Federal-Provincial-Territorial Meeting of Ministers of Labour

NEWS RELEASE – Labour Ministers agree to work toward the Canadian ratification of the ILO Convention on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour

WINNIPEG --Federal Minister of Labour, the Honourable Claudette Bradshaw, and Manitoba Minister of Labour, the Honourable Becky Barrett, announced today that the provincial and territorial governments have agreed to work toward the Canadian ratification of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour.

The agreement in principle to support Canadian ratification was reached at a federal-provincial-territorial meeting of Labour Ministers, held today in Winnipeg.

"The consensus that exists in this country in support of the Convention is firm," said Minister Bradshaw. "Canadians are deeply concerned at the extent of child labour throughout the world and want their governments to do what they can to eliminate this terrible practice. Canadians can be assured that the Government of Canada will continue to work toward that end. I am also proud to say that, as a result of today's commitment, Canada should be among the first countries in the world to ratify this Convention."

Minister Barrett explained that because most Canadian workers fall under provincial and territorial jurisdiction, provincial and territorial backing for ratification of the ILO instrument is required. Therefore, before Canada can ratify the Convention, all governments have to complete their approval processes.

"Support for the ILO's Convention is a positive step toward protecting vulnerable children from exploitation and eliminating the worst forms of child labour around the world," said Minister Barrett.

"Today's agreement moves Canada a step closer to officially ratifying the Convention this year, said Minister Bradshaw."

ILO Convention 182 calls for the prohibition of the worst forms of child labour and immediate action for its elimination and was adopted unanimously by all ILO members last June. It defines the worst forms of child labour as being all forms of slavery, the sale and trafficking of children, forced labour, the use of children in armed conflicts, and for prostitution, pornography and trafficking of drugs and work that, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.

During the one-day meeting, Ministers responsible for Labour also discussed various approaches to achieve workplaces that are fair, equitable, safe, and productive. Ministers acknowledged the usefulness of sharing information, identifying emerging trends and needs in the workplace, and creating opportunities to work together on issues of common interest.

More specifically, Ministers recognized the need for working parents to be able to balance their responsibilities at work with their need to care for their families. They discussed reports that demonstrate the increased difficulty in reconcilling work-family/life pressures experienced by workers. They also demonstrate the increase of dual-earner and single-parent families, as well as increased non-standard working arrangements. Ministers shared information on the approaches of their respective governments to support working families and committed to further consultations with management and labour on these questions.

Speaking on behalf of her colleagues, Minister Barrett said: "The goal is to seek a balance between the needs of workers to care for family responsibilities by having flexible working arrangements and the needs for business to be competitive in an expanding global economy. These new demands will significantly affect the way we work and the way we will view work in the 21st century."

On this issue, Minister Bradshaw added: "Governments across Canada are very concerned about supporting working families and providing the best development for children. Working people help create the wealth of our country. Working parents are raising the next generation of our society. We need to work towards creating working environments that enable them to do both."

Ministers agreed to promote work and family balance as well as to reinforce the importance of workplace partners and governments working together to address this issue.

"There are lots of creative solutions out there. Let's learn what works best; let's share what labour and management are doing and what they can do in their own workplaces," said Minister Bradshaw. "Clearly it is in the employers' interest as well as the employees' interest, to have workplaces that can accommodate family-related needs."

The Ministers were encouraged that all provinces were represented at this first meeting of Ministers responsible for Labour in three years. Minister Barrett stated that, "the meeting provided a very successful forum for Labour Ministers in Canada to exchange views and discuss their priority issues."

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For more information:            

Scott Naugler
           Office of the Federal Minister of Labour
           (819) 953-5646            

Krystyna Pottier
           Labour Communications
           Human Resources Development Canada
           (819) 997-2508
           Cellular (613) 795-6439

Harlan Mushumanski
           Communications Coordinator
           Manitoba Labour Department
           (204) 945-0787

Internet address for news releases:

Other Internet addresses:






In its 1996 report "Child Labour: Targeting the Intolerable", the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that 250 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are working in developing countries.

In June 1999, the International Labour Conference unanimously adopted a new Convention and Recommendation concerning the prohibition and immediate action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour. This Convention is one of the eight core labour standards Conventions of the ILO.


Convention 182 requires countries to "take immediate and effective measures to secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour as a matter of urgency".

Under the new Convention, a child is a person under 18 years of age, and the term "the worst forms of child labour" comprises: all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict; the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography, for pornographic performances, for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs, and work which is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.

The text recognizes the importance of taking into account the views of concerned groups in designing and implementing programs of action to eliminate the worst forms of child labour.

Convention 182 requires member States to consult organizations of workers and employers to determine what constitutes hazardous forms of work as well as to designate or establish national programs of action to eliminate the worst forms of child labour.

Once ratified, Convention 182 requires member States to take effective and time-bound measures t prevent the engagement of children in the worst forms of child labour; provide assistance to remove children from the worst forms of child labour and for their rehabilitation and social integration; ensure access to free basic education, and, wherever possible and appropriate, vocational training; identify and reach out to children at special risk; and take account of the special situation of girls.

To help achieve the objectives of this Convention, Article 8 calls for enhanced support for international cooperation and assistance, including support for social and economic development, poverty eradication programs and universal education.

Once they have ratified the Convention, member States must apply it in law and practice. The Convention comes into effect in each member State, one year after the member has registered its ratification.

It is the practice in Canada to seek the agreement of all jurisdictions before ratifying ILO conventions dealing with issues subject to federal, provincial and territorial regulations.

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February 4, 2000



Part II of the Canada Labour Code deals with occupational health and safety and applies to workplaces in the federal jurisdiction such as broadcasting, international and inter-provincial transportation and banking.

The proposed changes offer increased protection for workers and provide for greater internal responsibility.

The last significant amendments to Part II occurred in 1985. The proposals reflect the new realities facing employees and employers in the new economy.

The current amendments received First Reading in the House of Commons on October 28, 1999. Among other things, this legislation will:

  • expand the role of health and safety committees to include the investigation and resolution of complaints;
  • require health and safety policy committees at the organization level in organizations with 300 or more employees; these committees will develop prevention programs, conduct investigations and assess personal protective equipment; their est ablishment at the organization or corporate level will ensure that health and safety concerns are addressed at the highest levels of management;
  • give pregnant and nursing women the right to take leave from the workplace, with pay, in order to seek medical advice if they believe that the work activity presents a danger to their foetus or baby;
  • allow for the development of regulations addressing the need for accident prevention programs, anti-violence initiatives and workplace ergonomic planning.
In general, the amendments reflect consensus agreements reached by a working group of labour and employer representatives.

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February 4, 2000



The October Speech from the Throne included a commitment to "make federally regulated workplaces more family friendly".

Family friendly workplaces are those where family responsibilities of employees are respected and accommodated.

Recent trends within the economy, society, families and workplaces have had significant impact on families. These trends include greater participation in the labour force by women, the increase in dual-wage earner families, the rise in numbers of lone parent families, the growth of non-standard work, and the aging population.

A 1999 Conference Board of Canada survey of employees found that almost half are experiencing a moderate to high level of stress today as a result of trying to balance work and home lives. A 1988 study showed only 27% felt that way.

Many employers in Canada are already helping workers balance their work and family responsibilities through flexible work arrangements, appropriate leave provisions, and other assistance that takes the particular circumstances and needs of workers and families into consideration.

Within collective bargaining, family friendly provisions have become an increasingly high priority item for a number of unions.

While considering legislative possibilities to support family friendly workplaces in the federal jurisdiction, the Canadian government is also looking at ways to raise awareness of the work-family issue.

Consultations with key partners have already begun on practical ways to facilitate family friendly workplace policies and practices. The Labour program will be actively working with employer and labour clients to put in place workshops and seminars.

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February 4, 2000



Part III of the Canada Labour Code deals with labour standards and applies to employers and workers involved in such activities as banking, inter-provincial and international transportation, telecommunications and broadcasting.

The last Speech from the Throne announced the Government of Canada's commitment to a National Children's Agenda. Toward this end, the Government is seeking to make federally regulated workplaces more family friendly.

Part III of the Code may be amended in two areas. First, consideration will be given to leave which would allow a worker to care for a family member with a serious medical condition.

Secondly, the parental leave provision will be extended from 41 to 52 weeks. This provision protects the worker's right to resume employment in the same or comparable position, maintains health, pension and disability benefits, seniority, and the right to notice of employment opportunities.

The Employment Insurance Act provides salary-replacement benefits while the worker is on parental leave. Thus, to ensure that employees have access to improved parental benefits, both the Employment Insurance Act and Part III of the Code must be amended.

Amendments to the Code will be presented concurrently with the Employment Insurance Act amendments.

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February 4, 2000



The federal Labour Program began in 1900 when the Conciliation Act created a Department of Labour.

The first Deputy Minister of Labour and the first Minister of Labour, as a separate cabinet portfolio, was William Lyon MacKenzie King.

For most of its history, the Labour Program was an independent Department. In 1993, the Department and parts of others merged to form Human Resources Development Canada.

In 1925, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in Britain, the court of last resort at the time, ruled that labour matters were a provincial responsibility, thus considerably circumscribing the jurisdiction of the federal Department.

The birth of many programs and policies that have strengthened the economic and social fabric of the country, such as job training, literacy and employment equity, took place within the Labour Program.

In 1940, Canada's new Unemployment Insurance Commission came under the direction of the Department.

In 1966, the Department of Manpower and Immigration was created. Employment programs and the Unemployment Insurance Commission were transferred from the Department of Labour to the new Department.

Currently, the Labour Program administers the Canada Labour Code, the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act, the Employment Equity Act, the Non-Smokers' Health Act, the Government Employees Compensation Act, the Merchant Seamen Compensation Act, the Status of the Artist Act, and the Penitentiary Inmates Accident Compensation Regulations.

The Labour Program has a long history of involvement in international labour activities, primarily with the International Labour Organization. As a result of the North American Agreement on Labour Cooperation and the Canada-Chile Agreement on Labour Cooperation, the Labour Program has become more involved in labour issues in the Americas.

Despite the enormous economic, technological and social changes that have occurred since the Program's inception, its fundamental objectives remain unchanged: to protect the rights and well-being of workers and to promote constructive relations between labour and management.

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February 4, 2000