Historical Events

March 23, 1972

Canada ratified one of the most important Conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO), No. 87 – Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize (1948). This Convention established the right of all workers to form and join unions and engage in free collective bargaining. Reference to Canada’s support for the principles of Convention No. 87 is contained in the Preamble of the Canada Labour Code. Unfortunately, the federal and provincial governments in Canada have been repeatedly violated the Convention. Since 1982, the ILO has found 72 federal and provincial labour laws passed have contravened the freedom of association principles contained in Convention No. 87.

March 13, 1967

The Public Service Staff Relations Act was proclaimed by Lester Pearson’s minority Liberal government, granting in excess of 200,000 Canadian federal public servants the right to collective bargaining. It provided the options of arbitration or the right to strike to settle disputes.

March 25, 1948

The government of Prince Edward Islands proclaimed amendments to its Trade Union Act which outlawed national and international unions and their organizers from coming into the province. The legislation was repealed one year later under threat by the federal government to use its powers under the Constitution Act of 1867 to “disallow” the legislation for being “unconstitutional and contrary to reason, justice and natural equity."

March 22, 1907

The first national legislation dealing with industrial disputes, the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act, was enacted. This law did not provide a framework for bargaining, but it did embody three basic principles: the compulsory investigation of labour disputes by government-appointed third parties; the expectation that informed public opinion would bring pressure for compromise; and the prohibition of work stoppages pending investigation.

March 29, 1867

The British parliament passed the British North America Act creating the self-governing Dominion of Canada. The Act gave provinces the primary jurisdiction over labour laws and this same jurisdictional separation exist today under Canada’s 1982 Constitutional Act. As such, approximately 85 percent of the Canadian workforce is covered by provincial labour laws while federal labour law covers about 15 percent of the workforce employed in industries that are inter-provincial or come under federal authority. This includes banking, transportation, television and radio broadcasting, telecommunications, postal services, customs, grain elevators, the federal civil service and federal crown corporations.

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