Workers' Freedoms Under Attack in Canada

Using their legislative majority in the House, the Harper Conservative government passed laws that undermine progressive and social justice organizations which they see as barriers to their agenda. Workers and their labour unions are next in line, unless Canadians fight back.

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The women’s rights movement, the indigenous rights movement, the environmental movement, social justice non-governmental organizations, charities, statistics gathering and whistle-blowers have all been attacked through legislation limiting their political involvement or undermining their financial resources.

With the passage of Bill C-377 (exposing unions’ bargaining capacity to employers) and the rumours of US Republican-style anti-union legislation coming, it looks like the labour movement is the next target of the Conservative agenda to limit the resources of its political opposition. The next stage appears to be legislation that undermines the Rand Formula that gives Canadian unions the resources they need to fight for their members’ rights and interests.

The Attack on Workers’ Freedom to Associate

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a bill of rights outlined in the Constitution of Canada. The Charter protects the right for workers to form unions and collectively express and defend common interests. This right is known as the freedom of association.

In addition to its own constitution, Canada is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Labour Organization of the United Nations conventions (C87 and C98) that explicitly outline the right of workers to collectively bargain and form independent, politically active unions.

However, members of the Harper government, the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, and the Saskatchewan Party have been vocal and criticized aspects of how freedom of association has been implemented in Canada.

If workers in Canada are going to preserve this progressive model of unionism, then we must organize.