On October 17, 2018, the federal government legalized the recreational use of cannabis, making Canada the second country in the world to legalize pot after Uruguay.
While many are hailing this as a step forward for public safety—one of the government’s main stated reasons for legalization is to keep profits out of the hands of organized crime—some employers have expressed concern that more employees will come to work stoned. Certain employers have gone as far as to purport to ban their employees from consuming cannabis at all, even off-duty.
Westjet and Air Canada have prohibited staff in safety-sensitive positions (including pilots, flight attendants, and mechanics) from using cannabis at any time. The RCMP has banned its members from using cannabis within 28 days of scheduled shifts. Other police forces, such as the Halifax Regional Police, have followed suit.
Bans on cannabis use outside the workplace raise questions about an employer’s ability to regulate employees’ off-duty conduct, and are likely to be forcefully contested by unions and workers across the country. Read More
The Ontario Conservative government is crossing a line that should never be crossed, resorting to the so-called “Notwithstanding Clause” to press ahead with its “Make Toronto Small Again Act” (as I call it), to drastically scale down Toronto’s city council following a court ruling striking the Act down.
Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau said that the clause was his greatest regret in the enactment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It was a deep compromise to get the constitutional package passed. It is a bomb not lightly to be thrown. Read More
The local election campaign period kicks off in 10 days on September 22. I looked at the number of third parts election advertising sponsors registered as of today’s date and was surprised to see only 14 organizations registered. There are over 240 local elections taking place this fall!
If your organization plans to engage in public advertising directly or indirectly related to municipal election campaigns during the period of September 22 to October 20, you must register with Elections BC first. Read More
The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision to sustain the BC Law Society’s refusal to accredit to the Trinity Western University law school because of its inequitable “Covenant” (which enforced heterosexual monogamy among faculty and students) has been widely hailed as a victory for inclusion and human rights. However, that is only the start. The Court’s reasoning has far broader implications than balancing religion and equality rights. It has a lot to say about how boards, tribunals and other administrative bodies - including the BC Labour Relations Board - must make their decisions wherever they affect Charter rights and values. Read More
A decision of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal issued on May 18, 2018, available here, has thrown into question the constitutional validity of provisions in human rights codes that allow denial of workplace benefits to workers over 65 because of their age.
Human rights codes across Canada, including BC, prohibit discrimination in terms and conditions of employment based on age (unless there is a bona fide occupational requirement to justify the discrimination). However, in the area of employee benefit plans or retirement or pension plans, the legislation allows discrimination based specific grounds including age. When it comes to these conditions of employment the law deems there to be a bona fide occupational requirement to justify the discrimination. Read More
Employee privacy is a thorny issue for employers and their employees. How much control can employers wield over their employees’ personal information in the work place? Are there any limits on what employee personal information can be collected, and the manner in which it is collected?
Employers have always collected employee personal information – names, contact information, banking information, and so on – but new technologies have expanded the type of information that employers now have access to. Keystroke tracking software tracks employee internet use on work computers or mobile devices. GPS tracking technology monitors the location of employer vehicles or mobile devices. Employers may also have access to work email or text messages sent and received on work devices.
Employers often justify such surveillance measures as efforts to deter inappropriate workplace behaviour or to safeguard businesses from cyber-attacks. However, such measures may also lead to over-collection or inappropriate use of employees’ personal information.
The following three decisions issued by the BC Information and Privacy Commissioner of BC (the “Commissioner”) canvass the privacy rights of employees: Use of Employee Monitoring Software by the District of Saanich, 2015 BCIPC No. 15 (“Saanich”), Schindler Elevator Corporation, 2012 BCIPC No. 25 (“Schindler”), and University of British Columbia, 2013 BCIPC No. 4 (“UBC”). Read More
By Midhath Mahir
Employees who have been wrongfully dismissed may be able to claim aggravated damages - monetary compensation awarded by the court for mental distress or anguish. For a long time, Canadian courts did not recognize damages for mental anguish, as it was not something that could be claimed under breach of contract, especially if due notice was given in employment cases.
This all changes in the 2000s. Since then, Canadian courts have become more open to (but still very cautious about) awarding aggravated damages in situations where employment contracts have been breached, which in turn caused mental anguish or distress to the employee. This is also true in cases where employees are thrown out of their jobs in a wrongful, very unfair or disgraceful manner.
Two things need to be established in court to have a chance of claiming aggravated damages if you have been wrongfully dismissed: Read More
On Friday, the Labour Relations Board held that the Transit Police Professional Association (the “TPPA”) “demonstrated blatant and reckless disregard for the Complainant’s interests” in a duty of fair representation complaint (at para. 166 of BCLRB No. B153/2017) we filed on behalf of the Complainant. The TPPA is no stranger to the Labour Relations Board as it raided COPE 378/MoveUP several years ago in order to represent the bargaining unit at issue in this complaint. Duty of fair representation complaints are very rarely successful but in this case, the Board found that the TPPA’s conduct breached the Labour Relations Code.
The Board held that, “in all of these circumstances, and given that the TPPA was aware that the Complainant had not received wages since March 11, 2016, her sick leave pay had expired, her LTD claim had been denied, and her WorkSafeBC appeal was yet to be determined”, the TPPA should have done more than it did, which was deciding to take no further action at all. Read More
Imagine leaving everything behind: friends and family, a familiar culture, the life you thought you'd live. Paying a shady company you don't know much about thousands of dollars, a nearly impossible amount of money that you somehow you scrape together through hard work, loans, and selling what you and your family can, all so you can get a minimum-wage job in Canada. Travelling across the globe, landing in Vancouver, being taken by a stranger to a dingy hotel on King George Highway where you are to share a room with several more strangers, also migrant workers like yourself. Read More
This 8:1 decision the Supreme Court of Canada has upheld a Human Rights Tribunal decision that a cocaine addict in a safety-sensitive job, who was fired for violating the employer’s policy by failing to report his addiction and then being involved in an accident, was not fired (on the facts of the particular case) because of his disability but rather because he violated the policy under circumstances where it was entirely within his capacity to comply with it. Read More
In a decision issued last month, the Labour Relations Board granted IOUE Local 115 organizers access to an access-controlled employee residence (i.e. a company work camp) for the purpose of organizing employees on the Site C dam project. This was a “raid”, or rather a “liberation”, of the workers from CLAC and the organizing period was time-sensitive. The employer was also ordered to provide union representatives food and lodging and a place to meet with workers during the period of access. Read More
Since his inauguration less than a month ago, President Donald Trump and his executive orders have been a frequent topic of conversation online and in our office.
One of Trump’s lesser-publicized executive orders, issued January 25, 2017,
may significantly impact the Department of Homeland Security's 2007 policy that extends certain U.S. Privacy Act protections to non-U.S. persons.
Being a self-proclaimed privacy nerd, I immediately wrote to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to express my concerns, given the amount of personal information that Canadian agencies routinely provide to U.S. agencies.
This afternoon, I received the following response from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada:
You asked about U.S. President Trump’s executive order and its impact on the privacy of Canadians. I can tell you that we are actively examining the potential implications for Canadians. There are several legal instruments in the US which affect the privacy rights of foreigners, and we are considering those as part of our analysis. Read More
Andrew Sabean lives in Nova Scotia. In 2004, he was the victim of a traffic accident. Unlike here in BC, Nova Scotia does not have a one-stop-shop public auto insurer, so big claims often end up as battles between insurance companies about who has to pay claims.
Mr. Sabean won his lawsuit and the at-fault driver’s insurance company paid out. However, the insurer only paid to the limit of the other driver’s policy, more than$83,000 less than Mr. Sabean’s damages. He had coverage under his own car insurance for cases like this where the other driver is underinsured, so he made a claim against his own insurer, Portage La Prairie Mutual Insurance Co., for the remaining amount.
His insurance refused to pay. What Mr. Sebean didn’t realize was that the fine print in his policy deducted disability benefits from a “policy of insurance” from whatever payments they would have to make to him. They said that future CPP Disability Benefits that he was entitled to should be clawed back from the total they owed him. Mr. Sebean sued his own insurance company and won, but the company succeeded in an appeal to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal. So he had to go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to claim the full benefit he had paid for when he purchasedhis car insurance from Portage La Prairie Mutual.
The Supreme Court unanimously allowed his appeal. Most significantly, they said that when it comes to interpreting the words of an insurance policy (or similar kind of document) the proper vantage point is what a reasonable non-expert member of the public would understand the words to mean when they enter into the contract. The insurance company could not rely on a previous ruling by the Supreme Court itself to justify its restrictive interpretation of the rules. A person in Mr. Sabean’s position would not be expected to know the jurisprudence, so it could not be used against him. Read More
This week, Elections BC put out a bulletin that attempts to clarify the Supreme Court of Canada's clarification. In a nutshell, EBC's position is that if you, as an individual acting alone, make fewer than 26 signs or pamphlets by yourself, using your own supplies and equipment, and you hand-deliver these to fewer than 26 people, then you will not be caught be the definition of a "sponsor" in the BC Election Act. However, organizations, including groups of individuals, that conduct any sort of election advertising will be considered sponsors and subject to all the rules regarding advance registration, authorization lines, and disclosure reporting.
The organization that brought the legal action that resulted in the Supreme Court of Canada's recent decision disagrees with EBC's bulletin. The BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, along with the BC Civil Liberties Association, sent a joint letter to BC's Chief Electoral Officer this morning outlining their concerns. They take issue with a number of Election BC's interpretations, including the exclusion of organizations, from the scope of the SCC's clarification.
We'll keep you posted as this unfolds. In the meantime, don't forget to register for our upcoming workshop, Election Advertising Sponsorship 101, which will be held on February 28th. Read More
The BC Election Act requires individuals and organizations to register before they “sponsor” election advertising. This places a burden on people and groups to ensure they understand the law regarding election advertising and sponsorship in advance of engaging in any of these activities.
The BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association took issue with having to register in order to engage in small-scale election advertising. Unlike the Canada Elections Act, the BC Election Act does not specify a minimum spending threshold (i.e. $500) before sponsors are required to register. The Association pursued its fight all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada (the “SCC”).
The SCC’s recent decision refocuses the requirement to register on the basis of whether or not a person or group meets the definition of a sponsor, rather than whether or not their communications meet the definition of election advertising. Election law enthusiasts: see below for more on these definitions. According to the SCC, “sponsor” captures individuals and organizations who receive advertising services from others in undertaking election advertising campaigns, but exempts election advertising that is not sponsored from the requirement to register. Read More
During the holiday season, responsible private party hosts take care to avoid intoxicated guests driving home. But what if one of them does and a crash results? Is the private party host personally liable? The Supreme Court of Canada settled this issue a decade ago, but many Canadians are unaware of the extent of their legal obligations.
There four important things to bear in mind. Read More
It's a basic principle, and one the Justices hearing the case raised over and over again during the trial in Gorenshtein v BC (Employment Standards Tribunal): in Canada, we don't make people buy jobs. Workers cannot be charged fees for jobs; it's strictly illegal. And yet, migrant workers who come to Canada under Canada's temporary foreign worker program, especially low-skilled streams, will tell you again and again that they are paying fees, thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars, for the promise of a low-paid, precarious job in Canada.
We're fighting fees like these (and other exploitation) in the class action lawsuit that you can read about here. And we were thrilled to see the decision that came down last week from the BC Court of Appeal Read More
Last February, I blogged about whether or not the B.C. government was off-side when it exempted major junior hockey players from the protections and minimum standards contained in the Employment Standards Act.
Today, the Vancouver Sun revealed the results of FOI requests related to behind-the-scenes lobbying by Western Hockey League officials in Kelowna, Kamloops, Cranbrook, Prince George, Vancouver and Victoria, which included letters addressed to Premier Christy Clark and cabinet. According the Sun, the teams claimed they might have to close without government intervention.
The CHL boasts more than nine million fans attended its games last season. The CHL is also the world’s largest development hockey league, with 52 Canadian and eight American teams participating in the Ontario Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Western Hockey League (which includes the five B.C. region teams mentioned above).
Last season, tickets to Vancouver Giants home games at the Pacific Coliseum sold for between $15.50 and $24.50 and they were expected to play 36 homes games this season. Attendance at Vancouver Giants’ games last season has been estimated at 5169 people on average. Even at the lowest ticket price, this suggests gross ticket sales for home games of over $2.8 million – and that’s not counting revenue generated from away games. Apparently, the Giants also leased the Pacific Coliseum on a break-even basis.
The other teams in the Western Hockey League’s B.C. Region also sell thousands of tickets per game. Read More