Vancouver urged to
adopt ethical purchasing regulations
city of Vancouver
has purchased firefighter apparel made in Burma, a Southeast Asian
boycotted for the atrocious human rights record of the military junta
illegally rules the country.
collection of local
activists has the evidence and is calling on the city to amend its
policies to ensure that no goods made in international sweatshops are
councils have already banned buying goods from Burma
as part of a national
campaign against third-world sweatshops. The activists, including
international solidarity reps and the local Burmese community, want the
climb on board.
issue is the purchase of
uniform parkas for Vancouver
firefighters. The parkas were sold to the city by a Montreal
firm, Evin Industries Ltd., which buys clothing from Burma,
by its rulers.
should city of Vancouver
required to wear...something that is manufactured under the worst
labour conditions in the whole world," said Bill Saunders, president of
the Vancouver and District Labour Council.
Burma has long been under the heel of a
accused of using forced and slave labour, and of ruthlessly suppressing
dissidents. It was supposed to step aside in 1990 following the
of a movement lead by democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi. Instead, the
tightened its grip on the country and placed Suu Kyi under house
thugs linked to the junta attacked a march by supporters of the
elected government, killing and injuring several, and sexually
supporters. Suu Kyi has been incarcerated in prison since the attack.
harsh repression has
drawn condemnation from the United Nations and sanctions from the United States, but Canada
has lagged behind. "The
official figures for 2000 show imports from Burma
have trebled since 1997," charged Soe Kyaw Thu of the Action Committee
called on the city to
adopt ethical purchasing regulations and on the province to back a 1999
legislative resolution condemning Burma's
junta and urging Ottawa
to recognize the democratically elected Suu Kyi government. The Action
to impose investment sanctions and "ban Canadian companies from doing
business with the brutal regime."
purchase of the Burma-made parkas
a "moral car wreck," Tom Sandborn of the BC Ethical Purchasing Group
remarked, "I think we can be relatively confident that this particular
horror show will be stopped." A mayor and councilors from the Coalition
Progressive Electors, a labour-backed civic alliance, dominate Vancouver city
Burma is bad but is only one part of an
system of sweatshops. "Every sweatshop plant anywhere in the Third
or in the city of Vancouver
is a little mini-Burma where people for profit can squeeze production
the workers. It's absolutely unacceptable that we don't have the simple
regulations in place," Sandborn declared. The ethical purchasing group
presented the city with a draft of suggested regulations and is calling
immediate action on the issue, he said.
Jim Green of COPE
said he was "shocked" to hear that the firefighter department had
purchased the Burma-manufactured parkas. "Everyone's going to have a
more critical eye about purchases in the future," he added.
couldn't give a time
when council would discuss the issue of implementing ethical standards
noted the city has been looking at models such as Toronto's No Sweat campaign. He said
has a guarantee that all purchasing for the 2010 Winter Olympics will
and manufactured according to Canadian labour standards.
Labour and other
groups have been waging a national campaign against low-wage sweatshops
several years. A national organization, the Ethical Trading Action
persuaded the cities of Toronto, Victoria, Moose Jaw,
Windsor and Saskatoon
to adopt ethical purchasing rules.