After five attempts in as many years, Canada’s Parliament passed a human rights and supply chain transparency law, formerly Bill S-211, the Fighting Against Forced Labour and Child Labour in Supply Chains Act, on the 3rd of May 2023Canada’s version of a Modern Slavery Act is expected to come into effect as law on January 1st, 2024. 

For years, Canada has been viewed as behind when it comes to supply chain legislation, falling behind laws in place in countries such as Australia, United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the United States. This legislation is seen as a step towards bringing Canada into sync with global regulatory trends.

At first glance, the adoption of this law may seem like nothing groundbreaking, but looking at it more closely, the Canadian law, as this article of BLG writes, actually “expands the existing [forced labor] import ban to specifically cover and define “child labour” – whether coerced or not – and introduces a new definition of “forced labour.” 

"The definitions adopt and expand on the definitions in the International Labour Organization’s Forced Labour Convention and Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention. In addition to the definitions in the ILO conventions, child labour is defined to include labour or services provided by persons under the age of 18 that: would be contrary to Canadian law; interfere with their schooling; or otherwise be mentally, physically, or morally dangerous to them.” Or in other words, “the new law has expanded the scope of activity that constitutes forced or child labour and therefore is subject to the import ban.”

John Foote, Partner at Kelley Drye & Warren LLP, in his recent newsletter echos the observations of BLG and writes that Canada actually became the first country in the world to establish a trade law prohibiting cross-border trade in goods made with child labor and it sort of has gone unnoticed. He rightfully so points out though that the impact of this law will of course depend on how (and whether) the Canadian import ban comes to be enforced.