Mr. Chair and members of the committee, I am very pleased to appear before you to discuss workplace safety.
I am accompanied by my colleague Eric Advokaat, senior director of Occupational Health and Safety.
Responsibility for labour matters in Canada, including workplace safety, is shared between the federal, provincial, and territorial governments. For more than 100 years now, the labour program has been protecting the rights and well-being of both workers and employers in federally regulated sectors, which represent approximately 8% of Canadian workers. This includes creating and maintaining safe and healthy workplaces.
As part of its mandate, the labour program is equally responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Non-smokers' Health Act.
Enacted in 1989, the purpose of the Non-smokers’ Health Act and the non-smokers' health regulations is to protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke in federally regulated workplaces, including in the federal private sector, federal crown corporations, designated federal agencies, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the federal public service, and Parliament, as well as on certain modes of transportation, such as ships, trains, and aircraft.
The administration of the Non-smokers’ Health Act is the joint responsibility of the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour and the Minister of Transport. The former is responsible for the act's application to federally regulated workplaces, and the latter for its application to common federally regulated transportation carriers.
The Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour is solely responsible for designating inspectors to ensure compliance with the act. Fines for offences under the Non-smokers’ Health Act range from $1,000 to $10,000 for employers, and $50 to $1,000 for individuals.
Since 2007, over the past 10 years, there have been a total of 39 complaints under the Non-smokers’ Health Act, with an average of less than two per year in the past five years. This represents 1% of all of the health and safety complaints under just one part of the Canada Labour Code. There are very few complaints under this act.
To date, no prosecution has been filed under the Non-smokers' Health Act.
Since the Non-smokers' Health Act and the non-smokers' health regulations were introduced in 1989, public views with regard to smoking and second-hand smoke have greatly evolved.
In 2007, in light of scientific evidence on the danger of second-hand smoke, the non-smokers' health regulations were amended to eliminate provisions allowing for the designation of smoking rooms and areas in federally regulated workplaces. Since then, all persons, including employees and members of the public, have been prohibited from smoking in any federally regulated workplace and on certain modes of transportation, except in highly restricted smoking areas such as living accommodations or motor vehicles to which only one person has access during a shift.
More recently, new amendments to the Non-smokers' Health Act were proposed under Bill S-5, An Act to amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-smokers’ Health Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
The proposed tobacco and vaping products act, Bill S-5, would amend the Non-smokers' Health Act to add a prohibition against the vaping of tobacco in federally regulated workplaces and on certain modes of transportation. In addition, the task force on cannabis legalization and regulation recommended that federal, provincial, and territorial jurisdictions extend the current restrictions in place for smoking tobacco to the smoking of cannabis. As a result, amendments to the Non-smokers' Health Act are correspondingly being proposed through Bill C-45.
Bill C-45 proposes to amend the definition of smoke under the Non-smokers' Health Act to include cannabis. Provincial and territorial governments would be responsible for deciding whether to restrict the smoking and vaping of tobacco and cannabis to other public spaces. Should both these bills be approved by Parliament, the smoking and vaping of tobacco or cannabis would be regulated under the Non-smokers' Health Act in all federally regulated workplaces and on certain modes of transportation such as trains, planes, and boats where they cross provincial or international boundaries.
The changes we are proposing would assist in the protection of employees' health and safety at work under federal jurisdiction purview.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.