Global treaty on violence and harassment at work now in force in Canada

C190 applies to violence and harassment 'linked with or arising out of work'

Global treaty on violence and harassment at work now in force in Canada

The first global treaty to end violence and harassment at work has officially come into force in Canada.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 190 (C190), the Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 calls on governments to implement laws, policies and collective bargaining agreements that prohibit, prevent and address violence and harassment at work.

"No one should face violence or harassment on the job - not in Canada, not anywhere,” says Seamus O'Regan Jr., minister of labour and seniors. “We joined countries around the world in this Convention to protect workers, and make sure every workplace is safe and respectful. That's not just a Canadian value. Today, it's a protected right."

The treaty came into effect in Canada one year after the federal government ratified it, joining numerous other countries in doing so.

First global treat on violence, harassment

C190 – the first-ever global treaty on ending violence and harassment in the workplace – calls on countries that ratify the agreement to respect, promote and realize the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment. They must also adopt an inclusive, integrated and gender-responsive approach for the prevention and elimination of violence and harassment in the workplace.

C190 applies to violence and harassment occurring, “linked with or arising out of work,” including:

  • in the workplace, including public and private spaces
  • in places where the worker is paid, takes a rest break or a meal, or uses sanitary, washing and changing facilities
  • during work-related trips
  • through work-related communications
  • in employer-provided accommodation
  • when commuting to and from work.

Canada played a strong leadership role in the development, adoption and advancement of the ILO's C190, according to Employment and Social Development Canada. The country chaired the International Labour Conference standard-setting committee that negotiated C190 over 2018 and 2019, and actively participated in international negotiations that led to its adoption, it says. 

The federal government also worked closely with provincial and territorial governments to deliver on its commitment to ratify C190.

Since 2019, Ottawa’s Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Fund has invested $3.5 million annually in projects that help create safer workplaces for federally regulated employees.

Calls for end to harassment, violence

Late in 2023, the Canadian Labour Congress launched the #DoneWaiting campaign to call on governments to fast-track the implementation of C190.

“Third-party harassment and violence is an escalating issue for women and gender-diverse workers in Canada,” read part of the petition that called for signatures. “Journalists, hotel, restaurant and retail workers, nurses and other healthcare workers, teachers, education workers, public transportation workers and many others are impacted by third-party violence at work every day.” 

Also, last year, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Canada – representing 35,000 transit workers in Canada – asked for a national task force involving all levels of government to tackle violence against workers and riders on public transit systems across the country.

Meanwhile, the Workers’ Resource Centre (WRC) also previously launched – Alberta’s Sexual Harassment Resource Hub, to support workers who experience and witness workplace sexual harassment.

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