Is the International Labour Organization Useful to Unions? An Analysis of the Canadian Labour Movement's International Judicial Strategy

Brad Walchuk

DOI: 10.2190/WR.16.3-4.m


With increasing vigor, unions are championing the claim that "labor rights are human rights." This is especially true in Canada and is aided by a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 2007 that affords constitutional protection to the right to bargain collectively. Constructing labor rights as human rights relies on a judicial-based strategy at both the national and the international level, including the use of the International Labour Organization (ILO). This article seeks to determine how useful the ILO is to the Canadian labour movement. It finds that the ILO is of little use to Canadian unions in and of itself, but that it is more useful when Canadian courts apply the provisions of international law to domestic legislation. As a recent case history shows, however, there is no guarantee that the Supreme Court will elect to adopt the provisions of international law.

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