U.N. finds Ontario law a violation of intl human rights
By Steven Kammerer, Society of Graduate and Professional Students, Queen's University, 14 December 1998
On Friday, December 4, 1998, the United Nations issued a report in which it condemned Ontario's Prevention of Unionism Act as a "clear violation" of the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that Canada and all of its provinces voluntarily agreed to respect. The Act, which passed third reading in the Provincial Legislative Assembly at the end of November 1998, is intended to deny Workfare recipients their rights to join a union, bargain collectively and to strike. The UN report called on the provincial government "to take measures to repeal the offending provisions." The reaction of Janet Ecker, Minister of Community and Social Services, was to suggest that the UN's "priorities were misplaced" and to accuse the responsible committee of "politically driven commentary."
The contempt being shown by the Ontario government for its moral responsibility to respect the fundamental right of all persons to freedom of association and for its international obligations to the United Nations must give rise to deep concern by decent people everywhere. This rebuff by the provincial government of the United Nations is damaging not only to the welfare of Ontarians but also to the integrity of the international human rights consensus.
Please express your displeasure by writing or calling Minister Ecker at
Ministry of Community and Social Services
The full text of paragraph 31 of the UN document is enclosed below:
"31. The Committee notes that Bill 22, entitled "An Act to Prevent Unionization", was adopted by the Ontario Legislative Assembly on 24 November 1998. The Act denies to workfare participants the rights to join a trade union, to bargain collectively and to strike. In response to a request from the Committee, the Government provided no information in relation to the compatibility of the Act with the Covenant. The Committee considers the Act to be a clear violation of article 8 of the Covenant and calls upon the State Party to take measures to repeal the offending provisions."