CCRC meets with UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery

On Monday August 28, the CCRC was thrilled to join the UN Special Rapporteur, Mr. Tomoya Obokata, responsible for slavery on his visit to Canada. Mr. Tomoya Obokata was appointed UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery in March 2020. Mr. Obokata is a Japanese scholar of international law and human rights, specialising in transnational organised crime, human trafficking and modern slavery. He currently serves as Professor of International Human Rights Law at York Law School, and previously taught at Keele University, Queen’s University Belfast andDundee University (all in the United Kingdom Great Britain and Northern Ireland).

The CCRC joined Mr. Obokata to discuss how certain children in Canada are more at risk for contemporary forms of slavery, including sexual exploitation. We appreciate the attention being paid to what Canada can do to address the important issues of child labour and modern slavery.

Three points the CCRC highlighted:

1. The Convention on the Rights of the Child provides a helpful and comprehensive framework for an effective response to these issues. It helps to address concerns raised by committee members with regard to the complex factors in individual situations and the need for more holistic responses to be effective. Several provisions of the Convention are important as well as Article 32, which addresses child labour explicitly. Recommendation: That all legislative and programmatic responses explicitly recognize the Convention on the Rights of the Child as a comprehensive framework for implementation to help ensure that attention is paid to all factors from the perspective of the best interests of the child as a person with both participative and protective rights. 

2.  During the last 2 reviews of Canada’s implementation of the Convention, Canada was asked to establish an appropriate regulatory framework for the business sector. While new legislation is coming is out, the fear is that it doesn’t go far enough in actually making a difference in children’s lives globally. Recommendation: New legislation (S211, which discusses the role of Canadian companies in international supply chains) should have penalties in place for companies that do not comply.

3. Within Canada court decisions have pointed out that there is no clear definition of what constitutes harm or exploitation regarding children’s work (McDonald v. McDonald, 2017 BCCA 255). This makes it more difficult to determine when children’s rights are being infringed under Canadian law as interpreted by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Recommendation: That the Committee recommend Canada undertake a process to better define and understand the conditions under which a young person’s work is to be considered harmful or exploitative, including the participation of working young people in this process. Outcomes of such an initiative could provide more robust guidance for implementation of children’s rights in Canada and globally.

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