On January 12, 2021, Global Affairs Canada announced that the Hon. François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Hon. Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion, and International Trade announced measures related to the human rights situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Canada is gravely concerned with evidence and reports of human rights violations in the People’s Republic of China involving members of the Uyghur ethnic minority and other minorities within the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang), including repressive surveillance, mass arbitrary detention, torture and mistreatment, forced labour and mass transfers of forced labourers from Xinjiang to provinces across China. These activities strongly run counter to China’s international human rights obligations.

In coordination with the United Kingdom and other international partners, Canada is adopting a comprehensive approach to defending the rights of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities, including by advancing measures to address the risk of forced labour from any country from entering Canadian and global supply chains and to protect Canadian businesses from becoming unknowingly complicit. 

Canada’s approach includes the following seven measures:

  • The Prohibition of imports of goods produced wholly or in part by forced labour;
  • A Xinjiang Integrity Declaration for Canadian companies;
  • A Business Advisory on Xinjiang-related entities;
  • Enhanced advice to Canadian businesses;
  • Export controls;
  • Increasing awareness for Responsible Business Conduct linked to Xinjiang; and
  • A Study on forced labour and supply chain risks

The Canadian announcement said that the United Kingdom is making a parallel announcement of measures to help address the risk of forced labour entering the global supply chains and ensure that UK businesses are not complicit in forced labour in Xinjiang.

Effective July 1st, 2020, the Customs Tariff Act and the Schedule to the Customs Tariff were amended to include a prohibition on the importation of goods from any country that are produced wholly or in part by forced labour. This legislation provides a basis for enforcement against goods produced by forced labour originating in or transferred from Xinjiang. This amendment enshrines in legislation the labour obligations that Canada signed on to as part of CUSMA, which apply to imports from all countries.

See also: Backgrounder.