Greenhouse Canada

Ontario ban on farm unions is constitutional

April 29, 2011  By The Canadian Press

April 29, 2011, Ottawa — More than 80,000 Ontario farm workers have lost the right to unionize.

April 29, 2011, Ottawa — More than 80,000 Ontario farm workers have lost the right to unionize.

By an 8-1 margin, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Friday that a provincial ban on farm unions is constitutional.


In November 2008, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld a United Food and Commercial Workers union charter challenge against the ban.

The Ontario government appealed the ruling to the high court, which heard arguments in December 2009.

The high court allowed the McGuinty government's appeal, denying Ontario agriculture workers the right to join unions and bargain collectively.

The eight justices who allowed the appeal were divided on exactly how the workers should be allowed to bargain.

The high court ultimately decided that the existing law gives workers a meaningful process by which to bargain.

The case revolved around Ontario's Agriculture Employees Protection Act. It allows farm workers to join associations, but does not force employers to enter into collective bargaining.

"What is protected is associational activity, not a particular process or result,'' Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin and Justice Louis LeBel wrote for the majority.

"The AEPA provides a special labour regime for agricultural workers. However, on the record before us, it has not been established that the regime utilizes unfair stereotypes or perpetuates existing prejudice and disadvantage,'' the justices wrote.

"Until the regime established by the AEPA is tested, it cannot be known whether it inappropriately disadvantages farm workers. The claim is premature.''

UFCW Canada represents more than 250,000 Canadian workers and has been advocating for farm workers' rights for over two decades.

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