Canada. In Quebec, child labor is still legal

Child labor is not the prerogative of developing countries. In Quebec, there is no age limit. Under the age of 14, a simple written approval from parents is enough to serve food and drink behind a cream counter, in the kitchen of a restaurant or in front of customers.

Especially lax legislation and supervision of minors which is not always confusing. “Nothing prevents an 11-year-old child from working in a fast food restaurant where there is fried food and therefore there is a risk of burning. It is not always made and an inspector is not necessary to control it. “, Roxan Laroche, national representative of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (Tuac Canada), expressed regret. Only a few measures control the work of minors.

Employers must ensure that their very young employees do not miss school and ensure that they can stay home from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The work must adapt to their physical and intellectual abilities.

Large labor crisis

But, in reality, a growing number of children and adolescents are working in the retail, fast food and food businesses. The employment rate of miners in Quebec has exceeded 50%. A number that can be revised upwards, because Statistics Canada data only starts counting from the age of 15. At the same time, according to Standard, Equity, Health Commission and Occupational Safety (CNESST), the number of burns, cuts or falls by people under the age of 16 has doubled between 2018 and 2021, from 85 to 203. Over the years, this phenomenon has been gaining momentum.

Jobs that do not require special skills or extensive study and have a strict schedule are offered to children. Roxanne Larauche, trade unionist

From the Covid-19 epidemic, which has led to many retirees and some workers leaving incomplete jobs, Quebec is suffering from a huge labor shortage. The Canadian province has the lowest unemployment rate in 2022 at 3.9%. This situation is forcing companies to employ children “The work of very young people is becoming the norm. This labor shortage affects all sectors. Jobs that do not require special skills or extensive study and that have difficult times are offered to children.Trade unionist Roxanne Larouche explains.

The debate had stopped for thirty years

This gearing raises ethical and moral questions. According to a 2017 Quebec survey on adolescent health in high school, students who work during the school year are more likely to experience high levels of emotional distress. However, Quebec, like all of Canada, has rarely spoken out against child labor. On May 31, Labor and Employment Minister Jean Bullet was forced to comment on the matter after several children were injured at work. He described the incident as soberly “Not normal” And promised to seek the views of trade unions and employers’ associations to pave the way for new legislation.

The Commission on the Rights of the People and the Youth of Quebec (CDPDJ) has been advocating for a new law for the province since the 1990s, which barred a child from working before the age of 16. Representatives of the commission cited the example of British Columbia, a province in the west of the country, where the minimum age for work has been set at 12 to 16 years.

The debate over child labor has stalled for thirty years. “Surprisingly, there is no national unity around these issues, be it civil or political.”, CDPDJ Vice-President Susan Arpin apologized. In April, several incidents of injured children at work were the subject of news articles, without raising any controversy. “Not in the political class or among the peopleShe is thinking. As if people have closed their eyes. They tell themselves that it can’t really happen at home. It is unthinkable for a child to be injured by carrying a heavy load. “ .

Provincial elections will be held in October, and the CDPDJ vice-president hopes a bill will be introduced to bar minors under the age of 16 from working. For Suzanne Arpin, this is a question “Education”. The use of information can allow the population to measure the extent of the problem.

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