Canada and the United Kingdom on Tuesday, Jan. 12, released a series of measures aimed at combating exploitation, persecution, and forced labor in the Xinjiang area of China. The aim is to prevent products made by Uighurs from entering the global supply chain and ensure that companies in both countries are not complicit in forced labor in Xinjiang.

Canada is joining its international partner, Great Britain, in cracking down on companies doing business with firms based in the Xinjiang region, where reports of persecution and forced labor of the Uighur Muslim minority abound. 

The Canadian government outlined a series of measures on Tuesday in an attempt to move forward on companies that benefit from forced labor and limit entry into the global chain of products produced under such conditions.

Foreign Minister François Philippe Champagne and Mary Ng, minister of Small Business, Export Promotion, and International Trade, announced the measures in a statement on Jan. 12.

“Canada is gravely concerned with evidence and reports of human rights violations in the People’s Republic of China, including repressive surveillance, mass arbitrary detention, torture, and mistreatment, forced labor and mass transfers of forced laborers from Xinjiang to provinces across China,” Champagne’s statement began.

“No one should be abused on the basis of religion or ethnicity. Together with the UK, we are taking steps to ensure that we are not complicit in the abuse of Muslims (Uighurs) in Xinjiang,” he continued.

As announced, Canada’s proclaimed measures aim to address the situation of the Uighur religious minority and other groups in China and prevent goods produced through forced labor from entering Canadian and global supply chains. The seven measures are :

  • Prohibition of import of goods produced wholly or partly through forced labor
  • Xinjiang Integrity Statement for Canadian companies
  • Business advice on Xinjiang related entities
  • Improved advice for Canadian companies
  • Export controls
  • Increase awareness of responsible business conduct linked to Xinjiang
  • Third-party analysis of forced labor and supply chain risks

In addition, for those Canadian export companies, they must now sign a Xinjiang Integrity Statement and affirm that they do not source from suppliers who depend directly or indirectly on forced labor in Xinjiang.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also announced a package of such measures to ensure that UK companies and organizations do not benefit from forced labor in Xinjiang.

The measures adopted by the UK include a review of export and import controls to prevent the marketing of any products that may contribute to human rights abuses in the region. It will also establish economic sanctions for those who violate the Modern Slavery Act established in 2015.

“The evidence of the scale and severity of human rights violations being perpetrated in Xinjiang against Uighur Muslims is now far-reaching,” said Raab.

The Canadian House of Commons’s own International Human Rights Committee issued a statement in October 2020 detailing the results of its own study on the human rights situation of Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

The findings are chilling and include horrific human rights abuses, including mass arrests, forced sterilizations, allegations of widespread organ theft, and forced labor, the Canadian media Global News reported.

This is the first step taken by the Canadian government to try to stop this problem that has taken years of suffering and denunciations by victims and human rights organizations. In recent months the issue has gained greater international attention, especially since the Trump administration began to openly condemn the situation and taken several steps to try to stop, or at least limit, the abuses committed by the Chinese Communist Party with the Uighur minority.