Fraser decision “troubling” according to lead counsel for UFCW Canada at Canadian Foundation for Labour Rights Forum
Paul Cavalluzzo, UFCW Canada’s lead counsel in the Fraser case, speaking at a Canadian Foundation for Labour Rights seminar about the Supreme Court’s decision.
Law professor Michael Lynk speaking about the impact of the Fraser decision on the labour movement and workers rights.
The conclusion of the majority of Supreme Court of Canada justices on the Fraser decision is “troubling from a number of perspectives”, said Paul Cavalluzzo – lead counsel for the UFCW Canada in the case that was heard before the Supreme Court – during a labour law/human rights seminar recently held in Toronto.
The Supreme Court’s Fraser decision, which was released April 29, concerns the Agricultural Employees Protection Act (AEPA) which UFCW Canada challenged as unconstitutional for its denial of collective bargaining rights to farm workers in Ontario.
"The farm workers case unfortunately seems to have been lost in a larger political battle beyond their control,” added Cavalluzzo while speaking at The Labour Movement After Fraser seminar sponsored by the Canadian Foundation for Labour Rights (CFLR). The seminar, attended by some 30 prominent labour law academics, union-side labour lawyers and union leaders, was organized by CFLR to discuss the implications of the recent Supreme Court Fraser decision on the Canadian labour movement and strategize a road ahead. NUPGE and UFCW Canada are among the unions leading the CFLR.
The Supreme Court denied UFCW Canada’s claim with the majority of justices ruling that the AEPA is constitutional by implying the legislation provided a duty to bargain.
“Big business and governments used the farm workers case to argue the BC Health Services case had gone too far in its protection of collective bargaining rights under s. 2(d) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A reading of the judgments reflects this in that most of the judgments deal with whether BC Health Services should be overturned rather than to the extensive record before them which demonstrated the plight of farm workers as one of the most vulnerable groups of workers in Canada," said Cavalluzzo, one of the country’s leading constitutional, labour and administrative law lawyers.
"In our opinion, the Supreme Court decision failed agriculture workers, many of whom are further victimized as migrant workers and are some of the most vulnerable workers in Canada" said UFCW Canada National President Wayne Hanley while chairing the seminar’s lead panel. “The decision essentially said the AEPA is constitutional so if you don't like it go change the government and change the law, which is somewhat ironic because many agriculture workers are migrant and temporary foreign workers who do not have Canadian voting rights. That said, we have an Ontario election coming up and as trade unionists I can assure you that we will be using every tool available to us to make farm worker rights an important election issue."
The CFLR is a national voice devoted to promoting labour rights as an important means to strengthening democracy, equality and economic prosperity in Canada and internationally. One of the CFLR’s key objectives is to create a more cohesive and coordinated approach to the labour movement’s legal actions, along with creating greater public awareness and understanding of labour rights as a key critical component of human rights.
In addition to Brother Hanley and Mr. Cavalluzzo, the seminar also heard from several other speakers who presented both their analysis of the decision and its implications for the labour movement. Among the speakers and presenters was noted law professor Michael Lynk who put the Fraser decision into historical context and described it as a step backward for the Supreme Court and its previous trend toward “breathing life” into section two of Charter of Rights and Freedoms and recognizing labour rights as human rights.
Within the next several weeks CFLR will be publishing a report on the seminar.