moved for leave to introduce Bill C-361, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (minimum age of employment).
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce this bill which complements the incredible work of young members in the trade union movement who are raising awareness about Canada's inadequate minimum age laws and to advocate for Canada to ratify International Labour Organisation convention 138.
My bill would bring federal labour legislation into compliance with ILO convention 138 by ensuring that the age of employment shall not be less than the age of completion of compulsory schooling, which in Canada is age 16.
This threshold is set to protect the health and well-being of young people, and to ensure that they have the proper means to develop as individuals and citizens through sufficient education.
Just to be clear, my bill is not targeted at teens who work at Timmies after school. I fully appreciate that many students need part-time work to save for post-secondary education, help their families survive in these difficult economic times or to gain valuable working experience.
My bill would make an explicit exception for the light work of persons between 13 and 15 years of age. It states that such work may be permitted if it is not likely to be harmful to their health or development and is not such as to prejudice their attendance at school, their participation in vocational orientation or training programs.
However, there is an urgent need for Canada to act on adopting a minimum age law. We need to be clear that we do not condone child labour and we need to reverse the trend of increasing young people injured on the job. We have a duty to protect young Canadians.
It is shameful that all the existing minimum age laws under Canada's federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions currently contravene convention 138. In some cases, as with the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta, official minimum age laws have actually weakened in recent years, dropping to as low as 12 years of age.
I hope that passage of my bill will be the impetus the government needs to finally signing on to ILO convention 138. Canada should be a leader in the fight to defeat child labour globally, but instead we remain passively complicit, if not active proponents of child labour here at home. If Canadians were aware of this fact, I am sure they would wholeheartedly agree that the time to act is now.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)