The Financial Post won three awards at the Society of American Business Editors and Writers Canada’s Best in Business competition at a ceremony held Wednesday evening in Toronto.
Reporter Claire Brownell won in the short features category for her story “The end of meat,” which profiled the nascent movement of food companies developing meat-like products grown from cells in a lab.
Western business columnist Claudia Cattaneo won the award for best beat reporting for her frequent and in-depth coverage of the energy sector, which in 2016 included a feature interview with the reclusive Arthur Irving, who runs the multi-billion dollar Irving Group of companies alongside his brother J.K.
Soo Locks, which allow thousands of ships to pass between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes (and the US and Canada) every year.
“These awards are evidence of the great range of creative, enterprising work that distinguishes the Financial Post from the competition, with innovative feature writing, exclusive interviews, stellar beat work and captivating multimedia packages,” National Post editor-in-chief Anne Marie Owens said.
Category: Canada Business
This is a mistake.
Canada, with nine percent of the world’s forests, is a land of plenty. As well as an enviable array of natural resources, Canada also boasts incredible support for entrepreneurs, both homegrown and international. Many household names, such as Slack, Hootsuite and Shopify — which may be mistakenly considered as U.S. products — hail from north of the border. This proves Canada is capable of delivering on startup success.
And it’s no surprise that startups excel in the country. Sure, there is less access to VC funding and the persuasive call of Canada’s southern neighbor, but the Canadian government is working hard to build and keep successful startup ecosystems. There is a huge selection of government aid available to small businesses, some of which includes grants that don’t have to be paid back.
Alongside substantial government backing is Canada’s array of world-class universities. The University of Waterloo — increasingly known as Canada’s answer to MIT — sees incredible numbers go to Silicon Valley every year, while others all over the country produce thousands of talented grads.
While eventually losing out to Colombia, Canada was shortlisted as country of the year by The Economist in 2016. The United States’ northern neighbor boasts world-class universities and resources to develop talent and, currently, the Canadian dollar is 0.75 cents to the American dollar. This means a highly educated workforce is available for less capital for entrepreneurs all over the world who are ready and willing to make the leap to Canada.
Canada has a proud history of technological innovation. Communications company Nortel pushed expansion in the 1970s, bringing talented telecom engineers. In 1983, after a wave of deregulation, Nortel gave way to Bell Canada Enterprise (BCE), which signaled an era of telecom preeminence.
If that weren’t enough, a year later, in 1984, Research in Motion (RIM), which today is better known as BlackBerry, was founded. While the sun may have set on BlackBerry, the impact of their phones — and the eponymous messaging service — has left a lasting impact on cellular phone technology.
Fast-forward to the nineties and the Canadian government expanded its Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax incentive program to allow for assistance to companies performing research and development. The legacy of this decision is clearly illustrated by Canada’s fervent support of startups in recent times.
Since the turn of the new millennium, Canada has been determined to churn out initiative after initiative to support new business. The opening of the MaRS Discovery District in 2005 — a 1.5-million-square-foot complex located in Toronto’s downtown — provided entrepreneurs with skills via its venture program, and included a network of 1,000 high-potential-growth startups that collectively generated more than $1.3 billion in revenue from 2008-2015. Just two years later, Maple Leaf Angels set up shop in the city center, with a focus on investing in early-stage companies.
Universities across the country have worked to provide space and support for startups to grow, too. In 2010, Ryerson University founded the Digital Media Zone (DMZ), a combined incubator/accelerator program that has assisted more than 130 companies.
In later years, a wave of funding opportunities and globally recognized accelerator programs took root across Canada. The Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) deployed $180 million in early-stage startups between 2011 and 2014, while BDC Capital launched its IT Venture Fund II, a fund worth $150 million. 2014 saw U.S. heavyweight The Founder Institute, founded by Adeo Ressi and Jonathan Greechen, open its first Canadian branch. In March 2016, 500 Startups announced its $30 million Canada fund.
With such a strong foundation of startup initiatives and technology success, it’s no wonder that Canada is in such a strong position now.
Despite a population of just 2.8 million, Toronto has been named the most diverse city in the world. About half of its residents were born outside of Canada, and the city is home to 230 nationalities. As Canada’s largest city, it’s quite naturally the country’s commercial, industrial and financial center. It stands to reason that this would make Toronto stand out as the country’s biggest tech hub, too.
As an example, Toronto-born FreshBooks, an accounting platform for small businesses, has more than 10 million users, and a 43,000-square-foot office in the city, which houses 245 employees. Self-publishing company Wattpad, which lets writers share their work on the platform, has 45 million users worldwide. In November, the company signed a deal with Universal Cable Productions — the creator of Suits — with the idea to sift through the stories online to turn the popular ones into TV shows. On-demand platform AskforTask has more than 150,000 taskers, and has doubled its business each year since launching in 2012.
The aforementioned MaRS Discovery District is a tower of strength in the city’s startup community, too. The four-story brick building takes up almost one city block, and is one of the world’s largest innovation hubs, offering funding, mentorship and facilities to the city’s creators. Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone incubator is also a resource for early-stage companies worldwide, as are a range of University of Toronto incubators and accelerators. BetaKit, a news publication led by Douglas Soltys that documents Canadian startup news, is also based in the city.
As Canada’s financial hub, Toronto is home to much of the country’s investment. OMERS Ventures has had arguably one of the biggest impacts on the Canadian startup scene. The VC firm backs startups directly, including Spotify, of which the firm owns six percent. Canada also boasts the Venture Capital Action Plan (VCAP) to encourage more Canadian private investors. For every $2 in funding, the government gives another $1 to early-stage companies.
Yet despite this, Toronto is yet to birth a homegrown unicorn. While there are up to 4,100 active startups in the city, none are valued at over a billion dollars, and aren’t necessarily household names outside the tech scene.
Just 60 miles west of Toronto, however, is Waterloo, a small city of 134,000 residents, which holds much of Canada’s tech talent. Like San Francisco and the Bay Area, Toronto and Waterloo form a corridor of startup innovation between them. Yet, while Toronto is yet to see any businesses hit that magical unicorn status, Waterloo has.
Waterloo is the home of telecoms giant BlackBerry, as well as newer companies that include video optimization platform Vidyard — which last year raised $35 million in Series C funding — and Bridgit, a communication app for construction teams that won Google Demo Day: Women’s Edition in 2015. Similarly, Shopify, considered one of the country’s most successful startups, has an office in Waterloo (as well as offices in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and San Francisco).
Waterloo boasts the MIT of Canada — the University of Waterloo — which sends talent to startup ecosystems. In fact, every year, recruiters from Apple, Google and Facebook, among others, flock to this Canadian tech hub to onboard new employees; graduates of the University of Waterloo are the second-most-frequently hired in Silicon Valley after students from University of California, Berkeley. The university’s students are famously inventive, too. In 2009, Kik Interactive was founded by a group of students who wished to create new technologies for use on mobile smartphones; it has gone on to become an incredible success.
The Toronto and Waterloo corridor is sometimes billed — unsurprisingly — as the Silicon Valley of the North. Waterloo mayor John Tory has said that the Toronto-Waterloo corridor has all the elements for huge success, much of which comes from the quality of universities in the area. The University of Waterloo ranks 24th in the world for computer science and information systems, and the University of Toronto — one of Canada’s most prestigious schools — ranks 16th.
While many tech giants already have a presence in these cities, there are efforts underway to make Toronto-Waterloo rise to the top of the world’s tech scene. Following the release of the City of Toronto’s Startup Eco-system Strategy in 2015, the city launched StartUp HERE Toronto, a website built and managed by startup influencers to feature startup news and events and put a spotlight on entrepreneurs in the Toronto-Waterloo corridor.
Other notable leaders in the region include Sanjay Singhal, partner at 500 Startups; David Crow, advisor at Venture for Canada; Mike McDerment, CEO at FreshBooks; David Ossip, CEO at Ceridian; Matt Golden, founder at Golden Venture Partners; Marcus Daniels, CEO at HIGHLINE vc; Mark Organ, CEO at Influitive; and Salim Teja, executive vice president of Ventures at MaRS Discovery District.
Vancouver is found in British Columbia (BC), amongst the Rocky Mountains on Canada’s west coast. With a population that just exceeds 600,000, the city’s easygoing vibe makes it one of the most attractive places in Canada. In fact, Vancouver is rated the fifth city for quality of life in the world by Mercer, the only North American city to make the list.
Vancouver residents aren’t shy about being in the greenest, and arguably most beautiful, city in Canada. They’re also getting pretty good at representing their rising tech scene. The entire province of BC now boasts more than 100,000 people working in the tech sector. Employment in the industry rose 2.9 percent in 2016, compared to the national tech sector’s growth at 1.1 percent. Tech in BC employs more people than the mining, oil, gas and forestry industries — combined.
Boasting mountains and ocean just like Silicon Valley, Vancouver also has seen some of the biggest Canadian acquisitions. Vancouver’s PlentyofFish, the popular dating website, was purchased by Match Group in 2015 for US$575 million, for example. Even more, Vancouver is home to OMER Ventures-backed Hootsuite — which is valued at US$1 billion — as well as everyone’s favorite, Slack. Although Slack the company is technically based in San Francisco, CEO Stewart Butterfield also works out of Vancouver, or Vancity as it’s often called.
In the hopes of fostering more unicorns like Slack and PlentyofFish and fastening BC’s startup scene on the world map, the provincial government set up a $100 million fund for early-stage funding in December 2015. Since then, there have been about 14,000 new tech jobs in the province. Also located in Vancouver is the BC Tech Association. Founded in 1993, BC Tech provides growth, talent and advocacy programs to tech companies in the province.
Canada provides affordable development talent, and thousands of people graduate each year from some of the best universities in the world.
Being on the west coast, and therefore the same coast as startup hubs in San Francisco, has its advantages. Startups in the city attract a lot of outside attention, including from Silicon Valley stalwarts. In February of this year, Vancouver-based TIO Networks, which offers online and mobile solutions for bill payments, and processed more than US$7 billion in fiscal 2016, was acquired by PayPal for $304 million. Similarly, Kickstarter opened its first office outside of the United States in the same month, after acquiring Vancouver-based startup Huzza.
Traction Conference, hosted by Launch Academy and Boast Capital, is one of a number of popular conferences in the city, and, according to BetaKit’s Jessica Galang, puts an emphasis on helping startups learn actionable ways to accelerate their businesses. Cube Business Media, led by Mark Stephenson and Dave Tyldesley, is another organization hosting events throughout the city.
Like Toronto and Waterloo, Vancouver boasts world-class universities, such as the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University. SFU Innovates is a program from the latter, which seeks to build and support innovation and entrepreneurship across the university. It has so far contributed $1.3 billion to BC’s economy. Similarly, UBC’s Startup Weekend event inspires would-be founders to get set up within 54 hours in a do-or-die race to success.
Said investor Ali Saheli of 7 Gate Ventures over the phone, “Vancouver allows founders to remove all of the noise that you would get from the Valley and to focus on building products. In the past couple of years the number of early-stage startups has significantly grown thanks to government grants and communities such as Launch Academy and The Next Big Thing.”
Additional notable leaders in the city include investors Boris Wertz and Markus Frind, and entrepreneurs Stephen Ufford of Trulioo, Ali Davar of Qudos and Ray Walia of Launch Academy. Additional startups and events are well-documented by Alex Chuang of Launch Academy on TechCrunch here.
One of North America’s most European cities, Montreal, Quebec, is also the second-largest primarily French-speaking city in the world, just after Paris. The city has an undeniable allure — with tons of public art displays, miles of bike lanes and world-class festivals, such as Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, as well as Startupfest.
Although Montreal may host a less mature ecosystem when compared to other cities, it boasts world-class universities, including McGill University and Université de Montréal, and a host of government programs. Additionally, Montreal is home to almost 50 percent of all Startup Weekends in Canada, training close to 1,000 entrepreneurs a year.
“Local government provides the best programs in North America with millions of dollars in grants, loans, innovation tax credits, and even government backed incubators without any cost to the entrepreneurs,” said Montreal Founder Institute Director Sergio Ramos over the phone. “As any emerging ecosystem, Montreal has many challenges. Among them, Montreal counts very few seed-stage investors and no pre-seed ones. Many times, seed investors tend to function closer to Series A investors with non-friendly term sheets and low valuations.”
The Founder Institute team in Montreal. Photo by Charles Laberge, Collaboration Speciale, La Presse,
3 September 2015.
Startupfest is a three-day festival that takes place in a relaxed “Tent Village.” It features keynote speakers, how-to sessions and $200,000 investment opportunities from festival angel investors. Even more, the festival features a panel of infamously tough Grandmothers, to whom entrepreneurs pitch their startups.
While the city is considered the cultural capital of Canada, Montreal is also an artificial intelligence stronghold. Just in January, Microsoft announced it would double its investment to AI research and development in the city. Over a five-year period, the tech giant will gift $6 million to the Université de Montréal, and $1 million to McGill University.
A week before this announcement, Microsoft acquired natural language processing and AI startup Maluuba, which was founded by Waterloo graduates Kaheer Suleman and Sam Pasupalak in 2011. In February 2016, it also bought Groove, a Montreal music app that uses machine learning to come up with personalized playlists.
In terms of resources for entrepreneurs in Montreal, FounderFuel is an accelerator funded by Real Ventures, a Canadian VC firm. Entrepreneurs Anonymous is a peer-to-peer support group, which takes place at a different Montreal bar each month.
Notable leaders in Montreal’s ecosystem include John Stokes, general partner at Real Ventures; Sergio Escobar, managing director at the Founder Institute Montreal; LP Maurice, co-founder and CEO at Busbud; Chris Arsenault, partner at iNovia Capital; Mike Cegelski and Francois Gilbert of Anges Québec; Alan MacIntosh, partner at Real Ventures; Daniel Robichaud, CEO at PasswordBox; and Helge Seetzen of TandemLaunch.
Ottawa and others
The three most popular cities in Canada do not exclusively dominate the startup ecosystem. There are flickers — and sometimes flares — of startup activity that certainly have the potential to grow larger in the coming years.
Canada’s capital, Ottawa, sits on the border with Quebec, and is just about two hours from the city of Montreal. Parliament Hill is the city’s main attraction — and depending on the season, visitors and residents alike skate on the Rideau Canal, which winds for five miles throughout the city.
Ottawa is home to Canadian unicorn Shopify, and has been on a kick to make itself the best city in Canada to start a business. Ottawa-based SaaS accelerator L-SPARK, which is directed by Leo Lax, supports talent in the city and also hosts SAAS North, a conference that helps Canadian companies network and promotes Ottawa as the country’s capital of SAAS.
“In Ottawa there is a wealth of experienced C-level executives from the telecommunications industry, and as that industry has slowed down it has created an enormous talent pool for startups,” said Leo Lax over the phone. “We can shortcut the challenges of building a SAAS company through the experience of the people here.” Further support in Ottawa includes Invest Ottawa, a group that delivers economic development programs to give entrepreneurs a head start in Canada’s capital.
The SAAS North team in Ottawa. Photo by Velour Productions.
Other notable leaders in Ottawa’s ecosystem include Tobi Lutke, CEO of Shopify; Allan Wille, CEO at Klipfolio, Terry Matthews, Chairman of Wesley Clover International; Jamie Petten, co-founder of SAAS North; Craig Fitzpatrick, CEO of PageCloud; Adrian Salamunovic and Nazim Ahmed of Canvas Pop; and investor Aydin Mirzaee.
Another city to consider is Edmonton, which is also beginning to carve out a place on the map in the country’s startup scene. The city’s hubs include incubator TEC Edmonton — a joint University of Alberta and City of Edmonton initiative ranked the world’s 16th best business incubator – Business Link, as well as Startup Edmonton. For the past two years Startup Edmonton has hosted Edmonton Startup Week, which features more than 20 community events for entrepreneurs across the city.
Lastly, Labrador and Newfoundland, which are the most eastern point of North America, are beginning to develop grassroots startup communities. This includes StartupNL, a community of entrepreneurs led by Will Gough, Jason Janes and Roger Power that hosts events and programs. In 2014, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador unveiled a $15 million fund to invest in local entrepreneurs and startups, and in 2016, three St. John’s, Newfoundland startups announced funding of more than $2 million, including game developer Clockwork Fox Studios, marketing collaboration platform HeyOrca and software provider Sentinel Alert.
Canada’s ecosystem is still in its early stages. Companies tend to exit too early rather than focusing on growing something sustainable. It often feels like Canadians bow out where Americans — for whatever reason — might not. Similarly, sub-zero temperatures scare people to warmer areas, leading to a brain drain and serious demand for startup-orientated marketers. Many current marketing staff are not au fait with startup performance, due to their backgrounds in more traditional industries.
Canadian investors have historically looked at minerals and mining companies, which attract much of the capital. People tend to invest in other industries rather than startups because of their prior experience.
On the other hand, Canada provides affordable development talent, and thousands of people graduate each year from some of the best universities in the world. Founders are now beginning to enter the startup market again after their first exits, and there is a growing sense of community. In recent years there has been impressive growth in the number of people interested in startups. Government tax incentives reward companies for investing in research and development.
Then there is the Trump question. The new U.S. administration’s hard stance against immigrants can only play into Canada’s favor — with worldwide talent flocking to the Great White North, the opportunity is Canada’s to lose. Over the last five years, Canada has brought in more than 800,000 immigrants to fill holes in the jobs market. With an unfriendly U.S. approach to immigration, international talent could easily look to Canada instead of America as a land of hope and opportunity.
With 20 percent of Canada’s population already born elsewhere, the country now offers a startup visa to encourage international entrepreneurs to immigrate, with permanent residence status. This is crucial to Canada’s future success. By 2019, there will be 182,000 tech jobs up for grabs and nowhere near enough people to fill them. So while Canada’s tech scene is growing, there is yet more to come.
There are a lot of bright things to come for Canada’s startup scene.
By Leah Schnurr and David Ljunggren
OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday brushed off an attack by U.S. President Donald Trump on Canada’s system of dairy protections, saying every nation defended its agricultural industries.
Trudeau told Bloomberg Television that the United States in fact ran a dairy surplus with Canada. Trump took aim at Canada’s dairy industry this week and said on Thursday “what they’ve done to our dairy farm workers is a disgrace”.
Canada’s dairy sector is protected by high tariffs on imported products and controls on domestic production as a means of supporting prices that farmers receive.
Trudeau said the system “works very well” in Canada.
“Let’s not pretend we’re in a global free market when it comes to agriculture,” he said. “Every country protects, for good reason, its agricultural industries.”
Trump’s comments were the second time this week he has attacked Canada’s dairy industry and on Thursday he included the lumber, timber and energy sectors in a list of what he said were problematic areas of trade.
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, asked for a reaction, rejected the suggestion of wrongdoing.
“Canada strongly believes in a rules-based system of trade, and therefore always abides by and upholds the rules that govern trade,” she said in an e-mailed statement.
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Over the 20 years of my service as an elected official, never have I seen the policy of supply management become such a hot-button issue. Both foreign and domestic politicians seem to be chiming in on what they think is best for Canadians, without truly studying the effects of their proposals. Having spoken to numerous dairy farmers in Ontario and Quebec throughout the years, while also being an MP from Alberta, I understand both sides of the argument on supply management.
(Photo: Monty Rakusen via Getty Images)
While some politicians argue that supply management must be scrapped immediately, in order to “stand on principle for freedom,” others say that if we even touch supply management, Canadian farmers will become impoverished within a matter of days. Both positions are drastically oversimplified, overstated and simply far removed from reality. Instead of throwing mindless rhetoric around, we should propose actual policy solutions to the problems facing us today.
Ottawa must protect the interests of Canadians first, and this includes Canadian dairy farmers.
My policy proposal is simple — we must have a sensible solution to supply management that protects our Canadian farmers, while also keeping the consumer in mind. The viewpoint that by simply scrapping supply management will drastically reduce the price of dairy products is highly overstated. Such a policy would only marginally reduce prices, while systematically placing Canadian farmers into a position of economic hardship.
These farmers, the backbone of Canada’s agriculture industry, who have spent generations in the business of producing high-quality dairy, would be banished to economic ruins with the stroke of the pen from Ottawa. That is not the federal government’s duty. In fact, it is the very opposite. Ottawa must protect the interests of Canadians first, and this includes Canadian dairy farmers.
While some Canadian politicians talk about this scrapping of supply management, it is interesting to see that foreign leaders are taking interest at our domestic policy. U.S. President Donald Trump, for example, took aim at our policy, calling it “very unfair” and demanding that NAFTA be renegotiated. What is unfair is the fact the U.S. subsidizes its own dairy industry — providing their farmers with certain protections — while demanding that our government cease to protect Canadian farmers.
In the context of international trade, it is clear that nations and their governments’ top priority is to look out for the interests of their citizens. And why shouldn’t they? It is, after all, the government’s job to do so. But while the U.S. protects its interests and its farmers, so too should Canada. We must not give in and fold our cards, but rather work collaboratively with our American partners to find consensus on this issue, along with many others.
Having a long-term strategy to increase dairy trade with the U.S., while still protecting Canadian farmers, is a win-win situation.
The Canadian government should be receptive to renegotiating NAFTA to include gradual changes to supply management, but this must be done in consultation with Canadian farmers. Having a long-term strategy to increase dairy trade with the U.S., while still protecting Canadian farmers and their livelihoods, is a win-win situation.
By doing this, we will strike a fair and balanced trade policy with the U.S., while simultaneously protecting Canadian farmers, all while gradually reducing consumer prices of dairy goods. A sensible supply management policy for a 21st-century Canada.
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump held their first face-to-face meeting at the White House on Feb. 13, 2017.
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The president may have “shown his hand” when it comes to NAFTA.
UP NEXT: Trudeau-Obama State Dinner
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Barack Obama chat during the state dinner.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Barack Obama hug it out during the state dinner.
Prime Minister Trudeau and Sophie are welcomed to the White House State Dinner by President Obama and Mrs. Obama.
Prime Minister Trudeau speaks with Ryan Reynolds during the State Dinner at the White House in Washington.
Prime Minister Trudeau speaks with Sandra Oh during the State Dinner at the White House in Washington.
Prime Minister Trudeau speaks with Mike Myers during the State Dinner at the White House in Washington.
Prime Minister Trudeau speaks with Michael J. Fox during the State Dinner at the White House in Washington.
Prime Minister Trudeau and President Obama hold a joint press conference in the Rose Garden at the White House.
Prime Minister Trudeau and Sophie introduce Xavier, Ella-Grace and Hadrien to President Obama and Mrs. Obama.
Prime Minister Trudeau and Sophie introduce Xavier, Ella-Grace and Hadrien to President Obama and Mrs. Obama.
Prime Minister Trudeau and President Obama work the rope line during the welcome ceremony on the south lawn of the White House.
Prime Minister Trudeau and President Obama stand together during the playing of the two nation’s anthems during the Prime Minister’s arrival at the White House.
Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister McKenna, and Xavier meet The Weeknd at Blair House in Washington.
U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama pose for a photo with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau at the North Portico of the White House in Washington, Thursday, March 10, 2016, as they arrive for a state dinner.
President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walk into the White House in Washington, Thursday, March 10, 2016, as they arrive for a state dinner.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau does the sign of the cross after laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arlington Cemetery Friday, March 11, 2016 in Arlington, Virginia.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walk into the White House in Washington, Thursday, March 10, 2016, as they arrive for a state dinner.
U.S. President Barack Obama smiles during his meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Thursday, March 10, 2016, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens as President Barack Obama speaks during a bilateral news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Thursday, March 10, 2016.
President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau conclude their news conference in the Rose Garden of White House in Washington, Thursday, March 10, 2016.
President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin shake hands following the conclusion of their joint news conference, Thursday, March 10, 2016, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens as U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a state arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, March 10, 2016.
U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama wave with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and his wife Sophie Gregoire, on the Truman Balcony during an arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Thursday, March 10, 2016.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau review the troops on the South Lawn of the White House, Thursday March 10, 2016 in Washington. Trudeau hopes to strengthen US-Canada ties during his visit to the White House.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau review the troops on the South Lawn of the White House, Thursday March 10, 2016 in Washington. Trudeau hopes to strengthen US-Canada ties during his visit to the White House.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, stand for the playing of national anthems during an arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Thursday, March 10, 2016.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, arrives at the White House and is greeted by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, Thursday March 10, 2016 in Washington.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds his son Hadrian as he and his wife Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau son Xavier, right and daughter Ella-Grace, back, step off the plane at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Wednesday, March 9, 2016.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets students from D.C.’s Patterson Elementary School after he arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Wednesday, March 9, 2016.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walks towards a group of school children during a welcome ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Wednesday, March 9, 2016.
Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau looks on as her husband Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and their youngest son Hadrien Grégoire, greet students from D.C.’s Patterson Elementary School, after their arrival at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Wednesday, March 9, 2016.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives for a state visit with his wife Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, left, and their children Xavier James, Ella-Grace and Hadrian, right, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Wednesday, March 9, 2016.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses a packed room for Canada 2020’s reception event at the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. on March 9, 2016. Trudeau is in the U.S. capital for a historic state visit with President Barack Obama. (Photo: © Hannah Thomson for Canada 2020)
Trudeau and Grammy-winning, Oscar-nominated The Weeknd share a laugh at Canada 2020’s reception event at the Renwick Gallery. (Photo: © Hannah Thomson for Canada 2020)
Two Mounties in full red serge stand guard outside Canada 2020’s event with cabinet ministers Stéphane Dion, Hunter Tootoo, Catherine McKenna, and Harjit Sajjan. (Photo: © Hannah Thomson for Canada 2020)
(Photo: © Hannah Thomson for Canada 2020)
The prime minister, right, and Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, left, pose with The Weeknd. (Photo: © Hannah Thomson for Canada 2020)
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau pose outside of Canada 2020’s reception at the Renwick Gallery in Washington. (Photo: © Hannah Thomson for Canada 2020)
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Just days before the fourth anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, several big name clothing retailers – including four in Canada — are being urged to do a better job disclosing where their products are made.
The report, co-authored by nine labour rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and the Canadian organization Maquila Solidarity Network, says many clothing and footwear brands are failing to fully identify the factories that produce their branded goods.
Such disclosures are a first step to identifying factories that are engaging in dangerous or unfair labour practices, they write in “Follow the Thread: The Need for Supply Chain Transparency in the Garment and Footwear Industry.”
The human rights groups asked 72 major clothing brands to agree to a Transparency Pledge and publish on their websites the full names and addresses of the factories making their branded products. Four of the companies they contacted were Canadian:
Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC)
Hudson’s Bay Company
Loblaw, owner of Joe Fresh
Canadian Tire, owner of Mark’s and SportChek
Mountain Equipment Co-op fared best in the report, coming close to meeting the full transparency pledge standards. Hudson’s Bay discloses the names and addresses of some of the facilities producing their branded products, but not all and has no time line to do so, the report authors found.
Loblaw, whose Joe Fresh line was produced at the Rana Plaza, now discloses names of factories and countries of manufacturer, but not the addresses.
Canadian Tire, meanwhile, did not agree to publicly disclose any information on its supplier factories.
According to the report, 17 of the 72 companies they contacted agreed to publish all supplier factory information requested. Another five companies (including MEC) published some information though just short of the pledge standards, while 18 (including Loblaw) “are moving in the right direction,” the report authors say.
Ten did not respond at all to the coalition’s letter, while 15 (including Canadian Tire) did not commit to publish supplier factory information.
The United Steelworkers of Canada, which works to support garment workers in Bangladesh and improve their working conditions, is calling on Canadians to push for more transparency.
“The Canadian Tire family of brands, including Mark’s and Sport Chek, imports products from 67 factories in Bangladesh,” Ken Neumann, the Canadian director of the United Steelworkers said in a statement.
“However, they don’t publicly report which garment factories they use. That means human rights groups can’t independently verify if these factories are safe and how they are treating their workers.”
The USW campaign encourages Canadians to email and call the presidents and CEOs of Canadian Tire, Mark’s, and Sport Chek to ask for change.
“Keeping factories hidden from public scrutiny is unacceptable. It’s time to stop operating in the dark,” Neumann added.
Calls for transparnecy since Rana Plaza collapse
In 2013, the Rana Plaza collapse killed more than 1,100 garment workers. After the disaster, it became apparent that few at the factory were aware of which apparel companies were using the facility, with the information only trickling out after workers rummaged through the rubble to look for brand labels.
Since then, many leading clothing companies have begun publishing information about their supply chain, including Nike, adidas, Levi Strauss, and Patagonia.
The groups say consumers have the right to know details about where the products they buy are made, beyond a label that might read: “Made in China” or “Made in Bangladesh.”
Retailers, too, have a responsibility to take steps to prevent human rights risks throughout their supply chains, and to help advance ethical business practices, the coalition says.
They say retailers and clothing companies need to be willing to promote supply chain transparency, to allow workers and human rights advocates to alert retailers to abuses in their supplier factories.
Aruna Kashyap, senior counsel for the women’s rights division at Human Rights Watch, says a basic level of supply chain transparency in the garment industry should be the norm in the 21st century.
“Openness about a company’s supply chain is better for workers, better for human rights, and shows that companies care about preventing abuse in their supply chains,” she said in a statement.
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