Report: $Billions in Canadian Food Imports May Contain Child Labour

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Highlights:

  • $3.7 billion of risky food products imported into Canada in 2019, a 63 per cent increase from 10 years ago.
  • Mexico accounts for the largest value of risky imports to Canada: $965 million in 2019.
“Oscar”, 11, a coffee worker in Mexico. Canada imported $965 million in food from Mexico in 2019 that may have been produced by children, according to a new report by World Vision Canada. Photo: Juan Cuevas, World Vision Mexico
(February 03, 2021)
Canadians could be contributing to child and forced labour every time they go grocery shopping, according to a new report released today by World Vision. The “Risky Goods” report reveals that Canadian imports of food products at risk of being produced by children was $3.7 billion in 2019, a 63% increase over the past decade. The report also warns that the problem is only getting worse because of the economic aftershocks caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic which has already pushed an estimated 8 million children into child labour. 

The report showed a surge in imports over past decade with documented evidence of child labour and abuse, including a 188% increase in cashews, a 173% increase in chili peppers and a 98% increase in palm oil. Canada’s NAFTA partner Mexico accounts for the largest value of risky imports to Canada: $965 million in 2019.

“From seafood slave boats to plantation abuses, Canada has a growing connection to child and forced labour,” says Simon Lewchuk, Policy Advisor, World Vision Canada, and author of the report. “Mexico for example, serves up a nearly one-billion-dollar platter of low-cost food items to our grocery aisles and restaurants each year that may contain child labour. This compromises children’s health, safety, and education. And COVID-19 is making the problem worse. It’s time for Canada to stop dragging its heels and introduce legislation requiring companies to take action against child labour and other human rights abuses in their supply chains.” 

“Despite the grocery store being one of the only outings they get to enjoy during the pandemic, Canadians are unwittingly contributing to a trade system that still allows for child and forced labour in our supply chains,” says Julie Francoeur, Executive Director at Fairtrade Canada. “Canadians have the power to demand an end to the suffering behind our food by supporting retailers who choose to be more transparent about what they are doing to eliminate exploitation in their supply chains and ensure there are more ethically certified food items on their shelves.”

REPORT KEY FINDINGS:
  • $3.7 billion of risky food products imported into Canada in 2019, a 63 per cent increase from 10 years ago and nearly 10% of all Canadian food imports. 
  • Surge in imports over past decade with documented evidence of child labour and abuse: 188% increase in cashews; 173% increase in chili peppers; 98% increase in palm oil.
  • Mexico accounts for the largest value of risky imports to Canada: $965 million in 2019.

MEDIA RESOURCES
  • Risky Goods report link: HERE 
  • Story resources, videos and photos of child labourers: HERE
  • World Vision Good Grocery List: HERE
  • World Vision petition calling for a Canadian supply chain transparency: HERE