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The U.S. isn’t the only country concerned with human rights problems in corporate supply chains in relation to Chinese Uyghurs. The Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) published Initial Assessment reports regarding complaints about three Canadian companies that are alleged to have “operations or supply chains in the Xinjiang region of the People’s Republic of China that have used or benefitted from the use of Uyghur forced labour” – Walmart Canada, Hugo Boss Canada and Diesel Canada Inc.

“The Walmart Canada Initial Assessment report details the allegation that Walmart Canada has commercial relationships with Chinese companies that use or benefit from Uyghur forced labour. As outlined in the Initial Assessment report, Walmart Canada generally denies the allegations, but fails to provide a specific response to the allegations. Given the company’s decision not to participate further in the CORE’s dispute resolution process, the CORE will conduct an investigation using independent fact finding to address the conflict between the allegations and the position of the company.

The Hugo Boss Canada Initial Assessment report details the allegation that the Canadian garment company has a supply relationship with a Chinese company. Hugo Boss Canada denies the allegations, however, its response does not appear to consider fully the complex nature of the garment supply chain. The CORE has decided to conduct an investigation using independent fact finding to consider these complexities as well as the indicators of risk relevant to working in high-risk contexts.

The Diesel Canada Initial Assessment report details the allegation that the company’s suppliers use or benefit from Uyghur forced labour. Diesel Canada denies the allegations, stating it has reviewed its supply chain, and it is not involved with any human rights abuse nor does it purchase material from the Xinjiang region. Diesel Canada did not participate in the CORE’s initial assessment process raising questions related to the degree of transparency in its human rights due diligence practices. The CORE has decided to conduct an investigation into Diesel Canada’s business relationship with one of the Chinese companies alleged to be using or benefitting from Uyghur forced labour.”

CORE was established in 2019 to hold Canadian garment, mining, and oil and gas companies working outside of Canada accountable for possible human rights abuses in their operations and supply chains. I’m betting they are just getting warmed up – companies with Canadian operations or subsidiaries should be prepared.

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The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile