Canada ratifies ILO Convention on Maritime Labour

First ILO Convention ratified in over a decade; Canada continues to refuse to ratify many of ILO’s fundamental conventions.

Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, director of the International Labour Standards Department of the International Labour Organization (ILO)Ottawa (27 July 2010) – For the first time in over a decade, Canada has ratified a Convention of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The ratification of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), 2006 was approved at the 99th Session of the ILO conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

The convention provides comprehensive rights and protection at work for the world's more than 1.2 million seafarers. The new standard consolidates and updates more than 65 international labour standards related to seafarers adopted over the last 80 years. • View ILO Video

The convention sets out seafarers' rights to decent conditions of work on a wide range of subjects. It is designed to become a global instrument known as the "fourth pillar" of the international regulatory regime for quality shipping.

Ratification of the convention will allow Canada to inspect foreign ships arriving in Canadian ports to determine their conformity with modern labour standards that are already being applied on Canadian vessels.

Canada’s ratification is especially significant as it is a major port state with key international ports on both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.

Canada also has important flag state and maritime labour supply interests. Canada is the 10th country to ratify the convention, joining forces with Spain, the first European Union country to ratify, and the four largest flag States in the world, the Bahamas, Liberia, the Republic of Marshall Islands and Panama. Norway, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Bulgaria, all countries with important maritime labour interests, have also ratified the Convention.

Since 1919 Canada has only ratified 28 of 188 international labour Conventions. Despite the embarrassing Canadian record, this ratification comes as no surprise.

Eleven of the 28 ratifications Canada has made over the years involve maritime labour conventions, including the important Merchant Shipping (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1976 (No.147), the predecessor to the MLC, 2006.

The last ILO Convention Canada ratified was the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999.

However, Canada remains one of the few countries in the world that have not ratified all eight ILO standards recognized as being fundamental to human rights. It refuses to ratify the following three global standards:

  • Convention No. 29 – Forced Labour, 1930;
  • Convention No. 98 – Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining, 1949; and
  • Convention No. 138 – Minimum Age, 1973.

An overwhelming number of ILO member States around the world have ratified all eight core Conventions (126 out of 182 countries). Canada is one of only eight countries that have not ratified Convention No. 29, one of only 29 countries that have not ratified Convention No. 98, and one of only 51 countries that have not ratified Convention No. 138.

Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, director of the International Labour Standards Department, believes Canada's ratification of the ILO Maritime Labour Convention "demonstrates a re-engagement by Canada with international labour standards, being that it's the first convention ratified by Canada in ten years.”


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE


Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry will visit Canada next month to participate in NUPGE's annual Leadership Development School.

More information:
ILO Video of Cleopatra Doumbia- Henry on Canada's ratification of Maritime Labour Convention, 2006

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