U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1999 - Canada
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||25 February 2000|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1999 - Canada , 25 February 2000, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa6a14.html [accessed 26 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Canada is a constitutional monarchy with a federal parliamentary form of government. Citizens periodically choose their representatives in free and fair multiparty elections. The judiciary is independent.
Elected civilian officials control the federal, provincial, and municipal police forces. The armed forces have no role in domestic law enforcement except in national emergencies. Laws requiring the security forces to respect human rights are observed strictly, and the courts punish violators.
Canada has a highly developed, market-based economy. Laws extensively protect the well-being of workers and provide for workers' freedom of association.
The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, there were problems in some areas. The Constitution and laws provide effective avenues for legal redress of complaints. Problems include discrimination against aboriginals, the disabled, and women. There was an increase in anti-Semitic harassment. The Government continues to take serious steps to address private acts of violence against women.
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings.
The controversy over the 1995 shooting death of an aboriginal activist at Ipperwash, Ontario continued. In April a police officer was found guilty of criminal negligence causing death in the shooting and was sentenced to 2 years' community service under the supervision of a parole officer (see Section 5). The officer is appealing that conviction, while the victim's family is pursuing claims for damages in the civil courts. Because of the ongoing civil and criminal processes surrounding the incident, the provincial government has rejected calls for an inquiry into the shooting. The Federal Government also has rejected requests for an inquiry. Meanwhile, the Federal Government is continuing the process of ceding the neighboring military base to tribal control. As part of the agreement, the Federal Government is to return lands appropriated in 1942 under the War Measures Act and provide funds for community development and environmental cleanup.
A controversy arose in March 1998 after a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer shot and killed a woman and her child on the Tsuu T'ina reservation. The officer was called to assist a tribal police officer and a social worker, who had responded to a domestic dispute, and fired in response to high-powered rifle fire from the woman. The province of Alberta, where the incident took place, commissioned an independent investigation by the British Columbia attorney general's office that was reviewed further by a respected former Alberta judge. The reviews determined that criminal charges against the officer were not warranted. A separate judicial inquiry begun in 1998 continued with the participation of reservation representatives to determine the causes of the incident and how future incidents could be prevented.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The law prohibits such practices, and the Government observes these prohibitions in practice.
In May 1998, the chief of the armed forces announced an investigation into credible allegations made by a number of women serving in the armed forces that, in previous years, they had been subjected to rape, sexual harassment, and sexual abuse by their military colleagues. In addition to a special hot line established in 1998, the Minister of Defense in June 1998 established an Ombudsman to provide a means for conflict resolution for military members and civilian employees who believe that they have been treated unfairly. The Advisory Board on Canadian Forces Gender Integration and Employment Equity was established in November 1998. The Ministry also created a new military police complaints commission, which came into force on December 1 and a new armed forces grievance board that is scheduled to come into effect on March 1, 2000. The office of the Ombudsman reported in September that one-half of the 604 cases before it had been resolved.
Toronto police continued a review of procedures following public complaints about the use of strip searches and body cavity searches in several routine arrests. The review determined that there were isolated incidents of unnecessary searches. Toronto police authorities determined that the policy was still appropriate, but that officers required additional training in determining when such searches are appropriate.
An official investigation continued concerning the use by police of pepper spray to break up demonstrations that blocked the access road to the November 1997 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in Vancouver, (see Section 2.a.). At year's end, a Public Complaints Commission inquiry continued to explore potential responsibility for the police action, including the role of senior government officials.
Prison conditions meet minimum international standards, and the Government permits visits by human rights monitors. During the year, Ontario made changes to the facilities of the Don jail and improved inmate services, including its units for religious foods, special needs, health care, and psychological problems. Inquiries from the Ontario human rights ombudsman about jail conditions declined from 1998.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile, and the Government observes these prohibitions.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government respects this provision in practice. The judiciary provides citizens with a fair and efficient judicial process and vigorously enforces the right to a fair trial.
The court system is divided into federal and provincial courts, which handle both civil and criminal matters. The highest federal court is the Supreme Court, which exercises general appellate jurisdiction and advises on constitutional matters.
The judicial system is based on English common law at the federal level as well as in most provinces; in the province of Quebec, it is derived from the Napoleonic Code. Throughout the country, judges are appointed. In criminal trials, the law provides for a presumption of innocence and the right to a public trial, to counsel (free for indigents), and to appeal. The prosecution also can appeal in certain limited circumstances.
There were no reports of political prisoners.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The law generally prohibits such practices, government authorities scrupulously respect these prohibitions, and violations are subject to effective legal sanction.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The law provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the Government respects these rights in practice. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Government may limit free speech in the name of goals such as ending discrimination, ensuring social harmony, or promoting gender equality. The court ruled that the benefits of limiting hate speech and promoting equality are sufficient to outweigh the freedom of speech clause in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Journalists occasionally are banned from reporting some specific details of court cases until a trial is concluded, and these restrictions, adopted to ensure the defendant's right to a fair trial, enjoy wide popular support. Some restrictions on the media are imposed by provincial-level film censorship, broadcasters' voluntary codes curbing graphic violence, and laws against hate literature and pornography. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides for free speech and free press, but both the Criminal Code and human rights legislation have established limits. Inciting hatred (in certain cases) or genocide is a criminal offense. The Supreme Court has set a high threshold for such cases by specifying that these acts must be proven willful and public. The Broadcasting Act, which prohibits programming containing any abusive comment that would expose individuals or groups to hatred or contempt, has not yet been challenged in the courts. The Human Rights Act also prohibits repeated communications by telephone that expose a person or group to hatred or contempt. Human rights groups are exploring the possibility of extending this prohibition to the Internet, arguing that the Internet should be considered "telephonic communications" and therefore covered under the Human Rights Act. At year's end, the Human Rights Tribunal was examining whether a specific web site exposed Jews to hatred or contempt on the basis of their race, religion, or ethnic origin.
In February 1998, the RCMP Complaints Commission announced its decision to hold a public interest hearing on police behavior while providing security to the APEC leaders meeting in Vancouver in November 1997. The hearing began in September 1998. RCMP officers used pepper spray to break up small crowds of protesters who had blocked the only access road to a meeting site and had torn down a security barricade. The protesters allege that their right to free speech was infringed by the RCMP's actions. The protesters also allege that the arrest of one of their leaders prior to the meeting on charges (which subsequently were dropped) of temporarily deafening an RCMP officer with a loudspeaker were a further violation of the arrested individual's rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The investigation resumed in January after a suspension in November 1998 due to allegations that the process had become tainted by political interference from the Solicitor General. At year's end, a specially appointed commission continues to investigate various aspects of the incident. These points include whether actions taken by police were justified by the security risk and whether political considerations such as direct influence from senior political leaders may have played a role in determining the level of RCMP response to protestors' actions. No interim conclusions have been announced by the commission (see Section 1.c.).
Academic freedom is respected.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for these rights, and the Government respects them in practice.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice.
In July a one-person Board of Inquiry ruled that it was discriminatory to require recitation of the Lord's Prayer in Saskatoon public schools. Saskatchewan joined Canada under the terms of the Saskatchewan Act, which forms part of the provincial constitution, permitting prayer and Bible readings. As a result of the ruling, the Lord's Prayer is not recited in Saskatoon public schools. The Saskatoon School Board began public hearings on the issue in the fall, but the Saskatoon Education Department has not filed a legal appeal.
In March the government-mandated Proulx task force submitted a report on religion in schools to the Quebec National Assembly. Its 14 recommendations include abolishing Catholic and Protestant status for public schools and creating secular public schools instead with religion studied from a cultural perspective. Publicly funded support services would be provided for students of all faiths. School boards are scheduled to respond to the Quebec government by July 1, 2001.
d. Freedom of Movement within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The law provides for these rights, and the Government respects them in practice. The law provides for the grant of asylum and refugee status in accordance with the standards of the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.
The Government cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees and extends first asylum. There were no reports of the forced expulsion of persons with a valid claim to refugee status. Canada is a resettlement country, and as of September the Government projected granting 40,600 to 41,800 claims for refugee status during the year.
In 1997 almost 1,000 Czech Roma claimed refugee status. The Government continued to process these claims for refugee status and has not forcibly deported any of the asylum claimants. During the year, 737 Czech Roma were granted asylum, while 78 were denied it.
During the summer, approximately 600 Chinese arrived illegally by boat off the coast of British Columbia and sought refugee status. While most of the persons from the first such boat were released pending their refugee hearings, only a few of those released appeared for their hearings. Because the majority of the early refugee claimants who were released failed to appear for their hearings, a much larger percentage of refugee claimants from subsequent boats were regarded as risks for flight and remanded into custody pending their refugee claim hearings. Many of those in custody have protested their detention, and legal groups are attempting to force the Government to release all refugee claimants pending their hearings. Detained refugee claimants have pressed their demands through civil disobedience and hunger strikes. During one such event in December, a refugee claimant refused to move when directed to do so, and eventually guards forcibly removed him. Law enforcement authorities state that he suffered minor bruises during the incident; the refugee claimant stated that prison officials beat him for no reason, and he has initiated a lawsuit. At year's end, the matter was subject to a formal inquiry.
Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercise this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of universal suffrage.
A significant body of opinion in the Province of Quebec, represented by the party that governed the province throughout the year, continues to maintain that Quebec has the right to withdraw from the confederation if that decision proves to be the democratically expressed will of the people of Quebec, and that it is only Quebeckers who have the right to make this decision. In response to a reference on the question from the Federal Government, the Supreme Court ruled in August 1998 that a unilateral declaration of independence by Quebec would be illegal under Canadian and international law. However, the Court added that the Federal Government and other provinces would be obliged to negotiate Quebec's separation in good faith if a clear majority of Quebeckers voted to separate on the basis of a clearly phrased question. In December the Government tabled legislation in Parliament specifying that the Parliament has the right to review any question posed in a provincial referendum to determine whether the question is clear and any subsequent majority vote large enough to obligate the Government to negotiate the terms of succession. The draft legislation also contains a list of issues that must be negotiated including debt, assets, liabilities, minority rights, aboriginal rights, and borders.
Women play a significant role in government and politics, although they are underrepresented in proportion to their percentage of the population. In the Parliament, 59 of 301 members in the House of Commons are women, and 32 of 104 senators are women. Women hold 7 seats in the 28-person Cabinet. In November a woman was appointed for the first time as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Section 4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A wide variety of human rights groups operate without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials are very cooperative and responsive to their views.
Section 5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides for equal benefits and protection of the law regardless of race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability. These rights generally are respected in practice; however, there are some charges of discrimination in this multicultural society.
The law prohibits violence against women, including spousal abuse, but it remains a problem. According to Statistics Canada, 3 in 10 women currently or previously married or living in a common-law relationship have experienced at least 1 incident of physical or sexual violence. The health and economic costs of violence against women have been estimated to be $2.7 billion (Can $4.2 billion) annually.
The Criminal Code prohibits criminal harassment (stalking) and makes it punishable by imprisonment for up to 5 years. The law prohibits sexual harassment, and the Government enforces this provision.
Women are well represented in the labor force, including business and the professions. Employment equity laws and regulations cover federal employees in all but the security and defense services. In June 1998, the Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the Federal Government must pay back wages to workers in underpaid positions (predominantly female) under the concept of equal pay for work of equal value. The Government appealed, based on the methodology used to calculate wages owed, but lost and agreed to the settlement in October.
Women have marriage and property rights equal to those of men. Women head over 85 percent of single parent households. Child support reforms in 1996 and 1997 include: Amendments to the income tax act to eliminate child support from the custodial parent's taxable income and the tax deduction available to payers of child support; amendments to the divorce act to establish fairer and more consistent child support payments; measures to strengthen enforcement; and an enhanced income supplement for lower-income families.
The Government demonstrates its strong commitment to children's rights and welfare through its well-funded systems of public education and medical care. Federal and provincial regulations protect children from abuse, overwork, and discrimination and penalize perpetrators of such offenses.
There is no societal pattern of abuse of children. Changes to the law in 1997 strengthened tools to combat child prostitution and prohibited female genital mutilation, which is widely condemned by international health experts as damaging to both physical and psychological health.
In the 1930's, 1940's, and 1950's, when Maurice Duplessis was premier of Quebec, approximately 5,000 to 6,000 children were placed in orphanages and psychiatric institutions. Many of the 3,000 still alive claim that they were victims of beatings, electric shock treatment, and sexual abuse; some were labeled as mentally deficient. In the fall, the orphans formed a Committee of Sympathizers to seek restitution for the abuse suffered. On September 15, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Quebec denied that any abuse had occurred, but Premier Lucien Bouchard apologized to the survivors and offered them approximately $2.25 million (Can $3.3 million) or approximately $683 (Can $1,000) each. They did not accept. A 1997 Quebec report suggested approximately $41 to $54.7 million (Can $60 to 80 million) as appropriate compensation from the Government, the Church, and the medical establishment.
People with Disabilities
There is no legal discrimination against disabled persons in employment, education, or in the provision of other state services. Nevertheless, the Government continues to receive numerous complaints regarding societal discrimination against disabled persons and has instituted programs to discourage such discrimination. Disabled persons are underrepresented in the work force; they make up 2.7 percent of the federally regulated private sector work force, but those capable of working total 6.5 percent of the population. The law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, and for the most part the Government enforces these provisions.
Changes to the Human Rights Act and Criminal Code that came into force in 1998 require employers and service providers to accommodate special needs of people with disabilities, provided that it does not constitute an undue hardship. The Criminal Code now makes the sexual exploitation of persons with disabilities in situations of dependency a criminal offense.
In June the province of Alberta announced that it would compensate the nearly 500 surviving persons who were sterilized without their consent under a policy aimed at residents of mental institutions. More than 2,000 Albertans were sterilized between 1928 and 1972 under the Alberta Sterilization Act, which was repealed in June 1972. By December 21, the Alberta Government had fewer than 20 sterilization claims outstanding; officials expect all claims to be settled by early 2000.
The treatment of aboriginal people continued to be one of the most important human rights problems facing the country. Disputes over land claims, self-government, treaty rights, taxation, duty-free imports, fishing and hunting rights, and alleged harassment by police continued to be sources of tension on reserves. Aboriginal people remain underrepresented in the work force, overrepresented on welfare rolls and in prison populations, and more susceptible to suicide and poverty than other population groups.
In January 1998, the Federal Government issued its response to the 1996 report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples intended to restore aboriginal communities and restructure their relationship with the Federal Government. The Minister of Indian Affairs read an official "Statement of Reconciliation" that apologized for past wrongs committed by the Federal Government. The Aboriginal Action Plan also includes a commitment of approximately $400 million (Can $600 million) for aboriginal programs. The program was developed in consultation with aboriginal political leadership but was criticized by some groups for not going far enough to ameliorate past rights violations.
Treaty rights for aboriginals are recognized in the Constitution, and the Government is currently engaged in discussions with aboriginal groups on various treaty issues. A number of Supreme Court cases, including cases regarding treaty rights in fishing and residential school survivors, have bolstered the rights of indigenous people and made the Federal Government responsible for settling a wide variety of claims. The Government continued to work at resolving these issues.
The Federal Government is involved in self-government negotiations with over 350 First Nations. Aboriginal rights in British Columbia (B.C.) are poorly defined. Until its 1998 agreement with the Nisga'a, B.C. had not concluded treaties with any of the aboriginal groups that occupied the area prior to the arrival of settlers, since becoming a province of Canada in 1871. Many of the province's more than 100 aboriginal groups have outstanding claims for land, self-government, and other rights. In 1997 the Supreme Court strengthened the legal position of aboriginal groups in B.C. In what is known as the Delgamuukw decision, the Court found that the provincial and federal governments must consult with aboriginal groups on all land use and resource decisions affecting areas claimed as tribal homelands. This ruling gave aboriginal groups a significant say in the use of vast tracts of the province although title to the land never has been established formally in treaties.
In August 1998, the Federal and British Columbia Governments concluded a treaty with the Nisga'a people who live in northwestern B.C. Although the treaty is not considered to be a precedent for the more than 50 other sets of negotiations underway in B.C., the treaty is a significant development. The treaty will result in the Nisga'a receiving control over 765 square miles of tribal lands, a cash settlement, fishing and timber-cutting rights, and certain rights to limited self-government. At the same time, the treaty eventually would end a range of special tax breaks and other benefits available under the status quo. The treaty was ratified by the Nisga'a people in November 1998 and by the provincial legislature in the spring. It was debated and passed by Parliament in December. Debate within the Parliament was heated on a number of topics, including whether the Nisga'a should be given rights on the basis of race and the rights of nonaboriginal people residing on tribal lands. Although the B.C. legislature ratified the treaty, two groups expressed their intention to challenge the treaty in court. These legal challenges include one from a political party that contends that the treaty should have been submitted to a referendum and one from the Gitanyow, an aboriginal band located near the Nisga'a, who contend that the treaty awarded more than 85 percent of their traditional tribal lands to the Nisga'a. At year's end, neither case had made legal progress.
The Stoney reserve west of Calgary gave up control of its finances to federal Indian Affairs officials in 1997, following widespread allegations of political corruption, financial mismanagement, sexual assaults, and abuses connected with social service agencies. At year's end, control of Stoney reserve finances remains under government management – in this case by third party managers. Meetings between the Government and the Stoney nation continue, and another meeting was scheduled for January 2000. The Stoney reserve is 1 of 12 aboriginal reserves where federal officials have assumed control as interim managers.
Quebec's Indian peoples remain overwhelmingly opposed to separation from Canada and deeply distrust the separatist government of the province. Despite the Quebec Prime Minister's recent overtures to the leaders of the Cree and Inuit nations, surveys indicate that most of Quebec's 60,000 Indians would favor partition of the province in the event of Quebec's separation from Canada. Indian leaders maintain that a sovereign Quebec would treat Indians as another ethnic minority instead of as sovereign nations within the territory of the province. To address these sentiments and respond to a pending lawsuit, the Quebec government agreed with the Cree and Mohawk tribes in 1998 to initiate negotiations regarding longstanding grievances over timber resources, public rights of way on tribal lands, and management of development in the James Bay region. In March Quebec gave the Mohawks increased fiscal rights and powers. The first summit between Quebec's First Nations and the provincial government in 11 years was held in June to establish a permanent policy forum to resolve ongoing issues. During the year, the Government focused on negotiations over a commission to set up a political entity (Nunavik) for Quebec's Inuit. The commission, based on an agreement signed November 5, has Inuit, Quebec, and federal representatives.
In May representatives of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Federal Government, and the Labrador Inuit Association initialed a land claims agreement for the Inuit. The plan provides for land, water rights, self-government, and an economic development plan that includes sharing revenues from subsurface developments.
In September the Supreme Court overturned Nova Scotia aboriginal Donald Marshall's conviction for catching and selling fish eels out of season and without a license. In doing so, the court ruled that the 18th century treaties between the aboriginals and the British Crown gave the First Nations rights currently not accommodated by fishery regulations. The Court ruled that the Federal Government must give treaty beneficiaries access to the fisheries sufficient to enable them to earn a moderate livelihood. The Court also found that this right is subject to regulation and subsequently reemphasized this point in a separate explanation of its decision. There was some violence against aboriginals by nonaboriginals, following aboriginal efforts to exercise their new rights by trapping lobsters in October prior to the normal season. The Supreme Court's decision to interpret the 18th century treaties liberally has encouraged aboriginals involved in a number of court cases seeking access to economic benefits from natural resources such as logging, mining, and energy.
The Supreme Court's clarification of the Marshall case ruled out the possibility of aboriginals using the case to gain commercial rights in the forestry sector. However, test cases now are progressing through the court systems in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia that involve aboriginals being tried on charges of illegally harvesting timber on crown land.
The League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith in Canada (headquartered in Toronto) reported that there were 240 incidents of anti-Semitic harassment in 1998 – a 14 percent increase from 1997. The League attributed the increase to the movement of hate groups from big cities to smaller towns for recruiting efforts and other activities, as police hate crime units crack down in urban areas. The League continues to express concern over the growth of anti-Semitic activity on the Internet.
The narrow defeat of the 1995 Quebec sovereignty referendum left unresolved the concerns of French-speaking Quebeckers about their minority status in Canada, while sharpening the concerns of English-speaking Quebeckers about their minority status. The separatist Parti Quebecois provincial government of Quebec stated that it would hold another sovereignty referendum only under "winning conditions." The Supreme Court ruled in August 1998 that a unilateral declaration of independence would be illegal, but that the Federal Government and other provinces would be obligated to negotiate Quebec's separation if a clear majority of Quebeckers voted to change their relationship with Canada on the basis of a clearly phrased referendum question (see Section 3).
Some English-speaking and native groups in Quebec assert the right to keep parts of Quebec in Canada in the event that Quebec declares independence. Despite personal meetings and other overtures by Quebec's Prime Minister to aboriginals and the English-speaking community, both groups remain distrustful of the separatist government of Quebec. Many members of these communities fear that their rights would be infringed by a sovereign Quebec.
The Constitution protects the linguistic and cultural rights of minorities. Despite Canada's federal policy of bilingualism, English speakers in Quebec and French speakers in other parts of Canada generally must live and work in the language of the majority.
A case currently before the Supreme Court is expected to clarify the number of students required to establish minority-language education. A finding in favor of the minority-language claimants could lead to demands for minority-language schools in various parts of the country.
In Quebec language laws restrict access to English-language, publicly funded schools through grade 11 to children whose parents were educated in English in Canada and to short-term residents. Local law stipulates that French is the working language of most businesses and must be predominant in bilingual commercial signage.
The English-speaking minority of Quebec, representing 9 percent of the population of the province and 16 percent of the population of the city of Montreal, continues to protest restrictions placed on English-language use. In 1997 the Quebec provincial government reestablished a French language inspection office that had been abolished in 1993. However, in October a Quebec court judge struck down a key section of the province's language law that requires French lettering to be twice as large as English lettering on commercial signs, stating that French is no longer in jeopardy in Quebec. The Quebec provincial government is appealing the decision, and the law remains in force until the courts issue a final ruling. English speakers also expressed concerns over the increasing scarceness of health services and public schooling in their language.
Provinces other than Quebec often lack adequate French-language schooling, which is of concern to local Francophones, although French-language schools and French immersion programs are reported to be thriving in all three prairie provinces.
Section 6. Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
Except for members of the armed forces, workers in both the public and private sectors have the right to associate freely. The Labor Code protects these rights for all employees under federal jurisdiction, while provincial legislation protects all other organized workers.
Trade unions are independent of the Government. Of the civilian labor force, 29.5 percent is unionized.
All workers have the right to strike, except for those in the public sector who provide essential services. The law prohibits employer retribution against strikers and union leaders, and the Government enforces this provision.
Numerous strikes occurred across the country during the year. Notable strikes included: Calgary Herald employees in Alberta; grain handlers in Alberta and Manitoba; Cape Breton municipal employees in Nova Scotia; rotating strikes by doctors in British Columbia; strikes at nearly all B.C. ports that effectively closed seaports for 10 days; nurses in Quebec in July; and subway and bus workers in Toronto, Ontario in April.
Unions are free to affiliate with international organizations.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Workers in both the public (except for some police) and the private sectors have the right to organize and bargain collectively. While the law protects collective bargaining, there are limitations, which vary from province to province, for some public sector workers providing essential services.
The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and requires employers to reinstate workers fired for union activities. There are effective mechanisms for resolving complaints and obtaining redress.
All labor unions have full access to mediation, arbitration, and the judicial system.
There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Forced labor, including that performed by children, is illegal, and there were no known violations.
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment
Child labor legislation varies from province to province. The Federal Government does not employ youths under 17 years of age while school is in session. Most provinces prohibit children under age 15 or 16 from working without parental consent, at night, or in any hazardous employment. These prohibitions are enforced effectively through inspections conducted by the federal and provincial labor ministries. Education is compulsory through age 15 nationwide.
The Government prohibits forced and bonded child labor and enforces this prohibition effectively (see Section 6.c.).
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
Standard work hours vary from province to province, but in all the limit is 40 or 48 a week, with at least 24 hours of rest.
Minimum wage rates are set in each province and territory, and range from $3.59 to $4.93 (Can $5.25 to Can $7.20) per hour. Ontario and Alberta have a minimum wage rate for youths lower than their respective minimums for adult workers. A family whose only employed member earns the minimum wage would be considered below the poverty line.
Federal law provides safety and health standards for employees under federal jurisdiction, while provincial and territorial legislation provides for all other employees. Federal and provincial labor departments monitor and enforce these standards. Federal, provincial, and territorial laws protect the right of workers with "reasonable cause" to refuse dangerous work.
f. Trafficking in Persons
The law does not prohibit trafficking in persons; however, the Government prosecutes such offenses as violations of immigration policies. The Government is conducting a legislative review of the Immigration Act. There have been several widely reported cases of smuggling and trafficking, including hundreds of Chinese who arrived illegally by ship in British Columbia during the summer (see Section 2.d.).