Human Rights - Political Science

Essay by bkiernanderCollege, UndergraduateC+, October 2014

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Braeden Kiernander




March 11, 2014

Refusing to trade with countries that violate human rights is a problematic

discussion for Canada, as three of Canada's top eleven trading partners (as of 2008)

have been violating the rights of their inhabitants for decades. China, Vietnam, and

Algeria are nations that provide Canada with many essential materials and products,

however these nations have also violated, and are currently violating the Universal

Declaration of Human Rights, as declared by the UN in 1948. By trading with such

nations, Canada is informally supporting the violation of human rights laws.

Nevertheless, completely withdrawing from trade with these countries would spark

controversy between partner nations, excluding Canadians from the imports they

have been so familiarized with. It is not in our favor (as Canadians) to secede

exchanging goods with a state that thoroughly acknowledges they are breaking laws

implemented by the United Nations.

Thus, Canada should pursue trade relations

with countries that violate human rights, because any wrongdoing within that

nation should be disclosed and dealt with by that corresponding government, and

should not in any way modify their production of imports nor affect the way

Canadians spend their money. Our trading partners allow Canada to have such

diverse advancements, particularly in technology. Losing these trade partners

would exclude us from technological advancements, giving other nations an

advantage over Canada. Also, by refusing trade with particular countries that

violate human rights, Canadians are giving up many essential manufactured goods,

which would result in the production of more costly, Canadian-made goods. High-

end retailers sell (for the most part) imported products in order to provide more

reasonable prices. Lastly, it would not be beneficial to the foreign nations Canada

withdraws trade relations with, as many of these countries are struggling

economically, as well as functionally. China, Vietnam, and Algeria most recently,

have experienced violent wars that affect how they are governed today. Advancing

in technology, having access to cheap manufactured goods, and boosting the

economies of struggling foreign nations has been on Canada's agenda for decades, so

obliterating these trading partners is not very likely.

If Canada were to refuse trade with China, technological advancement would

be at a standstill in several industries, including laundry machines and

entertainment systems. Seeing as it is our second largest trading partner, China

could potentially cause our economy to collapse temporarily, should we withdraw

from trading with them. Canada does not export nearly as much as it imports from

China, however they are a big enough trading partner to cause our economy to

collapse temporarily. In fact, so much of the electronics Canada imports are

Chinese-made, that there would be almost no brand names to choose from, or a

select few. Countries like the United States would be at a technological advantage,

having access to Chinese electronics almost exclusively in North America. For

generations Canada has been perceived as a technologically advanced country,

which is why trade relations exist with nations that export electrical and mechanical

equipment like China. Many other products are unknowingly produced in China,

which also experiences its fair share of religious discrimination. Article 18 of the

Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of

thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion

or belief." However, a religious group known as Fallon Gong were singled out, [1: ]

tortured, and abused in several ways while in detention. Christians were also

persecuted for practicing or studying religion outside state-sanctioned channels.

This is proof that one of our major trading partners is vigorously obstructing human

rights policies, and there is not much Canadians can do about it other than not

purchase foreign imported goods.

Many of the inexpensive manufactured goods seen at retail stores are

produced in countries like China or Vietnam. It is due to the fact that they are

foreign goods that they are so inexpensive. Child labor laws are often not enforced

in these countries, so as a result they can produce an extensive amount of goods for

less than what it should cost. Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

states: "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person."2 Authorities in

Vietnam forced over 70,000 drug addicts and prostitutes into overpopulated rehab

camps, giving them labels as "prone to AIDS" but provided absolutely no treatment.

While some are living in situations like such in Vietnam, many Canadians do not

realize how much of our manufactured products come from such harsh conditions.

In the case of Vietnam, Canada is informally supporting prostitution and drug abuse

by continuing to import goods from a country that does not pay its workers enough

to survive. However, should Canada discontinue these trade relations would bring

about more controversial action. The goods produced by these foreign nations

would have to then be produced in Canada, making them more expensive to

consumers. Consumers do not want to pay more, and will generally take any action

in order to assure prices do not increase. Trade allows products sold in Canada to

be sold for more reasonable prices, and people are encouraged by foreign goods

being sold for low prices in their own community.

Canada has always been considered a neighboring state, aiding foreign

countries experiencing post-war damage as well as from natural disaster. However

more recently than ever, Canada has embarked in trade movements and new trade

relations in effort to boost the economy of struggling nations, bettering its own in

the meantime. Earlier this year the Canadian Press wrote that "Harper told the

crowd of several hundred businesspeople the federal government will focus in the

next year on expanding trade in Asian markets such as China. Harper says while

Ottawa has signed a foreign-investment deal with China, there is still much room to

grow with what is Canada's second-largest trading partner."3 The deteriorating [2: ]

economies in the European Union have proven to have effect on Canadian imports

and exports, and the last thing Canada wants is to lose more trade even further east.

Importing more than exports, our spending habits improve the economies of other

nations, increasing their GDP as well as our own. A majority of the imports from the

east are consumer goods, rather than raw materials. Thus, it is in the interest of

consumers to accept that Canada should pursue trade relations with nations that

violate human rights.

People in high-risk situations, especially in the middle-east should do all they

can in order to escape their situation. But what about those who are deported, and

forced to certain locations without any consent? The Universal Declaration of

Human Rights also states that "Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and

residence within the borders of each state. Everyone has the right to leave any

country, including his own, and return to his country."4 However, there have been [3: ]

several times in Algeria where members of the United Nations High Commissioner

for Refugees (UNHCR) were deported without consent, on charges that they had

entered Algeria illegally, and then later dumped in the desert with no food or water.

It is evident that many of Canada's trading partners violate human rights. Workers

in such countries experience low income and harsh living conditions on top of that.

Many are forced so sift through computer junkyards, digging for heavy metals like

lead or mercury. The unfortunate truth is that many will get diseases, die, and will

not be replaced by the corresponding government nor will the situation ever be

properly dealt with. What's worse, is that the Chinese government so heavily

censors what is heard of about their country. If they want something to be heard, it

will be heard, and if they don't, it will most likely never be leaked to the public. "It is

an unfortunate situation and the world is turning a blind eye. When it comes to the

labor force, children and women are paid a quarter of days worth of hard work."5 If [4: ]

conditions were like so in Canada, immediate action would take place in effort to

spread income more evenly with women, and there would be the obvious

controversy surrounding child labor. So why does Canada "turn a blind eye"? If it is

our own goods we are importing, why are Canadians not as concerned as they

should be regarding where our foreign manufactured goods are produced?

Canadians feel as though the living conditions in some of our huge trading partners

are common in certain areas of the world, and in the process of importing we are

benefitting these nations in the long-run.

Without a doubt, Canada's trading partners have individually provided us

with goods and materials otherwise unattainable without foreign exchange. To our

likeliness, foreign goods come at a lesser price, and are easily accessible. Thanks to

many of our eastern trading partners, Canada is considered technologically

advanced, and updated with current electronics. By identifying struggling, and war-

torn countries, Canada has provided financial support through trade, as opposed to

military intervention. Canada should continue to pursue trade relations with

countries that violate human rights, because any wrongdoing within that nation

should be properly disclosed and dealt with by that corresponding government, and

should not in any way affect their production of imports nor change the way

Canadians spend their money. Consumers should not have to identify how

legitimate an imported good appears to be. The nations that Canada trades with

that do violate human rights are countries that are included in the UN. They have

signed several declarations, acknowledging certain action must be taken in regard

to labor laws. It is not under Canada's responsibility to govern another nation that

is struggling to preserve human rights. Canada has provided legitimate rights to it's

inhabitants for centuries, and will continue to do so without concern of the

legitimacy of foreign goods or the impact created by Canadian imports.


1. United Nations. "Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Violations of Human

Rights: Article 18 - Freedom of Thought." Accessed 1948 human-rights/freedom-to-move-and-thought.html

2. United Nations. "Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Violations of Human

Rights: Article 3 - Right to Live Free." Acessed 1948 w hat-are-human-rights/violations-of- human-rights/article-3.html

3. Huffington Post. "Stephen Harper marks Chinese New Year by Announcing Trade

Boost" Canadian Press. Accessed February 9, 2014

4. United Nations. "Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Violations of Human

Rights: Article 13 - Freedom to Move." Accessed 1948

5. "Does the People's Republic of China Violate Human Rights"

Accessed 2012

Raphael Kaplinsky. "Revisiting the revisited terms of trade: Will China make a

difference?" "World Development, Vol 34 issue 6." Accessed June 2006

CBC News. "What Does Canada Trade with China?"

News Article. Accessed July 12, 2012


United Nations Website. "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights - Preamble

Accessed 1948