A coalition of human rights organizations is asking a federal body to investigate several Canadian companies for allegedly sourcing products created by forced labour in China’s Xinjiang region.
In a letter submitted to the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) on April 10, the coalition, which consists of 28 groups, alleges that the Canadian companies—many of which are subsidiaries of U.S. multinationals—are complicit in human rights abuses in Xinjiang, with their supply chains being “tainted by Uyghur forced labour outside of Canada.”
“It is well-established at this point that atrocity crimes, including genocide, and human rights abuses are being committed by the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] against the Uyghurs. The crimes and abuses documented include surveillance, arbitrary detentions, torture, forced sterilization, forced organ harvesting, and forced labour,” says the letter signed by lawyers Sarah Teich and David Matas, and human rights campaigners Aliya Kahn, Mehmet Tohti, and Dean Lavi.
The letter says multiple industries are using Uyghur forced labour, including garment and mining, noting that China produces 22 percent of the world’s cotton with 84 percent of that coming from Xinjiang.
The Uyghurs are a Turkic Muslim minority in western China. Canadian MPs have said the human rights violations they are subjected to amounts to genocide in a motion passed in the House of Commons in February 2021. The British House of Commons adopted a similar motion in April 2021.
The motions came a few months after the United States called the abuses a “genocide” in the last days of the Trump administration in January 2021. The Biden administration made the same declaration after taking office.
Some of the 28 groups in the coalition filing the complaint with CORE are Canadians in Support of Refugees in Dire Need, Alliance Canada Hong Kong, Canada Tibet Committee, and the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project (URAP).
CORE was established in 2019 and is responsible for reviewing complaints about allegations of human rights abuses by Canadian companies abroad in the garment, mining, and oil and gas sectors.
In an April 21 online briefing on the complaint, Teich said it is CORE’s “raison d’être” to investigate the Uyghur forced labour issue, “to ensure that Canadian companies operating abroad respect human rights. If they do not, and if they are complicit in are responsible for human rights abuses, they can and they should be held accountable.”
Mehmet Tohti of URAP told The Epoch Times that CORE has acknowledged receipt of their complaint but it hasn’t indicated yet if it will investigate.
CORE does not have authority to take action if it finds a Canadian company abused human rights, but only makes recommendations to end the abuses.