also highlighting the overwhelming consumer demand for legislative action and other realistic solutions required to address this issue on a domestic basis.
According to the Christian relief, development, and advocacy organization, imports of so-called risky goods into Canada totalled $34 billion last year, a 31% increase over the past five years, that the group says should be a wake-up call to politicians and consumers alike.
“After visiting children around the world, I can say with conviction that child labour is also a Canadian problem. Canada imports products we use every day that have a high risk of child labour attached to them. There are at least 1,200 Canadian companies importing up to $34-billion in goods that may have been made by child or forced labourers overseas,” says World Vision Canada president Michael Messenger.
The report points to garment imports from Bangladesh, tomato imports from Mexico, coffee imports from Dominican Republic and footwear from India as just a few examples of common products frequently linked to the child labour problem.
While the group calls for increased consumer vigilance about the origin of products, it cites polling data indicating that 84% of Canadians feel frustrated by how difficult it is to determine where the products they buy are made, how they’re made and by whom. To help address this problem, the report also notes that more than 9 in 10 Canadians think the federal government should require companies to publicly report on who makes their products and what they are doing to reduce child labour in their supply chains.
“Consumers, companies and governments should all play a part in addressing Canadian links to child labour. While we put pressure on other governments to eliminate child labour from their own countries, we put little pressure on the Canadian companies that source from these places to try to ensure kids aren’t part of their supply chains. And that creates a gap where children are still working. We can join other nations in putting in place minimum requirements that allow consumers to make informed choices that can prompt real action for exploited children,” says Messenger.
It should be noted that the report does not accuse any Canadian company of being intentionally complicit in the use of child or forced labour, of which the group found no evidence.