A senator looking for the federal government to clarify whether Canada was importing PPE made under “slave-like” conditions in Malaysia was kicked around, until one Liberal staffer admitted that they didn't have a “great answer.”
“SLAVE-LIKE” Conditions in Malaysian PPE Factories
In a May 7, 2020 email entitled “Malaysia: medical gloves supply,” Mylène Alotto, a staffer for former Radio-Canada journalist Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne, wrote to press secretaries James Fitz-Morris, Emily Harris and Cecely Roy asking for help with preparing a statement.
In particular, Alotto asked about the “slave-like” conditions on the Malaysian end of the PPE supply chain and whether Canadians were ordering PPE from this chain.
Thierry Belair kindly directed me to you for possible assistance.
Senator Miville-Dechene is currently working on a statement regarding the coronavirus outbreak's impact on supply chain workers, especially those making medical masks and gloves. It came to her attention that, in Malaysia, the world's largest producer of rubber gloves, firms supplying personal protective equipment (PPE) allegedly exploit thousands of migrants, who are said to be working in “slave-like” conditions.
1. Has Canada ordered medical gloves from Malaysia following the COVID-19 outbreak?
2. Is Canada taking into account worker conditions when purchasing PPE?
Please let me know if this is something you could help me with.
A staffer with the Minister of Procurement Anita Anand, Elliott Lockington, received a forwarded version of the email and responded on May 13, 2020 saying that he was "looking into" the questions.
Modern Slavery Act (Bill S-211)
Alotto wrote to to Lockington on July 2, 2020 thanking him for his insights and said she would be “grateful” for more information on “the PPE situation”, per her original email:
I wanted to circle back with you on two points mentioned by Senator Miville-Dechêne towards the end of the call.
As she said, we tabled the Modern Slavery Act (S-211) in February and would therefore be grateful if your office could share more details on the PPE situation (see my original email below) and, more generally, on PSPC's efforts to combat human trafficking in public procurement since the tender notice for Risk Analysis of Forced Labour and Child Labour in PWGSC's Procurement Supply Chains.
More from the senator on the topic:
• Question at QP (June 17, 2020): https://sencanada.ca/en/senators/miville-dechenejulie/interventions/541645/20
• Op-ed (iPolitics, May 25, 2020): https://ipolitics.ca/2020/05/25/theincreased-risk-of-modern-day-slavery-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/
• Op-ed (Le Devoir, May 13, 2020): https://www.ledevoir.com/opinion/libreopinion/578819/la-pandemie-accroit-les-risques-d-esclavage-moderne
Looking forward to collaborating with you on the Gatineau Park file and S-211!
The Modern Slavery Act did not become law.
“We Don't Have A Great Answer On The PPE Side Unfortunately”
Alotto's email query chain was bounced around to a few more Liberal staffers until spokesperson Kelly Murdock wrote on July 9, 2020 that there weren't any "great" answers to the original question of possible “slave-like” conditions in the PPE supply chain, but that they were working on sending out a Request for Procurement notice asking for help in identifying “vulnerable commodities”.
We don't have a great answer on the PPE side unfortunately, but we will be launching another RFP soon to identify vulnerable commodities where we should be doing more due diligence
Sent from my iPhone
You can read the chain of emails below.
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