2nd Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 149, Issue 153

Tuesday, June 16, 2015
The Honourable Leo Housakos, Speaker


Garment Industry and Corporate Social Responsibility

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, the Senate Committee on Human Rights has recently been investigating the garment industry and corporate social responsibility in Bangladesh and will be drafting a report based on our findings.

Yesterday, we held our fourth hearing on the topic. We heard from representatives of Loblaw, Gildan and Human Rights Watch, as well as a professor from the University of Ottawa’s School of International Development and Global Studies, Syed Sajjadur Rahman.

We have also spoken with representatives from Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada; the International Labour Organization; Export Development Canada; Fairtrade Canada; Radical Design Ltd; the Canadian Apparel Federation; Maquila Solidarity Network; Solidarity Center; and various academics in the field. These hearings have been incredibly enlightening. The testimony of witnesses from both the Canadian government and the civil society organizations led us to the conclusion that, while the Canadian government and Canadian companies have taken a number of measures to address the rights of garment workers, we still have a long way to go.

Honourable senators, we all remember April 24, 2013, when the five garment factories in Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh, collapsed. Over 1,100 workers died, and an additional 2,500 were injured. What fewer people remember is a similar and equally heartbreaking incident that occurred just months before. A fire broke out in a garment factory in Dhaka in November of 2012, killing over 120 people and injuring over 200. What is truly tragic about this event is that many workers were trapped inside the burning building with no way of escaping. They couldn’t use the regular exits because they were too narrow, and there were not enough fire exits. Instead, some people attempted to jump out of windows on the higher floors, but this attempt at escape was futile. They died from the impact of the fall.

It is devastating that all of these deaths could have been avoided if only a few simple precautions had been taken during the construction of the factory.

Honourable senators, Canada has a responsibility to do everything in its power to make sure that tragedies such as these do not occur again. We must be a global leader in guaranteeing rights for the most vulnerable in our world.

Honourable senators, I know that Canada and we can lead the way to show precautionary ways to save lives.