Safe in Canada… safe abroad?

You may remember this international scandal from last year: the death of working men and women in Qatar, a small country that is home to one of the world’s largest oil companies.

Human Rights Watch broke the story that thousands of construction workers are dying on project sites in Qatar. HRW believes millions of workers could potentially be at risk as they work amidst the country’s searing hot climate, without adequate protections.

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Importantly, these workers are not Qatari citizens. They are migrant workers from poorer south Asian countries, many of whom are working on enormous stadiums in preparation for Qatar’s hosting the World Cup. Even more egregiously, the deaths of these workers are often swept under the table and dismissed as “cardiac arrest”—the true statistics around workplace-related death in Qatar are not fully known.

It’s a far cry from a progressive country like Canada, where workers have rights and enjoy strong safety standards and regulations. Yet the Qatari reality isn’t rare. Workers’ rights violations are happening all around the world, and most importantly, often happen in places that export and profit from the oil industry.

Canadian oil supports a country that fights to keep workers safe. Qatari oil meanwhile is produced by an abused underclass of workers lacking in rights. Indeed, Qatari oil is keeping the Qatari state afloat, providing most of their GDP.

Why would we import oil from a place like Qatar, where workers feel the boot of oppression and face serious harm? Why not develop our own oil industry, right here at home, so we can use this product without causing harm to working people in other countries?