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Dhaka, Bangladesh Building Collapse

Honourable senators, we all heard of the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, this past April. It was heartbreaking to see the images of bodies being pulled from the rubble and hear of the over 1,100 dead and 2,500 injured.

I had the opportunity to go the site of the Rana building in July and wanted to tell you of my visit.

I had seen the images, but nothing could prepare me for the horror I saw. What was once an eight-storey building had become a gaping hole filled with rainwater. When I arrived at the site, I was surrounded by men and women holding photographs of young people. These were parents of young garment workers whose bodies had still not been recovered. These mothers and fathers had been coming back to the site every single day since the collapse, hoping their children would be found. Unfortunately, the site is now closed, and further digging is no longer possible.

At the site, I happened to meet a Canadian journalist, Félix Séguin, who was stunned to see another Canadian at the site, let alone a senator. He was reporting on whether compensation had been received by victims and their families, notably from Loblaw’s Joe Fresh. He said, “Will you speak on behalf of these people?”

On returning to Canada, I contacted Loblaw and spoke to Bob Chant, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Communications.

Honourable senators, we and all Canadians can be proud of the leadership demonstrated by Loblaw. Just last week, they announced that Loblaw will begin providing long-term, direct financial compensation to the victims and their families.

Not only will Loblaw provide compensation to its own workers, but it is encouraging all brands involved in production at Rana Plaza to provide compensation. Should these brands not step forward, Loblaw, along with U.K.’s Primark, will contribute to payment for the individuals involved, regardless of the brand they produced.

I am a great supporter of the nearly 4 million Bangladeshis who are dependent on the garment industry as their major source of income, many of whom are young women. We can find pride in the fact that in light of this tragedy a Canadian company has done what is right and supported these workers.