Latest ILO report damages Canada’s human rights reputation, says CFLR | National Union of Public and General Employees

Latest ILO report damages Canada’s human rights reputation, says CFLR

“This ILO report is very troubling… It damages the human rights reputation of Canada and many of our provinces."

Ottawa (04 April 2012) – The federal and most provincial governments should be embarrassed by the latest International Labour Organization’s (ILO) report citing over 20 ongoing violations here in Canada of the ILO's international labour standards, says the Canadian Foundation for Labour Rights (CFLR).

The CFLR was referring to a report issued last week reviewing the extent of Canada’s compliance to the ILO’s most fundamental Convention – No. 87, Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize. The report cites over 20 instances where governments across Canada have refused to change labour laws the ILO has ruled in the past to be in contravention of Convention No. 87.

Convention No. 87 establishes the universal right of all workers to form and join unions of their own choosing as well as the right to engage in free collective bargaining and strike action. Canada, with the support of all provincial and territorial governments, ratified Convention No. 87 in March 1972.

The report refers to 16 examples where certain categories of workers from across the country are denied the basic human right to join a union as well as five instances where unionized workers are prevented by legislation from bargaining collectively.

The report notes that the ILO “has been expressing concern [over Canada] for many years on the exclusion of wide categories of workers from statutory protection of freedom of association and on the restrictions on the right to strike in several provinces.” It goes on to say, “The [ILO] Conference Committee expressed the firm hope that all necessary measures would be adopted in the near future to provide full guarantees of the rights set forth in the Convention to all workers.”

“This ILO report is very troubling for the federal government as well as many of our provincial governments," noted Nathalie Des Rosier, CFLR Board member and General Counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. "It damages the human rights reputation of Canada and many of our provinces."

“It is hypocritical for Canada to present itself as the friendly giant of human rights Conventions on the international stage while completely sidelining them at home.”

James Clancy, CFLR board member and National President of the 340,000-member National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) stated, “Most world leaders understand that legislation which strengthens the right to form a union and bargain collectively is an important part of the solution to the biggest challenge we face, that of growing income inequality. Labour rights that promote unions are a critical component of getting the economy back on a healthy long-term growth path that benefits all citizens.”

“Even the World Bank acknowledges that the right to form unions and bargain collectively has a major positive impact on work and living conditions, as well as on the development and progress of economic and social systems.”

CFLR Board member, Drew Plaxton, a Saskatchewan-based labour lawyer who is also President of the Canadian Association of Labour Lawyers (CALL) noted that the federal and provincial governments continue to demonstrate disregard for the various rulings of the ILO with respect to restrictive labour legislation in Canada.

“In many cases, governments in Canada have not even provided the ILO with the courtesy of a reply to its many requests for information,” stated Plaxton.

“I cannot imagine the Government of Canada or any of its provincial counterparts completely dismissing a ruling of an international trade tribunal. Why is it that our governments will take immediate action to protect the international rights of corporations while being unconcerned about violations against the international rights of Canadian workers?“

More information:

ILO cites over 20 ongoing labour rights violations by Canadian governments


The Canadian Foundation for Labour Rights (CFLR) is a national voice devoted to promoting labour rights as an important means to strengthening democracy, equality and economic justice here in Canada and internationally. The key objectives the Foundation has established for itself are to create greater public awareness and understanding of labour rights as a key critical component of human rights; build effective political momentum and public support for progressive labour law reform. CFLR


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

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