Canada’s ethics watchdog, the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (Core), has launched investigations into allegations of Uyghur forced labour involving Nike Canada and Dynasty Gold, a gold mining company operating in China. These investigations were initiated based on complaints filed by a coalition of human rights groups. The allegations raise serious concerns about potential human rights abuses and violations in their supply chains. This article delves into the details of the investigations and the response of the accused companies.
ASPI’s report from 2020 estimated that more than 80,000 Uyghurs were coerced into working in factories across China.
Nike Canada’s Allegations and Response:
The ethics watchdog alleges that Nike Canada Corp has supply relationships with various Chinese companies that have been identified by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) as utilizing or benefiting from Uyghur forced labour. ASPI’s report from 2020 estimated that more than 80,000 Uyghurs were coerced into working in factories across China.
In response to the allegations, Nike stated that they no longer have ties with the companies accused of employing Uyghur forced labour. The company claims to have implemented due diligence practices to ensure their supply chain is free from forced labour. However, the report suggests that Nike has not taken sufficient steps to guarantee beyond a reasonable doubt that forced labour is not implicated in their supply chain.
Dynasty Gold’s Allegations and Response:
The investigation also includes allegations against Dynasty Gold, a gold mining company holding a majority interest in a Chinese mine. The watchdog’s report suggests that Dynasty Gold benefitted from the use of Uyghur forced labour at the mine. However, Dynasty Gold denies these allegations, asserting that they lack operational control over the mine and that the accusations arose after they ceased operations in the region.
The UN’s Findings and Context:
A United Nations report from 2022 revealed that China had committed “serious human rights violations” against Uyghurs, potentially amounting to crimes against humanity. These violations targeted the Uyghur population residing in the Xinjiang region. Beijing, on the other hand, denies these allegations.
Role of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise:
This investigation marks the first instance of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise exercising its complaint mechanism since its establishment in 2021. The agency’s mandate is to hold Canadian garment, mining, and oil and gas companies accountable for potential human rights abuses occurring in their overseas operations and supply chains.
Implications and Conclusion:
The allegations against Nike Canada and Dynasty Gold are of significant concern, as they potentially involve the exploitation of Uyghur forced labour. The investigations conducted by the Canadian ethics watchdog are aimed at resolving these complaints and promoting responsible business practices. The outcome of these investigations will shed light on the involvement of these companies in human rights abuses and determine the appropriate actions to be taken.
In addition to the allegations against Nike Canada and Dynasty Gold, the watchdog has received 11 other complaints, and reports on those cases are expected to be released soon. The investigations conducted by the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise serve as a reminder of the importance of corporate accountability and the need for robust measures to prevent human rights abuses within global supply chains.