After visiting children around the world, I can say with conviction that child labour is also a Canadian problem. Canada imports products we use every day that have a high risk of child labour attached to them. There are at least 1,200 Canadian companies importing up to $34 billion in goods that may have been made by child or forced labourers overseas.” - Michael Messenger, President & CEO, World Vision Canada
World Vision Canada (WVC), an international children’s charity devoted to improving the lives of the most vulnerable children, estimates that there are 152 million child labourers in the world today, with 48% of child labourers aged between 5 and 11. The most effective solution to this issue, according to WVC, is to demand greater transparency within global supply chains.
WVC leads a growing coalition of partners to advance discussions on supply chain transparency legislation in Canada. Recently, the UK, the Netherlands, France, and California have all passed legislation to address modern slavery and/or child labour in their supply chains, further motivating the coalition to take action. Working with different stakeholders including the Canadian government, they formed a group to advise on legislative recommendations.
Needing legal research and advice to strategically engage in these conversations and address common legal and legislative questions, WVC contacted TrustLaw for pro bono assistance. TrustLaw connected WVC with international law firm Dentons, who provided a legal briefing addressing their legal issues and a summary of any relevant legislation and case law. The research, completed in 2017, was used to inform the coalition’s discussions with Canadian lawmakers, corporations, and civil society.
“To credibly address these questions head on, we needed outside legal expertise from a firm that specialised in Canadian constitutional and business law and understood the global legislative developments in this area; this is where Dentons’ support was so invaluable,” said Simon Lewchuk, Senior Policy Advisor, Child Rights & Protection at WVC.
In December 2017, WVC’s President & CEO, Michael Messenger, and Simon Lewchuk, Senior Policy Advisor, Child Rights & Protection, appeared as witnesses before the House of Commons’ Subcommittee on International Human Rights and provided recommendations inspired by the legal findings. The Subcommittee formally requested a copy of this research to inform their study on child labour and modern slavery in global supply chains. WVC also reports that multiple government stakeholders, including Members of Parliament, high-level political staff, and public servants working on this issue, have asked them for copies of Dentons’ legal memo.
The legal research and analysis WVC received from Dentons has been valuable for the charity, both in terms of informing and giving legal backing to their advocacy efforts, as well as influencing external stakeholders and advancing their calls for Canadian supply chain legislation. “As we look forward to the results of this parliamentary study being released in late 2018, we believe Dentons’ legal memo will have had a significant impact on the committee’s thinking, and are confident the report will include a recommendation for Canadian federal supply chain legislation,” said Simon Lewchuk.
World Vision Canada and Dentons have been nominated for the “Collaboration Award” at the 2018 TrustLaw Awards.