Canada’s unions say governments at all levels have work to do to end child labour and keep young workers safe.
June 12th marks the World Day Against Child Labour and one year since the Canadian government ratified the International Labour Organization’s Minimum Age Convention. Ratifying countries are required to set a minimum employment age of 15 years and protect young workers from hazardous work.
“Most Canadians would be surprised to hear that most provinces and territories still have work to do to meet our obligations under this international treaty,” said CLC President Hassan Yussuff.
Some provinces stipulate a lower minimum employment age than required by the treaty. In British Columbia, for example, the minimum age is 12. The Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and the Yukon don't stipulate a minimum employment age at all.
Conditions for employing children also vary greatly by province and territory. Some require written consent from a parent or guardian, and others bar specific industries from employing children, such as construction or logging. But the scope is too narrow, and many industries aren’t named.
“It is young and new workers who are most likely to be injured on the job, so we must work together and make it a priority to tackle these inconsistencies,” said Yussuff.
Statistics from the Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada reveal that in 2015 alone, four young workers aged 15 to 19 years died on the job, and more than 8,000 in the same age range reported suffering work-related injuries or disease.
Yussuff says the Alberta government has shown important leadership with The Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act, taking effect in January 2018. The legislation prohibits work (with the exception of artistic endeavours) for children under 13, and provides a list of “light work” jobs youth under 16 can take on without a permit.
“We need to see the same kind of leadership across the country,” said Yussuff. “All provinces and territories must follow Alberta’s example and make this a priority, so we can keep young workers and children safe.”