It is unclear whether the import prohibition set out in the Customs Tariff for Tariff Code Item 9897 prohibits goods made in China’s detention camps.  Tariff Item 9897 prohibits the importation of a number of goods, including “[g]oods manufactured or produced wholly or in part by prison labour”.  Unlike the United States, Canada’s import prohibition does not extend the import prohibition to “goods manufactured by forced labour”.

Under Canadian law, any goods can be imported unless there is an explicit prohibition in a law or regulation. All of the prohibitions in Tariff Item 9897 are unilaterally selected and listed by Canada, and do not require approval by the United Nations or any international organization. Since Canada does not specifically exclude goods manufactured by forced labour, there is a real question as to whether the prohibition would apply to goods manufactured by Uyghurs in detention camps.  This is why I want to raise the issue.

D-Memorandum D9-1-6 “Goods Manufactured or Produced Wholly or in Part by Prison Labour”, which is the CBSA’s administrative guidance on this matter, is silent about goods produced in Uyghur detention camps.  As a result, the CBSA officers on the front line are not being told to detain goods manufactured by forced labour and contrary to human rights.

Canada can amend the Customs Tariff to ensure any prohibition is clear as to what goods are prohibited.  Canada can also add clarity to D-Memorandum D9-1-6, which has not been amended since 2012.  I hope that Canada takes this important step.

As reported by China Law Blog, on May 1, 2020, United States CBP issued a withhold release order (“WRO”) against hair products manufactured by a Xinjiang company called Hetian Haolin Hair Accessories Co. Ltd.  There are many WROs against goods from China.  Canadian companies should be mindful of the WROs as goods transshipped via the United States can be detained.  More importantly, the WROs, including the May 1, 2020 WRO, provide guidance to Canadian companies who wish to act responsibility and do not wish to support the human rights abuses in the Uyghur detention camps.