Xinjiang import ban over labor concerns rejected by court

OTTAWA – Activists concerned about forced labor have lost their case against a general ban on Canadian imports of all goods from China’s Xinjiang region.

The Federal Court rejected their application to overturn a decision by the Canada Border Services Agency that it did not have the authority to issue such a ban.

The lawsuit is brought by individuals including former Cabinet Secretary David Kilgour, who died this month, and the humanitarian group Canadian refugee advocates in Dire Need.

They want the border agency to generally ban the import of goods from Xinjiang on the basis that they have been mined, manufactured or produced in whole or in part by forced labor, unless there is clear evidence not to. any act of coercion.

Activists accuse the Chinese state of oppressing Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities, who are conscripted into involuntary labor in large labor camps.

The federal government expressed concern about documentary evidence of the Chinese regime’s persecution of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities on the basis of their religion and ethnicity under the pretext of combating terrorism and extremism. religion.

Ottawa says there are credible reports of human rights abuses against Uighurs and others in the Xinjiang region, including mass arbitrary detentions, forced separation of children from their parents, forced detention, and forced separation of children from their parents. religious and cultural practices, surveillance and targeted repression, forced labor, forced sterilization, and torture.

Under the tariffs imposed from the trade agreement with Mexico and the United States, Canada is obligated to ban imports of goods produced by forced labor.

In January last year, a border services official said in an email to refugee groups and ban advocates that they do not have the authority to ban or regulate goods that may be manufactured. produced by forced labor solely on the basis of their origin in a particular region or country.

Instead, border authorities focus on manufacturers or importers, rather than regions or countries, and prohibitions on such goods apply on a case-by-case basis.

In her recent decision, Deputy Chief Justice of the Federal Court Jocelyne Gagne said she did not see any element of the Customs Act or tariffs mentioned that imposes an obligation on the border agency to issue decisions, such as those sought by refugee groups and their allies.

Furthermore, she said, each shipment to Canada is subject to the official’s determination of origin, tariff and value, and such decisions can be appealed through administrative mechanisms.

The Canadian Court of International Trade has first-hand jurisdiction to review border agency findings, and the Federal Court of Appeals has exclusive jurisdiction to hear appeals from Commercial Court decisions. , she noted.

Gagne said the border agency’s email was not reviewed.

Even so, the applicants did not point to evidence that the current legislative plan does not prevent goods produced through forced labor from entering Canada, she added.

This Canadian Press report was first published on April 10, 2022.

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