Child labour behind every Canadian’s grocery haul, and it may get worse: World Vision

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MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — A World Vision report warns Canadians could be contributing to child labour with every grocery trip.

The “Risky Goods” report estimates more than $3.7 billion in goods involved child labour in 2019 – a 63 per cent increase from 10 years ago.

The report says imports from Mexico account for the largest value of risky products, with $965 million in 2019.

The report also says economic pressures of the pandemic are forcing more children to harvest and produce much of Canada’s food imports.

Previous research by World Vision estimates the pandemic has pushed as many as eight million boys and girls into labour.

Report author Simon Lewchuk says COVID-19 is undermining previous gains that had reduced those numbers by 94 million since 2000.

“This compromises children’s health, safety, and education. And COVID-19 is making the problem worse,” Lewchuk said Wednesday in a release.

“It’s time for Canada to stop dragging its heels and introduce legislation requiring companies to take action against child labour and other human rights abuses in their supply chains.”

Imports of items prone to child labour have surged over the past decade, with a 188 per cent increase in cashews, a 173 per cent increase in chili peppers and a 98 per cent increase in palm oil, said the report.

World Vision encourages shoppers to buy from companies that participate in ethical certification systems that significantly reduce the likelihood of exploitation. Labels include Fairtrade Certified, Fair For Life Certified, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ Certified.

“Canadians have the power to demand an end to the suffering behind our food by supporting retailers who choose to be more transparent about what they are doing to eliminate exploitation in their supply chains and ensure there are more ethically certified food items on their shelves,” said Julie Francoeur, executive director at Fairtrade Canada.