Allegations of forced labor | Ottawa terminates contracts with Supermax Healthcare Canada

(OTTAWA) The Trudeau government is ending contracts with Supermax Healthcare Canada to supply nitrile gloves because its Malaysian supplier is suspected of using forced labor to manufacture personal protective equipment.

Posted at 5:00 am

Joel Dennis Belavance

Joel Dennis Belavance
Journalism

Journalism I learned that the Ministry of Public Services and Supply has yet to receive the results of the audits that promised to clarify allegations that Malaysian Supermax Corp. is using forced labour. These audits were due to be submitted to him at the end of November.

As of September 30, Supermax Healthcare Canada, the Canadian division of Supermax Corp., has secured the equivalent of $240 million in federal government contracts since the start of the pandemic.

PHOTO FRANÇOIS ROY, LA PressE ARCHIVES

Supermax distribution center in Longueuil

“The Government of Canada is terminating its existing contracts with Supermax Healthcare Canada to supply nitrile gloves. Canada has not accepted or paid for any further shipments after November 2021,” in an email to Journalism Stephanie Hamel, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Services and Procurement.

“Given the seriousness of the allegations and the expected time frame before the final results of the audit will be available, the Government of Canada has decided, and Supermax Healthcare Canada has agreed, to terminate the existing two contracts for the supply of nitrile gloves by mutual consent,” she added.

It was impossible to know on Friday the value of the two canceled contracts.

Supermax Healthcare Canada, which has a storefront in Longueuil, also won contracts totaling $330 million from the Quebec government to purchase personal protective equipment during the health crisis. But Quebec claims it no longer has an active contract with the company for a few months.

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Allegations of forced labor

Last October, US Customs and Border Protection decided to confiscate disposable gloves made by Supermax Corp and its subsidiaries at all US ports of entry after learning of allegations of forced labor.

Forced labor is considered a modern form of slavery by the International Labor Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations.

In Canada, the Trudeau government decided to suspend the delivery of contracts a month later, in November, following the decision by the US authorities, although it drew its attention to similar allegations in early January 2021.

At the time, the Department of Public Services and Supply asked six glove suppliers from Malaysia, including Supermax Healthcare Canada, to provide information to prove they were meeting their labor and human rights.

Management decided to maintain contracts with Supermax Healthcare Canada after receiving clarifications about its practices, policies, audit and investigation strategies, and compliance with international standards.

But the move by the US authorities forced Ottawa to demand accountability again. Supermax Corp. notably agreed to hire an independent company to investigate. In all, three audits were to be carried out. One of them was due to be handed over to the federal government in November. This did not happen.

“incompetence”

Conservative MP Pierre Paul Hoss argued that the federal government had failed in its commitments on the matter.

PHOTO ADRIAN WYLD, Canadian Press Archives

Conservative MP Pierre Paul Hoss

Since the beginning of 2021, it has been a known fact here and elsewhere in the world that this company is involved in forced labour. It is unacceptable that the Government of Canada closed its eyes and signed contracts relating to companies that use human slavery. This is more than willful blindness, it is an incompetence on the part of the Minister. There was clearly a lack of diligence.

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The deputy leader of the New Democratic Party, Alexandre Poliris, was equally critical.

It is a good thing the contracts are terminated. But how did this error happen in the first place? Therefore, necessary measures must be taken to prevent this from happening again. We have international obligations. He said.

PHOTO MARCO CAMPANOZZI, ARCHIVE PRESS

Alexandre Poliris, Deputy Leader of the New Democratic Party

In a statement sent to JournalismSupermax Healthcare Canada has confirmed the termination of contracts and indicated that the results of ongoing independent audits at Supermax Corp’s Malaysian facilities will not be released until spring.

“These contracts relate strictly to gloves from the Malaysian factories targeted by the US allegations that are operated by Supermax Corp. These are only facilities and not the Supermax Healthcare Canada facilities that are currently under an independent audit.”

We would also like to point out that the Federal Government is not suspending its business relationship with Supermax Healthcare Canada for other personal protective equipment, particularly surgical masks produced at Longueuil facilities. Supermax Healthcare Canada can still participate in Canadian government tenders for other products. »

Supermax Healthcare Canada is 67% owned by the parent company in Malaysia and 33% by its Executive Vice President, Sylvain Bergeron, who is based in Lac Prom, Quebec.

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