Materials harvested through slave labour contributes to the production of renewable energy tech in Canada, according to testimony in the Senate.

As reported by Blacklock’s Reporter, statements to the Senate human rights committee revealed that even forced child labour sometimes contributes to the electric battery and wind turbine supply chains. 

“Look at issues like modern slavery and the environment not just from a domestic standpoint but also from an international standpoint. By actually tackling this issue on a global basis we can help Indigenous populations and we can help women and girls,” said head of the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery Chris Crewther. 

Crewther pointed to both the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ecuador as culprits in human rights abuses related to the harvesting of renewable energy materials.

“If you look at the renewable or clean energy supply chain issues you have situations such as in the Democratic Republic of Congo where over 35,000 children are in child labour mining cobalt which is used in lithium-ion batteries in electric cars,” Crewther told the Senate. 

“Another example on the environmental topic is the balsa wood in Ecuador which is being illegally logged and is impacting Indigenous populations. That balsa wood is being used for wind turbines.”

According to past testimonies in the House of Commons, 41% of solar panel polysilicon came from the Xinjiang region in China where millions of ethnic minorities and Uyghur Muslims are held in forced labour and reeducation camps. 

Crewther testified to the Senate on Bill S-211 otherwise known as An Act To Amend The Customs Tariff

The bill will require large publicly-traded corporations to annually report on what they have done “to prevent and reduce the risk that forced labour or child labour is used in any step of the production of goods.”

According to policy director at the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability Emily Dwyer, the law does not go far enough to prevent the use of materials produced by forced labour in Canada’s supply chain.  

“There are no obligations on companies to take any steps which means a company could comply with the law by simply reporting every year: ‘I took no steps to prevent modern slavery, I am not aware of any risks of modern slavery in my supply chain,’ and they would comply with the law,” said Dwyer.