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Domestic Service (Caregiving) in Canada

Domestic work refers to all tasks performed within a household, specifically those related to housekeeping, childcare and personal services for adults. These traditionally unpaid household tasks can be assigned to a paid housekeeper (the term caregiver is preferred today). From the early days of New France, domestic work was considered a means for men and women to immigrate to the colony (see History of Labour Migration to Canada). In the 19th century, however, domestic service became a distinctly female occupation (see Women in the Labour Force). From the second half of the 19th century until the Second World War, in response to the growing need for labour in Canadian households, British emigration societies helped thousands of girls and women immigrate to Canada (see Immigration to Canada). In 1955, the Canadian government launched a domestic-worker recruitment program aimed at West Indian women (see West Indian Domestic Scheme). In 2014 the government lifted the requirement for immigrant caregivers to live with their employer to qualify for permanent residence — a requirement that put domestic workers in a vulnerable position. (See also Canadian Citizenship; Immigration Policy in Canada).

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

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Child Labour

Child labour is defined as the regular employment of boys and girls under the age of 15 or 16. Attitudes toward child labour have altered dramatically since the late 18th century, when it was generally assumed that children should contribute to the family economy from about age seven.

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Craig Kielburger

Craig Kielburger, CM, social entrepreneur, author, speaker (born 17 December 1982 in Toronto, ON). Craig Kielburger is best known for his activism as a young teenager and his work co-founding and leading ME to WE with his brother, Marc. ME to We is a business that links purchases to global social and economic development. Kielburger also founded WE Charity (formerly Free the Children), which focuses particularly on youth education and mobilization. Much of his work revolves around a conviction that youth are fundamental to creating systemic change.

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The Breadwinner

The Breadwinner (2001) is the first book in a series of young adult novels set in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan by writer and activist Deborah Ellis. It was followed by Parvana’s Journey (2002), Mud City (2003) and the final book, My Name is Parvana (2012). Inspired by Ellis’s interviews with Afghan women in refugee camps, the series begins with 11-year-old Parvana, who must disguise herself as a boy to support her family after her father is arrested by the Taliban. It is a story of courage and empowerment and sheds light on the horrors of war, especially for the children caught in the crossfire. The Breadwinner was shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award, while Parvana’s Journey was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award. Nora Twomey’s animated adaptation of The Breadwinner (2017) received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for best animated feature, as well as four Canadian Screen Awards and numerous other honours.

timeline event

Ontario Police Free 43 People from Human Trafficking Ring

Forty-three Mexican men aged 20 to 46, who had paid traffickers to bring them to Canada so they could seek education and employment opportunities, were forced to work as hotel cleaners in Collingwood, Innisfil, Oro-Medonte and Cornwallfor less than $50 a month. The traffickers were not arrested or charged with any crimes. The victims were all offered employment and lodging at a local resort.

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History of Labour Migration to Canada

Canada’s economic development has relied upon the labour and economic contributions of thousands of immigrant and migrant workers. (See also Economic Immigration to Canada; Immigration to Canada.) These workers came from a multitude of countries and worked a variety of jobs. Many of these workers would also ultimately settle in Canada. This labour and settlement pattern, however, is changing due to Canada’s temporary labour migrant programs. (See also Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Programs.)

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

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Economic Immigration to Canada

Canada’s current and future prosperity depends on recruiting immigrants. Newcomers fill gaps in the Canadian workforce, build or start businesses and invest in the Canadian economy. Economic immigrants include employees as well as employers. They mostly become permanent residents when they immigrate to Canada. Not included in this class are the many temporary foreign workers who contribute to Canada’s economy.

Economic immigrants bring talent, innovation, family members and financial investments to Canada. They also enrich the country’s culture, heritage and opportunities. Technological progress, productivity and economic growth all benefit from these newcomers. Studies show that they have little to no negative impacts on wages for other workers in the country.

The 2016 Census identifies 2,994,130 economic immigrants in Canada. This represents about half of the total of 5,703,615 immigrants counted in that survey. (See also Immigration to Canada.)

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Labour Day in Canada

Labour Day, the first Monday in September, has been a statutory holiday in Canada since 1894. It originated in the first workers’ rallies of the Victorian era. Historically, workers marked the day with various activities. These included parades, speeches, games, amateur competitions and picnics. The holiday promoted working-class solidarity and belonging during a time of rapid industrialization. Since the Second World War, fewer and fewer people have participated in Labour Day activities. Nevertheless, it remains a statutory holiday. Many Canadians now devote the Labour Day holiday to leisure activity and family time.

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Working-Class History

Working-class history is the story of the changing conditions and actions of all working people. Most adult Canadians today earn their living in the form of wages and salaries and thus share the conditions of dependent employment associated with the definition of "working class."

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John Joseph Kelso

John Joseph Kelso, journalist and social reformer (born 31 March 1864 in Dundalk, Ireland; died 30 September 1935 in Toronto, Ontario). A lifelong advocate for the rights of children and animals, Kelso founded the Toronto Humane Society, Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, Fresh Air Fund and Santa Claus Fund. Kelso left a legacy as an early founder of the social services system in Ontario.

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Impact of COVID-19 on Remote Work at Canadian Businesses

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Canadians have worked from home. This shift to remote work has aimed to slow the spread of the coronavirus by reducing contact between people.

To gauge the impact of the pandemic on remote work at Canadian businesses, Statistics Canada conducted a nationwide survey in 2020. The graphs below show some of its findings. The first graph shows the percentage of businesses, in each province and the three territories, that had more than half of their workforce working remotely a) before the pandemic and b) on 29 May 2020, during the pandemic. The second graph shows the percentage of businesses which expected that more than half their workforce would continue to work remotely after COVID-19.

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Sixties Scoop

The “Sixties Scoop” refers to the large-scale removal or “scooping” of Indigenous children from their homes, communities and families of birth through the 1960s, and their subsequent adoption into predominantly non-Indigenous, middle-class families across the United States and Canada. This experience left many adoptees with a lost sense of cultural identity. The physical and emotional separation from their birth families continues to affect adult adoptees and Indigenous communities to this day.

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Chanie Wenjack

Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack (born 19 January 1954; died 23 October 1966 near Redditt, ON). Chanie Wenjack, an Anishinaabe boy from Ontario, ran away from his residential school near Kenora at age 12, and subsequently died from hunger and exposure to the harsh weather. His death in 1966 sparked national attention and the first inquest into the treatment of Indigenous children in Canadian residential schools.

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Asbestos Strike of 1949

The Asbestos Strike began on 14 February 1949 and paralyzed major asbestos mines in Quebec for almost five months. The Quebec government sided with the main employer, an American-owned company, against the 5,000 unionized mine workers. From the start, the strike created conflicts between the provincial government and the Roman Catholic Church, which usually sided with the government. One of the longest and most violent labour conflicts in Quebec history, it helped lay the groundwork for the Quiet Revolution

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Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 (Plain-Language Summary)

The Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 was the biggest strike in Canadian history. A “strike” means that workers refuse to go to work. A “general strike” is a type of strike in which workers from different industries go on strike at the same time. (See also Strikes and Lockouts; Labour Organization.) The Winnipeg General Strike took place between 15 May and 25 June 1919. Factory workers, store workers and transit workers went on strike. Some workers from the public sector, such as policemen, firemen and postal workers joined the strike. Approximately 30,000 workers went on strike. The main goal of the strike was to improve working conditions. The federal government believed the strikers wanted to start a communist revolution. It called in the Royal North-West Mounted Police to stop it. Many strikers were arrested. Some were hurt. And two people were killed. The strike proved to be tragic. But it convinced some Canadians to take the plight of workers very seriously. One of these Canadians was J.S. Woodsworth. He helped form the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. It was a socialist labour party. (See Socialism). One of its main goals was to help workers.

(This article is a plain-language summary of the Winnipeg General Strike. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry, Winnipeg General Strike of 1919.)

timeline event

Ottawa Ordered to Compensate First Nations Children in On-Reserve Child Welfare System

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal issued a ruling that called for the federal government to pay $40,000 to each child who was taken from their home on reserve since 1 January 2006, regardless of the reason. The tribunal’s ruling stated, “Canada was aware of the discrimination and of some of its serious consequences… Canada focused on financial considerations rather than on the best interests of First Nations children and respecting their human rights.” About 50,000 children were affected, making the total cost around $2 billion. (See also: Canadian Human Rights Act.)

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Mr. Dressup

Mr. Dressup was one of Canada’s most beloved and longest-running children’s television series. The program ran for 29 years (1967–96) and more than 4,000 episodes. It starred Ernie Coombs as the jovial Mr. Dressup and was a precursor to the popular American series, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Mr. Dressup was influential in tailoring children’s programming towards developing the child’s emotional and logical intelligence. The series won three Gemini Awards and earned Coombs an appointment to the Order of Canada. A 2017 crowd-sourced online vote unofficially declared Mr. Dressup Canada’s most memorable television program. In 2019, Mr. Dressup was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame.