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CBA adopts principles to combat labour abuse

|Written By Yamri Taddese

The Canadian Bar Association is encouraging in-house counsel to implement a set of business principles within their companies to combat labour abuse.

CCCA chairman Frédéric Pérodeau says in-house counsel are especially in a position to have a role that goes beyond providing legal expertise to their business clients, related to labour issues.

The CBA adopted the principles this week, saying forced and illegal child labour are “realities we cannot ignore” in this country.

The guideline is inspired by international laws as well as work done by the American Bar Association, but the final document has been tailored to the distinct realities of Canadian businesses, says Frédéric Pérodeau, chairman of the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association.

The CCCA, an arm of the CBA, mounted a 10-month effort to draft the principles. They will help combat forced labour, labour trafficking, and illegal child labour if in-house counsel and their business clients adopt them, Pérodeau says.

The model considers situations where people are forced to work but are not trafficked over a geographic area. This could include children. It also considers scenarios that could be happening in Canada, such as children working in family-operated businesses in the agricultural and restaurant sectors.

“These issues exist in Canada,” says Pérodeau. “We feel that we have a responsibility, as the voice of in-house counsel, not only to organize professional development activities but also be proactive in some other fields, including advocacy and moving this resolution before the CBA council.”

The CBA’s resolution, which was adopted by the association’s council, said lawyers, including in-house counsel, have “a pivotal role to play in advising businesses on corporate social responsibility and environmental, social, and governance issues, and reporting on related legal duties and obligations.”

In-house counsel are especially in a position to have a role that goes beyond providing legal expertise to their business clients, according to Pérodeau, who says they are also “the moral compass of the corporate world.”

The model document is not prescriptive, but rather it provides four principles in-house counsel can use to implement their own policies at work.

The principles, in brief, are following:

1. The business should prohibit forced labour, labour trafficking, and illegal or harmful child labour in its operations.

2. The business should conduct risk assessments of the risk of forced labour, labour trafficking, and illegal or harmful child labour in its operations and continually monitor implementation of this statement of principles.

3. The business should train relevant employees, engage in continuous improvement, and maintain effective communications mechanisms with its suppliers.

4. The business should devise a remediation policy and plan that addresses remediation for forced labour, labour trafficking, and illegal or harmful child labour in its operations.

“We wanted to make sure these principles were reflective of the Canadian reality,” Pérodeau says.

  • Legal Counsel

    Laura M. MacRae
    As a person raised on a family farm and a person who has a farm, I am very unhappy with the allegation that the agricultural sector, and in particular, family operated farms, participate in "forced child labour". Family farms are exactly that. Farms where families work and play together for the good of the family. Children of these families are assigned chores which are no different than urban families assigning their children to mow lawns, wash cars, do laundry or provide child care. Increasingly, family farms are the subject of commentary by those who neither understand the situation or believe that they have a right to give or withhold a "social licence" to these families. Interestingly, this occurs while we also see resistance to factory farms. If the CBA wishes to adopt principles relating to all child labour, including urban child labour, then please do so. Personally, I am offended by the suggestion that my children who worked on the farm were involved in "forced" labour
  • Executive Director, CCCA

    Christine Staley
    Thank you for your point. We would like to reinforce the measures taken to ensure a distinction between those children who are involuntarily forced vs those who work to support a family-owned and operated business.

    The Model Business Principles adopted do not imply that family-owned and operated business (such as in the agricultural, retail and restaurants sectors) participate in "forced child labour." To the contrary.

    To take into account situations like the one you describe, the Model Business Principles address involuntary labour. That is why the working group added “Illegal or Harmful” language to the Model Business Principles and glossary to distinguish from permitted use of children.

    https://www.cba.org/getattachment/Our-Work/Resolutions/Resolutions/2016/Model-Business-Principles-on-Forced-Labour,-Labour/Model-Business-Principles-on-Forced-Labour,-Labour-Trafficking,-and-Illegal-or-Harmful-Child-Labour.pdf

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