Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A wake-up call for Canadian consumers

Garments sold here sewn in death trap

  • Print

TORONTO -- As rescuers continued to pull corpses and survivors from the rubble of a collapsed garment factory in Bangladesh, some consumers in Canada were shocked to learn items from their favourite brands were made there.

The building collapsed Wednesday killing at least 238 people, many of them poorly paid workers who were forced to keep producing clothes even after police ordered an evacuation due to deep, visible cracks in the walls.

Canadian clothing line Joe Fresh was among the customers of the garment factories operating in the building.

Natalie Erb, 24, shops at Joe Fresh at least once a week for everything from yoga clothes to office wear, she said. The news out of Bangladesh has the loyal customer disturbed about her purchases.

"To be honest, I had never really done much research into where Joe Fresh manufactures their clothing, but knowing what I do now, I'm hugely disappointed in the company," said the Halifax woman.

"I don't know if I'll be buying from the line any time soon, or ever again for that matter."

Joe Fresh parent company Loblaw (TSX:L) released a statement Thursday saying some Joe Fresh items were made in the factory and offered its condolences to the victims and their families.

The company said it requires vendors to ensure products are being manufactured in a socially responsible way, prohibiting child harassment, abuse and forced labour, as well as ensuring fair pay, benefits and health and safety standards.

Spokeswoman Julija Hunter said the standards are audited on a regular basis and align with those of the industry around the world.

"However, in light of the recent tragedies in Bangladesh we recognize that these measures do not address the issue of building construction or integrity," she said in a statement.

Loblaw is in the process of reaching out to the Retail Council of Canada, other retailers and government to establish a review to address Bangladesh's approach to factory standards, Hunter said.

"We don't have all the answers today," she wrote. "But we are committed to taking the necessary steps to drive change, and find better solutions to ensure safe working conditions for production facilities with which we do business."

Worker Rights Consortium, a labour-rights monitoring organization, first circulated a photo of a Joe Fresh label amid the rubble in Bangladesh. The country is the "worst place in the world for apparel workers," said the group's executive director.

But it's certainly not alone, said Scott Nova, and that should come as a surprise to no one.

"It has been well known for many years that most of the apparel bought and worn by people in Canada and the U.S. and Europe is made in developing countries where the industries are defined by low wages and poor working conditions," he said from Washington, D.C.

"You can try to buy stuff that's made in Canada or made in the U.S. You can buy from a handful of niche brands that generally produce under better conditions, but 99.9 per cent of the apparel that's offered for sale to consumers is made in sweatshops."

Everyone wants high-quality products at a good price, said Dara O'Rourke, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley and co-founder of GoodGuide, an online resource that gives products health, environmental and ethical ratings. But there are costs to those low prices, he said.

"If you walk into a Joe Fresh or Walmart or a Sears or a Target or whatever and you see a polo shirt and it's $5.99... the next thought should be: 'What is the company doing to lower their cost of production so much? Are they outsourcing the responsibility on treating workers fairly? Are they outsourcing and externalizing the environmental costs of this?"' he said.

Among the clients of garment makers in the building were The Children's Place and Dress Barn, Britain's Primark, Spain's Mango, Italy's Benetton and Walmart.


-- The Canadian Press, with files from The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 26, 2013 A15

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Top 5: Famous facts about the Stanley Cup

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Someone or thing is taking advantage of the inactivity at Kapyong Barracks,hundreds of Canada Geese-See Joe Bryksa’s goose a day for 30 days challenge- Day 15- May 22, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A Canada goose protects her nest full of eggs Monday on campus at the University of Manitoba- Standup photo- Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Are you concerned about the number of homicides so far this year?

View Results

Ads by Google