World Vision Canada
We often have little or no idea about the manufacturing chain a given product passes through before it reaches our country.
Canadians bought $34 billion-worth of "risky" goods last year.
This World Day Against Child Labour is a poignant one for me. It's been over three years since I started living as a more conscious consumer, by educating myself about child labour in the products I buy and use. That all started with a little blue dress I bought in England.
No parent dreams of their child working at a young age, missing out on school. But for Mark and his family of seven children in the Philippines, one income wasn't enough to provide for their basic needs. At seven years old, his son Paul carried the burden of work to give his other siblings a better chance in life.
Here in Canada, we know the importance of protecting children, so they have a chance to be children. But in many parts of the world, a child Derrick's age would already be working 12-hour shifts through pain, exhaustion, and abuse.
Here in Canada, children learn to scuba dive for fun. But in Honduras, Ariel's work is largely invisible. Tourists tucking into a seafood meal just down the shore from his boat -- perhaps raising a glass of wine at sunset -- likely have no idea who hauled up their dinner from the ocean floor.
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Despite some earnest progress, workers, including children, are still being exploited. Big factories that supply major brands are better regulated, but many of the smaller operations -- just one link down in the supply chain -- are still engaging children in some of the worst forms of child labour.
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Fifteen per cent of kids are missing school to work.
People shop at thrift stores for many reasons. I hail from Britain, where second-hand clothing was not a source of shame but a way of life. Here in Canada, our family has a limited budget for clothing, preferring to pay for canoe trips and soccer programs. But the best reason for thrift shopping has less to do with how we look -- and everything to do with the lives we touch.
As you dress your kids for playtime, barbecues and camp this summer, I invite you to consider some new strategies. Does your kids really need closets full of cheap summer items, when a few, carefully chosen quality items would do just as well?
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Which companies are better at checking their chains for child and forced labour? And what are they doing to respond? World Vision's report helps answer many of these questions. By tracking supply chains of Canadian companies, the researchers identify which have a likelihood of being connected to child and forced labour.
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The organization has pushed the federal government to craft legislation for more than a year.
While shopping, looking at my purchased items makes me wonder: Where were they made? Who made them? And under what conditions? However, it wasn't until recently that I reminded myself that perhaps the items I was purchasing for myself and my children were made by children themselves.
I know that global trade is critical to raising many poor families out of poverty -- as in the Bangladeshi families noted above. But the economic model I want to see more of is one where strong local economies around the world are meeting people's needs in a sustainable and healthy way.
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Abject poverty and a sick father has forced Bithi's family to send their two oldest daughters to the garment factories to sew designer clothes that will be sold in shops in Canada, the United States and other high-income countries. Every day, Bithi helps create a minimum of 480 pair of pants, earning the equivalent of about $1.20.
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"We really have to check our priorities sometimes."
As a mother, I still check my kids' candy each year, just like my parents did. But nowadays, I'm thinking beyond the safety of the children sitting right in front of me. I'm considering the millions of children who helped produce ingredients for the chocolate bars and colourful candy. My heart feels desperately guilty as I remember how they may have been harmed.
What most athletes don't think about as they're competing is our responsibility after the big win. I didn't realize at the time that an Olympic medal would mean I could one day make a difference in the world, just by lending my name to a cause.
India may have thrown off the yoke of colonialism over 60 years ago, but we continue our own oppression. It's easier to point the finger, or show the finger, when the 'other' is distinctly different in terms of geography, skin color, language, and culture. It's more difficult, and perhaps more shameful, to accept ourselves as the oppressor and the exploiter.
I'm sure that many Canadians would feel a similar outrage, if asked what kinds of jobs their kids should be required to do. So on World Day Against Child Labour, World Vision is asking Canadians a simple question: if child labour is not acceptable in Canada, why should it be acceptable elsewhere?
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Luisa spends most of her life on a sweltering treadmill, just to help keep herself and her family alive. It's amazing to think that while we take every precaution to make sure our children stay safe and well hydrated on our hikes and walks, there are children whose very lives depend on their making long, dangerous walks.
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On Mother's Day, I look at my kids and think how blessed I am. Not just because I've had a chance to raise them, with all of the love, pride and fun that brings to my life. But because doing so has been a joyful experience. I've been able to nourish them, keep them warm, and send them off to school in the morning.
The talk show host shines a light just how unethical fast fashion brands really are.
Free the Children
According to an Ipsos poll, when shopping for clothes, 76 per cent of Canadians feel stress that they're paying too much for something while just 59 per cent are concerned about child labour. With the sun shining brighter every day, I plunged into my sons' closets last weekend, in search of spring clothes that would still fit them. Sitting there, sipping, I thought of another little boy, one whom I hadn't seen in a while. His name is Jewel.
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One day, when anti-child labour activist Iqbal Masih was riding his bike in his hometown, he was shot and killed. Iqbal was 12 when he died. The same age Free the Children's Craig Kielburger was at the time. The same age I am now.
The truth about chocolate is tough to swallow. My heart aches for the two million children, mainly in West Africa, who work on cocoa plantations. Far too many of them toil under slave-like conditions, forced to handle dangerous chemicals, and swing machetes sharp enough to maim. Most are paid next to nothing. Some are abducted from their homes and forced to work for free without the opportunity to go to school, forfeiting dreams for the future.
Canadians travelling to warm spots this March Break may be approached by child labourers selling trinkets or souvenirs. In El Salvador, this young girl carries heavy basket of water bottles to peddle to tourists. So what should Canadians do, if they encounter a child who seems to be in danger? Many of us are so concerned about misreading a situation, or imposing our own Canadian views on another way of life, that we do nothing. We may comment about how sad the situation is, and then move along.
Working with World Vision, I know that too much chocolate available in our stores comes at the heartbreaking expense of some 2 million children worldwide. Here are some of the things I've done this year, to keep the fun in Valentine's Day and honour those I love, while caring for children around the world:
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They're known on television as the Property Brothers. Drew scouts neglected houses and negotiates the purchases, while twin brother Jonathan works magic through renovation. But there's a lot you may not know about Drew and Jonathan Scott and their older brother, JD, including their passion for helping the world's poorest children.
Every August, I write a blog directed at readers doing back-to-school shopping for their kids. I remind them that while the sales are great at this time of year, there's a story behind every price tag. I urge moms and dads to consider the global economy that keeps Western prices low by paying child garment workers in poor countries next to nothing.
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While much of the onus lies on individual nations to strengthen their laws and enforcement against labour exploitation, van de Glind also pointed out that Canadians can do our part, too. And if exploitation continues because it remains profitable, we as consumers can make it less so. Before checking out the half-off sale at that popular clothing chain, do your research. Check web sites to read what companies say about their sourcing. If the information isn't easily available, write the company and ask. The more pressure companies feel from customers, the more attention they will pay to ethical sourcing.
Don't end the conversation with "Yes, that's sad." There are many things to wonder about together. "I wonder who made the decision for this to happen?" or "Who do you think it hurt by this?" are great ways to keep them thinking. Encourage them to take it further: Some questions you can answer; others you can't. Help your child figure out who would be best to write to.