Export Development Canada, a federal bank, approved more than $3 billion worth of loans and insurance to Chinese companies, Blacklock's Reporter reveals.
Data obtained through an Access to Information Act request revealed that the bank provided $3,209,673,392 in loan guarantees and various forms of insurance in 2020, one year after the bank adopted a policy ensuring that the organization aligns "with the United Nations Guiding Principles On Business And Human Rights and provides essential clarity to our customers and partners on where we stand on human rights."
"When we work with them to understand their financing needs, we're also working to ensure they understand issues like human rights," said Mairead Lavery, the CEO of the crown corporation.
Lavery clarified that the bank "operates on a commercial terms," and does "not provide grants or subsidies. At the heart of our business is risk management."
"We truly do believe in responsible business," she said before the Commons Finance Committee.
The details of the crown corporation's business in China are not publicly, available, but their willingness to work with the country raises concerns over potential human rights violations. Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi noted that working in China without being tied to human rights violations is a difficult endeavour as their "supply chains are tainted, that is without question."
"We know that 20 percent of cotton originates from the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region," explained Zuberi. "That means 20 percent of items on store shelves made out of cotton globally come from that region."
He made similar comments about tomatoes and polysilicon, a material used in solar panels, noting that much of their global production is in Xinjiang.
China is currently pursuing a genocidal population towards the Uyghurs, an ethnic minority which has resided in the Xinjiang region, which they refer to as East Turkestan, for centuries. Uyghurs have frequently been subjected to forced labour, among other human rights abuses, and some studies have noted that many major western brands have profited from such forced labour.
The same goes for Canadian companies, with a Canadian parliamentary subcommittee finding that "this forced labour is integrated into the supply chains of many large international corporations and contributes to the production of many products sold in Canada and other western nations."
The subcommittee recommended that the government "impose sanctions on entities and individuals that benefit from the use of forced labour."
"We all have a role to play in defending human rights and building inclusive societies, safe communities and welcoming places," the federal bank said in their most recent annual report.