In late June, Ganong Bros. Ltd, Canada’s oldest chocolate factory, announced a $10 million expansion that will increase the size of their factory by 10%, add 30-40 jobs and allow them to potentially increase their sales volume by 25%. This was made possible in part by $5 million in loans from the province and the federal government, but it seems to me this “good” news is actually “bittersweet” at best.
At the June 24 announcement, Premier David Alward said, “This is a very positive day for Charlotte County, for St. Stephen and more importantly for New Brunswick.” It seems the premier was assuming the 30-40 news jobs would be going to people in St. Stephen and Charlotte County, but at this same event David Ganong, chair of the board, made clear they would outsource the jobs if they could not find qualified New Brunswickers. They’ve previously hired dozens of foreign workers. New Brunswick’s unemployment is at 9.5% and with the province now putting $3 million toward this new expansion, you would think asking Ganong Bros. to guarantee that jobs would go to New Brunswickers, even if training was required, would’ve been smart. So the news is not as good as it could have been.
The federal government, through the Atlantic Canadian Opportunities Agency, put $2 million toward the expansion at the St. Stephen factory which is happening in part because Ganong Bros. landed a long-term contract with a major international customer, with the details still being top secret. This introduces international trade issues which no one spoke about at the announcement.
Ganong Bros. makes a variety of chocolate and candy confections, but they do not source their own cocoa beans or even make their own chocolate. They purchase bulk chocolate which is melted and used to create the fine chocolate treats Canadians have enjoyed from Ganong for 138 years now, including Delecto assorted chocolates and Chicken Bones. It’s common practice, nearly ever chocolatier in Canada uses bulk chocolate. No one wants to talk about the serious ethical issues involved in the purchase and resale of bulk chocolate, but the federal government ought to take a stand.
Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana supply about 67% of the world’s chocolate, but it is increasingly coming to light that both countries have children labouring in the cocoa jungles. In many cases, children do not go to school, but instead work long hard days doing work far too dangerous for them. CBC Reporter Carol Off investigated the dark side of the cocoa industry in her book Bitter Chocolate and the BBC Panorama documentary Chocolate: The Bitter Truth backed up her findings and presented more evidence. What is this bitter truth? The children who labour so hard to produce the cocoa never taste the Ganong chocolates or any other chocolate for that matter. Not only are children forced to work, but the desperately poor cocoa farmers have also resorted to trafficking children from other West African countries and putting them to work as slaves. We know this is happening and, yet, to date, Canada has done nothing about it, continuing to import the West African cocoa beans and doing nothing to discourage the practice of child labour and child slavery.
We can’t pretend this investment from our federal government at Ganong Bros. is not a failure to do something to help change the plight of the children of West Africa. Why couldn’t the federal government, for example, have made their investment contingent on Ganong Bros. committing to making 25% of their chocolate products from Fair Trade chocolate (which improves the working conditions for children, gets them into school, and eliminates slavery). How long will Canadians be content to happily eat chocolate produced from cocoa harvested by child labourers and child slaves?
Jesus said, “Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did not do for me” (Matt 23:45). Don’t we have a moral obligation to work against slavery, especially to end child trafficking and slavery? Or should we just go one indulging in our Ganong chocolate truffles pretending that we’re not contributing to the forced labour of children in West Africa? Can we treat our kids with Kit Kats and Snickers while ignoring the plight of the children who produce the cocoa but never taste the chocolate? I can’t do it anymore. And I would like to see Canada do something about it. I’m writing to the New Brunswick premier, the federal minister responsible for ACOA and others; I’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime, I was going to post the fourth and final installment of the documentary Chocolate: The Bitter Truth, just in case you have not finished viewing it as I have previously posted the first three parts. Unfortunately, the high quality youtube video I had previously posted is no longer available. I’ll post this video which is part 4 of 5. You can click on the youtube button to find the fifth part. Listen carefully, it’s alarming.