They were asking the court to overturn a decision by the Border Services Agency that said it had no authority to impose such a ban.
The cause was championed by the humanitarian group Canadians in Support of Refugees in Dire Need and former minister David Kilgour, who passed away on April 5.
According to them, the Border Services Agency should ban the import of any items from Xinjiang unless it is proven that their manufacture did not involve forced labor.
These activists accuse China of oppressing the Uyghur people and other ethnic minorities by deporting them to large labor camps.
The federal government has expressed concerns about religion- or ethnic-based crackdowns on minorities in China under the guise of combating terrorism or religious extremism.
According to Ottawa, there are credible documents on human rights violations against Uyghurs and other minorities in the Xinjiang region: mass arbitrary detention, separation from families, suppression of cultural and religious practices, surveillance, forced labor, sterilization forced and tortured.
Under the free trade agreement with Mexico and the United States, Canada must prohibit
the importation into its territory of products originating from other sources and resulting, in whole or in part, from forced or compulsory labor, including forced or compulsory labor of children.
In January 2021, a representative of the Border Services Agency told the group by email that it does not have the authority to ban products that may have been made by forced laborers based solely on their location. of origin.
In her recent decision, Associate Chief Justice of the Federal Court, Jocelyne Gagné, stated that she saw no element of the Customs Act or the customs tariff in question that imposed on the border agency the obligation to take a decision such as that demanded by the group of refugees and its allies.
In addition, she said that every shipment of goods that arrives in Canada is subject to an officer’s determination of origin, tariff and value, and those decisions can be appealed through administrative mechanisms.
The Canadian International Trade Tribunal has direct jurisdiction to review the border agency’s findings, and the Federal Court of Appeal has exclusive jurisdiction to hear appeals from trade tribunal decisions, she noted.
Ms Gagné said the border agency’s email was not subject to judicial review.
Even so, the plaintiffs have not presented evidence that the current legislative regime does not prevent goods produced by forced labor from entering Canada, she added.