The unions’ renewed swagger – giving teeth to freedom of association

Wikipedia – Winnipeg General Strike 1919

In 1987, a majority of the Supreme Court of Canada held that “the constitutional guarantee of freedom of association in s. 2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not include, in the case of a trade union, a guarantee of the right to bargain collectively and the right to strike”: Reference Re Public Service Employee Relations Act (Alta), [1987] 1 SCR 313, per Le Dain J. Then, after testing the waters in some earlier cases, the Supreme Court of Canada reversed this ruling in 2007 in Health Services and Support – Facilities Subsector Bargaining Assn. v. British Columbia, 2007 SCC 27, at para. 86:

“We conclude that the protection of collective bargaining under s. 2(d) of the Charter is consistent with and supportive of the values underlying the Charter and the purposes of the Charter as a whole. Recognizing that workers have the right to bargain collectively as part of their freedom to associate reaffirms the values of dignity, personal autonomy, equality and democracy that are inherent in the Charter.”

While the constitutional status of the right to strike is now in doubt, there is no doubt that the courts, with the Supreme Court of Canada leading the way, are resetting the constitutional balance of power between trade unions on one hand and employer (and especially public sector employers) on the other.
Continue reading

Don’t cry for me, Argentina… A Tale of Two Countries


Eva Peron – October 17, 1951 – Wikipedia

My wife and I have just returned from a trip to Argentina. It was a way for us to celebrate a milestone anniversary and we thought that we would choose somewhere in the world that would be different from the normal choices. Argentina sounded exotic and distant and so we booked our trip, not really knowing what to expect. Well, it has been an experience.

What has struck me is how many similarities there are between Canada and Argentina and yet, how many profound differences there are. Canada has about 35 million people. Argentina has about 40 million. Canada is a vast country – 4500 km wide. Argentina is the 6th largest country in the world, about 5000 km long. Canada has a northern identity (read Arctic). Argentina shoulders the Antarctic. Canada is blessed with natural resources. So is Argentina. Both are New World countries. Both were the subject of heavy European immigration. Both have strong indigenous populations. Both are federations. Argentina’s written constitution dates from 1853. Canada’s from 1867. With all these shared attributes, one might think that Argentina and Canada might be enjoying a similar fate in the world. But they clearly are not.

Continue reading