Canadian border guards have not seized any imports made with forced labor since the federal government amended customs laws almost nine months ago to ban these goods from entering the country.
Ottawa amended the Customs Tariff Act on July 1 to ban imports of goods made with forced labor. But The Globe and Mail reported this week that Canadians can purchase bath towels, quilts and clothing from online retailers such as Amazon and eBay, which are advertised as being made with cotton from China’s Xinjiang region. . Human rights activists and academics say the harvest should be seen as the product of forced labor.
Critics say the ease with which consumers can purchase cotton products from Xinjiang calls into question the commitment by countries like Canada to stop imports of products made with forced labor.
A spokeswoman for the Canada Border Services Agency said this week that there have been no seizures of products since mid-2020, when the ban on forced labor was introduced.
“To date, the CBSA has not enforced the tariff ban on goods produced by forced labor,” Rebecca Purdy, Acting Director of Media Relations, said in an emailed statement. “This would apply to any seizure and / or shipment canceled due to goods produced by forced labor. “
Canadians Can Buy Xinjiang Cotton Products Despite Ottawa’s Vow to Stop Imports of Forced Labor
Trudeau defends his efforts to ban Chinese products made with forced labor
The United States has, by comparison, been much more active in stopping shipments suspected of forced labor. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency’s website shows in the last two months of 2020 that it has detained 90 shipments on suspicion of containing products made with forced labor.
Last fall, in a publicized seizure, he detained 32 boxes of women’s leather gloves from Xinjiang. US border guards said a month-long survey of manufacturing sites revealed “indicators of forced labor,” including “restriction of movement, isolation, intimidation and threats, wage deduction and abusive working and living conditions ”.
Canada has decided to ban the products of forced labor in accordance with a commitment made under the Trade Agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada. The Trudeau government cited the ban in January when it announced a package of measures to ban forced labor imports from China.
Toronto lawyer John Boscariol, head of McCarthy Tétrault’s trade and investment group, said it was not clear this issue is a priority for Canada.
“From what we see in regards to what has been issued by the Canada Border Services Agency and other branches of government in terms of guidance or guidance on how to comply with these measures, it does not appear that the government is taking it seriously. , ” he said. “Importers and retailers want to comply and they are hungry for guidance and advice in this regard. “
Human rights activists and UN human rights experts have accused China of using mass detention, torture, forced labor and sterilization of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. Beijing denies this and says its actions in the region are necessary to counter extremism.
CBSA’s Ms. Purdy said it was difficult for Canada to identify imports made with forced labor.
“Unlike most other inadmissible products, there is no visual clue for a border service officer to understand the labor standards under which a particular import was produced,” she said. “It takes research, coordination and diligence among all stakeholders to establish reliable and actionable sources of information to eradicate this practice.”
Ms Purdy said the agency felt it was nonetheless well placed to enforce the rules established last July, noting that the Department of Employment and Social Development was responsible for monitoring and analysis “to establish the probability that a specific shipment contains goods produced with forced labor. . “
She said the agency could then use this information to identify and intercept shipments reported as suspected of having been carried out by forced labor. And, added Purdy, the CBSA is working with US Customs to better understand their import control program and “to explore the establishment of information exchange protocols so that we can coordinate our approach.”
The agency said the employment department was still investigating. “Comprehensive case reports including analysis based on the best information / evidence available are currently under development. To establish that the goods were produced by forced labor, it takes significant research, analysis and supporting information, ”said CBSA spokesperson Mark Stuart.
Earlier this month, Canada joined allies including the United States, Britain and the European Union in imposing sanctions on Chinese officials overseeing Beijing’s brutal treatment of Muslim minorities, including Uyghurs. And in January, citing forced labor in Xinjiang, Ottawa said it was taking action to deal with the risk that goods made using such labor from any country could enter the country. Canada.
Mehmet Tohti, executive director of the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Rights Project, said that measures to stop the importation of products made with forced labor are long overdue, noting that the evidence regarding forced employment in Xinjiang “is on. the international radar screen for two years ”.
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