British Columbia's child labour laws now trail those of India

Hiring children as young as 12 remains legal in one of Canada's richest provinces

 

Victoria (13 Aug. 2006) - British Columbia's child labour laws are so bad they now lag behind those of India, which has just banned the hiring of children under 14 as domestic servants or as employees at hotels, tea shops, restaurants and resorts.

Official government figures put the number of child labourers in India at 11 million. The actual figure is probably closer to 60 million, according to India's Save the Childhood Movement.

Yet the new standard, adopted by one of the world's poorest and most populous countries, is better than the child labour laws now on the books in B.C., Canada's wealthy West Coast province.

The B.C. government, headed by Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell, brought international shame to Canada by passing one of the most regressive pieces of "labour" legislation in modern memory.

Bill 37 was approved on Oct. 8, 2003. It permits the hiring of children under the age of 12 to 15 with the written consent of a child's parent or guardian. In fact, it even allows the hiring of children under the age of 12 with the consent of the province's "director of employment standards" - a government official whose duties are set out in the B.C. Employment Standards Act.

Shameful minimum wage

Besides legalizing child labour, Bill 37 also lowered the province's minimum wage to $6 an hour ($5.35 US) - the lowest in Canada - by establishing a two-tiered "minimum" rate.

The $6 "first job/entry level" wage applies to new employees in the work force. They are exempted from qualifying for the second-tier $8 minimum wage until they have worked at least 500 hours with more than one employer.

The B.C. law has been condemned by organizations across Canada and beyond, including the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) and its largest B.C. component, the British Columbia Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU). NUPGE

Excerpt from the Employment Standards Act of British Columbia

Hiring children9 (1) A person must not employ a child under 15 years of age unless the person has obtained the written consent of the child's parent or guardian.(2) A person must not employ a child under 12 years of age without the director's permission.(3) On permitting the employment of a child under 12 years of age, the director may set the conditions of employment for the child.(4) An employer must comply with the conditions of employment set under subsection (3). Full Text

More information:British Columbia Employment Standards ActB.C. Liberals present new gift to business - child labour