A Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh

Canada court rules RCMP have right to unionize

[JURIST] Justice Ian MacDonnell of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice [official website] ruled [judgment, PDF] Tuesday that officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) [official website], Canada's federal police force and the country's largest law enforcement entity, can form unions. MacDonnell's ruling struck down a portion of the RCMP Regulations [1988, SOR/88-361 text] that established a labor representation scheme that infringed on officers' right to freedom of association. The ruling also struck down a section of the regulations that the court held violated the RCMP members' right to freedom of speech. In upholding the right to form a union, MacDonnell wrote:

If the submission of the respondent is that a collective bargaining process in which employees are not permitted to be represented by an association of their own choosing is constitutionally acceptable, I reject it. The Supreme Court of Canada was clear in BC Health Services that what is protected under ss. 2(d) [of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms] is "the capacity of members of labour unions to engage, in association, in collective bargaining on fundamental workplace issues." The majority stated that "[this] means that employees have the right to unite, to present demands to... employers collectively and to engage in discussions in an attempt to achieve workplace-related goals." The majority also referred to Justice Bastarache's observation, in Dunmore, that "the law must recognize that certain union activities [such as] making collective representations to an employer... may be central to freedom of association even though they are inconceivable on the individual level". [sic] In my view, those passages make it clear that the right to form a labour association and the right to a process of collective bargaining are not disconnected rights, and that the latter right is an emanation of the former.
MacDonnell's ruling delays the suspension of the regulation provision preventing RCMP unionization for 18 months, in contemplation of the Canadian Parliament providing a statutory framework for collective bargaining with the RCMP. Members of the RCMP applauded the court's decision [Globe and Mail report], which will end the current practice of RCMP labor representatives reporting directly to superior officers. It remains unclear whether the government will appeal [Vancouver Sun report].

The lawsuit was brought by the Mounted Police Association of Ontario [official website] and the BC Mounted Police Professional Association on behalf of all members of the RCMP. The RCMP was the only police force in Canada that did not have a union, with senior officials arguing that unionization would lead to divided loyalties and compromise Canadian security.

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.