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Heenan Blaikie maintains Canada’s preeminent labour and employment law practice with over 120 lawyers in nine offices across the country providing responsive and impactful labour and employment law advise.

Heenan Blaikie represents a wide range of clients at the provincial, national and international levels. Our lawyers frequently chair and speak at conferences and are actively involved in employers’ organizations and with legal and human resource associations including the American Bar Association, the Society for Human Resource Management, and the Association of Corporate Counsel.

Heenan Blaikie maintains Canada’s largest and most sophisticated federal sector practice. Our lawyers are actively involved in all significant federal labour and employment law developments. Heenan Blaikie also maintains the first and best international labour law practice in Canada. Our lawyers regularly serve as delegates to the ILO and the Summit of Americas process and act as legal counsel to the official representative of Canadian employers on the international stage in respect of labour and employment matters.

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Union Files Criminal Charges Against Employer Following Workplace Accident

The United Steel Workers have commenced a private prosecution against Weyerhaeuser, a leading forest products company, on charges of criminal negligence causing death by filing an Information in the Provincial Court of British Columbia.  This is the first time a private prosecution has been commenced alleging criminal negligence by a corporation since amendments to the Criminal Code in 2004 to make it easier for the Crown to convict corporations of criminal negligence.

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Federal Government Continues Pension Reform Consultation

The federal government has announced that it will continue consultations on pension reform through a series of town hall meetings across Canada.  The government has posed the following ten questions as the basis for its consultation:

  • What are the main issues and challenges that Canadians face in saving for retirement?
  • What is the appropriate role of governments in supporting Canadians to achieve adequate retirement income?
  • Does the retirement income system currently have the appropriate mix of public and private support?
  • Are changes needed to further strengthen Canada's retirement income system?
  • Should there be more mandatory retirement savings?
  • Should individuals be auto-enrolled in any new voluntary savings program?
  • Should increased savings, whether mandatory or voluntary, be locked-in for retirement purposes only?
  • Should there be more flexibility and choice with respect to private savings options?
  • How would the approaches described impact you personally and/or your business?
  • How should any changes to the retirement income system be financed?

Interested parties may also participate in the consultation process online or by sending written submissions by e-mail to ris-consultations-srr@fin.gc.ca.

For more information on pension reform in Canada, please see Heenan Blaikie's Pension Pulse "Three Pillars: Ten Questions--Federal Government Continues Consultations on Pension Reform".

Court Certifies Class Action Proceeding for Unpaid Overtime

In Fulawka v Bank of Nova Scotia (pdf), the Ontario Superior Court of Justice certified a class action proceeding against the Bank of Nova Scotia ("Scotiabank") alleging that 5,000 personal banking officers, financial advisors, and account managers were routinely required to work unpaid overtime.

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Criminal Charges Filed Following Workplace Accident

In what should serve as a stark reminder for both employers and individuals, police in Ontario have charged a corporate employer and two individuals with criminal negligence causing death after a fatal workplace accident at a construction project.  These events demonstrate that while criminal prosecutions for workplace accidents remain rare, the police will not hesitate to pursue criminal charges as they deem appropriate.

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Age-Based Early Retirement Upheld

In its recent decision in Kovacs v. Arcelor Mittal Montreal, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (the "Tribunal") upheld the validity of an age-based early retirement program. 

In this case, the employer, Arcelor Mittal Montreal, offered an early retirement program that provided enhanced pension benefits to employees who had 30 or more years of service, were at least age 55 with 15 or more years of service, or were at least age 52 with 25 or more years of service. A 44 year-old employee with 27 years of service alleged that he was discriminated against on the basis of age contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code (the "Code") because the sole reason that he did not qualify for the early retirement program was that he was too young.

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Ontario Court of Appeal Clarifies "Dependent Contractor" Status

In McKee v. Reid's Heritage Homes Ltd., the Ontario Court of Appeal confirmed that the law recognizes "dependent contractor" as an intermediate status between employee and independent contractor and that dependent contractors are entitled to reasonable notice of termination.

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Provincial Finance Ministers Release Report on Pension System

The steering committee of provincial finance ministers has released its report (pdf) on the adequacy of retirement income and its proposals for improving pension plan coverage in Canada.

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Ontario Court of Appeal Releases Decision on Peril of Partial Pension Wind-ups

On January 11, 2010, the Ontario Court of Appeal released its decision in Hydro One Inc. v. Ontario (Financial Services Commission).   The central issue in the case was whether the number of employees terminated as part of a restructuring could be considered "significant" under the Ontario Pension Benefits Act thereby constituting grounds for a partial wind-up order.

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Pension Plan Sponsors Pessimistic About Canadian Pension System

According to a recent survey of Defined Benefit pension plan sponsors, 89% of plan sponsors believe that Canada's pension system is either poorly positioned or average in its ability to meet the future needs of Canadians.   Nearly half of respondents identified investment risk as their primary concern.  The risk of pension shortfalls was second with nearly 36% of respondents identifying this as their primary concern.  Despite the generally negative results, 72% of respondents felt that Canada's pension system is either the same or better than other pension systems around the world.  Only 8% of respondents believe Canada's pension system is worse.

December Employment Statistics Released

According to Statistics Canada, 2,600 jobs were lost in December.  Moderate increases in employment in the health care and social assistance and the professional, scientific and technical services categories were offset by declines in employment in the transportation and warehousing; business, building and other support services; and public administration categories.  Despite these job losses, the employment rate appears to have stabilized in recent months even though it remains nearly 2% below pre-recession levels.