Federal Government Responds to Eco-Justice Unit Concerns

The Eco-Justice of the Diocese is concerned about Labour Practices behind consumer products Canadians purchase

The letters below are from the Federal Government of Canada to the Eco-Justice Unit of the Diocese of New Westminster.

A letter was sent from the Unit to the Canadian federal government regarding the kinds of working conditions that exist in places where behind consumer products are processed or manufactured that we buy in Canada.

There is particular concern regarding child labour.

The Canadian government has established the Subcommittee on International Human Rights who are looking into this and the focus of the work of that group are reflected in the letters received by the Eco-Justice Unit.

There are some well-regarded international nonprofit organizations giving leadership to this work.

One in particular is the International Labour Rights Forum (ILRF). The ILRF have given strong leadership in bringing wide attention to some of the devastating fires around the world that have raged through clothing manufacturing companies and warehouses.  Another area of concern are the general procedures and labour practices seen on some farms that need to improved their conditions particularly regarding exposure to pesticides.

ILRF have been instrumental in requiring Canadian companies to move towards instituting fair wage, safety and ethical practices in the workplace.

From Michael Levitt in Response to the Email from the Eco-Justice Unit


Thank you very much for your email.

By undertaking a study on the use child labour and modern slavery in supply chains, the Subcommittee on International Human Rights aims to shine a light on this important issue. The Subcommittee has received testimony regarding the use of child labour and forms of modern slavery in supply chains all over the world, as well as with respect to the responsive action the Government of Canada can take to address these human rights violations. This testimony is essential to the Subcommittee’s task of making well-considered recommendations to the Government of Canada.

We thank you for your interest and hope you will continue to follow the work of the Subcommittee.


Michael Levitt

Chair, Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the House of Commons Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development


From MP Cheryl Hardcastle, Vice-Chair for the Subcommittee on International Human Rights

Dear Friends of Human Rights,

I can`t tell you how much it means to me to receive your response along with the thousands of others from people of all ages. I take great satisfaction seeing so many Canadians with a strong social conscience who want human rights abuses taken seriously and addressed by government action. New Democrats believe that, along with Human Rights Watch and others, that establishing a strong legal framework is essential if we are to tackle the problem of child and slave labour in supply chains effectively. Currently, Canada has few targeted statutory mechanisms for regulating corporate supply chains or corporate extraterritorial activities. Legislation is a must.

As your letter suggests, many of the consumer products available to Canadians come to us from some rather questionable supply chains.  I have no doubt that you and the many others who have written to us would refuse to buy these goods if everyone knew the story behind them.

For a variety of reasons investors and corporations are also asking themselves how to approach this issue.  They need a government framework that creates a level playing field that does not reward the unscrupulous, and we as Canadians need supply chain transparency. The NDP remains committed to continue pushing for legislation that would create these things, but we will require continued help from you if we are to succeed.

Now that the hearings in the Subcommittee on International Human Rights have concluded, I wish I could report to you that I am confident that our friends on the government side seem ready to move forward with legislation, but that would not be the truth. I suspect they will need a lot more pushing.

If we are to tackle this issue effectively I will need to ask you to please keep up your efforts—particularly in the New Year once the House of Commons resumes.

Thank you for sharing your voice on this important issue.


Cheryl Hardcastle
Member of Parliament for
Windsor – Tecumseh 
Vice-Chair for the Subcommittee on International Human Rights
NDP Critic for Sport and Persons Living with Disabilities


  • Children working in a clothing company (Courtesy of The Guardian)
  • The Honourable Michael Levitt, MP
  • The Honourable Cheryl Hardcastle, MP