New code of conduct for government procurement: Protections must extend to all workers

This month, PSAC participated in a Government of Canada consultation on changes to the Code of Conduct for Procurement.  

This Code currently “includes expectations for vendors and their Canadian and foreign suppliers to comply with minimum human rights and labour standards adapted from the eight fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organization and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights”.  

It is being updated to include new provisions to “incorporate human and labour rights expectations as a step in Canada’s commitment to prevent human trafficking in federal procurement supply chains “. 

PSAC shares this goal, and provided recommendations to help ensure the procurement process and outcomes are reflective of the standards that apply to Canadian government departments also apply to vendors around the country.  

We told the government: 

  1. Any discussion about a code of conduct for the procurement of services that have been or could be performed within the public service, needs to begin with a discussion about whether the procurement of services is necessary in the first place.  There is seldom a valid reason to contract out services that can be and should be provided by public service workers. 

  1. The revisions to the Code leave out many vendors. These provisions need to apply to anyone who does business with the Government of Canada – whether through departments, agencies or crown corporations. No company that does business with the Government of Canada should be able to get around the requirement to apply a consistent human rights approach to all its operations. 

  1. The Code must be strong enough to ensure that those mega-corporations that make money from the privatization of our public services, don’t also get hired to make recommendations about whether to privatize public services in the first place. This conflict-of-interest situation has gone on too long.  

  1. The Code must have an environmental lens that ensures that standards are in place for all vendors to mitigate climate change, and that the standards should be as good or better than they are for Canadian companies, regardless of where the vendor is located.  

  1. The Code must ensure that vendors grant their employees the right to join or form trade unions of their own choosing and to bargain collectively with their employer, regardless of whether they are in Canada or elsewhere.  

Most important, the revised Code left out critical provisions that are necessary to ensure it meets its goal to prevent human trafficking in the federal procurement supply chains.  

We therefore recommended the Code be amended to indicate that forced labour and trafficking can include coercion, and that contracting authorities must abide by a duty to report human trafficking, exploitative child labour, forced labour and coercive labour practices within and outside of Canada. In addition, vendors must be required to report not only violations of labour rules, but also any risks in their operations that may allow for human trafficking, child labour or exploitative labour to take place.  

The Government of Canada has a fundamental responsibility to ensure everyone involved in the provision of goods and services to or for Canadians, have the same rights and protections as workers in the Canadian federal public service, regardless of what jurisdiction they are in, or what labour codes and standards apply to their local jurisdiction.  

PSAC believes the Code of Conduct, as written, is an initial step but needs to be strengthened to ensure these important rights and protections. 



March 11, 2021