21 December 2009

For your New Year's resolution, support Bill C-463

Sent your MP a Christmas card this year? Probably too late now. But not for a New Year's card. You could, if you believe in fair trade, do worse than send him a little note along with it suggesting he or she support Bill C-463 when Parliament resumes sitting ... whenever that may be.

Bill C-463, tabled by NDP international trade critic Peter Julian, would prohibit the importation of goods that failed to meet the labour standards set by the International Labour Organization. Specifically, those goods "produced, manufactured or assembled, in whole or in part" that contravene the following:
(a) the right of association;
(b) the right to bargain collectively;
(c) the prohibition on the use of any form of forced or compulsory labour;
(d) a minimum age for employment of children; and
(e) acceptable conditions of work with respect to minimum wages, hours of work and occupational safety and health.
Trade agreements have been primarily instruments to protect the rights of international corporations, particularly to freely set up shop in places they find most conducive to profits. Unfortunately that often means in countries where employees work in sweatshop conditions, lacking the basic human rights that every worker deserves. This bill, if given royal assent, would at least assure that such workers were not exploited by Canadians. As Peter Julian has said, we need "a new set of rules to reform the existing one-sided approach to trade." Not only would this ensure Canadians had clean hands, it would help create and protect Canadian jobs, and it would offer us an opportunity to be an international leader again, a role we have been systematically abandoning.

So, if fair trade is your cup of eggnog, resolve to pass along the message to your MP in 2010.

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