OTTAWA: Canada’s corporate watchdog yesterday launched an investigation of Ralph Lauren’s Canadian unit over allegations the fashion giant used forced labour from China’s Uyghur minority.
The announcement follows similar probes of Nike Canada and Canadian mining firm Dynasty Gold, which the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) began last month.
A coalition of 28 civil society organisations last year filed a complaint with the watchdog alleging “Ralph Lauren Canada has supply relationships with Chinese companies that use or benefit from the use of Uyghur forced labour”.
“I have decided that the Ralph Lauren complaint warrants an investigation,” ombudsman Sheri Meyerhoffer said in a statement.
The brand’s US parent company, she noted, has disputed Canadian jurisdiction over the matter, arguing that its subsidiary “is not responsible for decision-making” and all of its operations are overseen by the company’s US headquarters.
The Ottawa-based Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project welcomed the investigation in a statement.
“There is credible evidence that Ralph Lauren is linked to numerous Chinese companies that use Uyghur forced labour in their supply chains,” it said.
Rights groups say more than one million Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been held in re-education camps in China’s western Xinjiang region, with a slew of abuses that include forced labour.
Lawmakers in western nations, including Canada, have called the crackdown in Xinjiang a genocide, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has referred to the treatment of Uyghurs as crimes against humanity.
Beijing denies the accusations, describing the facilities as vocational centers designed to curb extremism.