News from the Canadian Labour Congress, International Department

Free Trade Deals Contaminated by Investor Protections

This news is supplemental to the June/July ID Update #3

The CLC and International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) have denounced the uses of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions within trade and investment agreements, urging unions to lobby against them with their trade ministers:

Canadian Unions are urged to join the lobby by clicking on this link to send a message to Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast

The ISDS allows corporations to sue governments that put human rights and the public interest ahead of private investments — a provision the Canadian government continues to incorporate in its trade agreements. Canada has already paid millions to corporations because of ISDS and over $2 billion worth of additional law suits are currently pending under our North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). For example, Lone Pine Resources is suing Canada for $250 million in response to Quebec’s decision to put a moratorium on shale gas mining. The Harper government wants ISDS provisions in the proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Europe and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with countries in the Asia-Pacific region. For CLC information on the TPP, see:

Over the last decade, the number of NAFTA law suits has doubled, 70% of which are aimed at Canada. Globally, 169 investor-state suits were heard at the World Bank in 2013 alone, behind closed doors and under strict commercial rules, which enable corporations to challenge environmental regulations, public health measures, labour protections, sovereign debt restructuring, community and indigenous affairs, and even decisions by national courts. The CLC wants the Canadian Government to reject ISDS, in favor of trade and investment frameworks that include strong labour standards and protections, prior and informed consent, and sustainable economic development.

Recently, the CLC has also denounced a $301 million ISDS lawsuit by the Canadian-Australian OceanaGold Corporation against the country of El Salvador for damages due to its moratorium on new mining projects because of water shortages, thus denying the company a permit to operate. Last May, a Salvadoran delegation to Canada formed part of a Stop the Suits Tour to highlight the disastrous effects of ISDS in their country and warning Canadians about its impacts. The tour was supported by the CLC, CUPE, PSAC, USW, SalvAide, CCPA, Council of Canadians, Oxfam Canada, MiningWatch and Kairos, among others. The annual conference of Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC) also hosted a special forum on the subject, which was moderated by the CLC and hosted by the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA).

Meanwhile, at the end of March on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of NAFTA, the AFL-CIO (the national trade union center in the United States) and the CLC issued a joint statement highlighting the destructive trade rules that expand the rights and privileges of multinational corporations, which enable the race to the bottom in terms of wages, labour rights, environmental protection and public interest regulation. It referred to the ISDS as one of the most egregious rules, which foster the legal rights of investors:



News from the Canadian Labour Congress, International Department

Colombia in the Shadow of Human Rights Abuses

This news is supplemental to the June/July ID Update #3

The CLC has joined with affiliates, Canadian NGOs and solidarity organizations to form a Colombia Working Group. The Group’s aim is to assess the impacts on human rights of Canadian companies operating in Colombia and other Canadian involvement in that troubled country in light of four years of implementation of the Canada Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CCOFTA).

The Colombia Working Group has produced a tool kit consisting of an analytical study, three fact sheets and an infographic highlighting the ongoing crisis of human displacement through land-grabbing by armed groups, the worsening environment for human rights defenders and the general strike in the agrarian economy resulting from free trade imports of subsidized agricultural products from Canada and the United States.

Violations of international labour standards and the murder of trade union organizers continues; only three percent of Canadian companies operating in Colombia have recognized a trade union in their facilities. The Canadian government claimed that a free trade agreement (FTA) with Colombia would help resolve human rights abuses, create jobs and improve economic development. But the study shows that the human rights crisis has not declined.

The reality is that the deal provides strong protection for investors’ rights, while requiring no enforceable obligations for mining, gas and oil producing multinationals. This has had a huge negative impact on African descendent and Indigenous communities many of which are in danger of extinction. The tool kit can be accessed from:

July 06, 2021

With the new Free-Trade agreement between Canada-US-Mexico (CUSMA), a Canada-Mexico Facility Specific Rapid Response Labour Mechanism to address denial of fundamental labour rights in Mexico now exists. Claims under this new mechanism can be submitted by Canadian unions and individual Canadians or permanent residents.  

There are no Claims submitted in Canada under this mechanism yet.  The ILRC seeks to establish a committee of interested members who would work to support an effective implementation of this new mechanism, primarily supporting Mexican trade unions and Canadian Submitters. 

If anyone is interested in joining this ILRC sub-committee, please send an email to as soon as possible. We will schedule a meeting shortly to discuss the next steps.


July 06, 2021

The ILRC has been working with partners organizations outside of Canada to support labour rights, practicing labour lawyers and the international labour movement for decades.

The ILRC is inviting all CALL members interested in supporting international labour rights to join the ILRC for the upcoming year. To those who are already members, please confirm your continued participation. 

As mentioned in our business meeting on June 1, 2021 and under our revised Terms of Reference, we need to confirm ILRC membership by July 1st of each year. This will assist us in running an effective committee and ensuring all those who want to participate can do so.

There are several interesting and important ILRC initiatives in the coming year, and we are looking forward to increasing ILRC numbers and member engagement to best support them.

Please email the current co-directors (Marie-Claude St-Amant: or Mario Torres: confirming your interest in becoming or remaining a part of the ILRC by July 1, 2021.

We will schedule a meet and greet for the middle of July with our first formal meeting in September.

We look forward to hearing from you!


September 30, 2015

Click on the following hyperlink to view the letter from Amnesty International.

     211 Myanmar 


September 30, 2015

Labour Day activities by labour councils across Canada have combined with ILO reviews by the CLC International Department (ID) to deliver a strong message to the Harper Government, as well as to all Canadians, that “It’s Time for Change!”

Earlier this month, district labour councils organised events in 77 locations across the country, putting the federal government on notice that its attacks on workers’ wellbeing and social security are no longer acceptable.

In advance of the October 7 World Day for Decent Work and the upcoming national election on October 19, labour councils also responded in record numbers to call directly on the federal government to abandon its austerity programs, and to launch a full employment and Decent Work Agenda.

Their activities came a week after the CLC’s International Department submitted its most scathing review ever of the federal government record to the International Labour Organization (ILO). In its review, it produced evidence that Canada was systematically violating a number of the ILO Conventions that it has ratified, and argued that this policy direction was giving rise to higher levels of precarious work, more discrimination in the workplace, wage inequalities (especially for women), and a deterioration of occupational health and safety standards.

The review reports on five Canada-ratified Conventions have triggered an automatic review by the ILO of the government’s performance on a broad range of issues, to which responses are due next spring. It follows earlier reports to the ILO, in which the CLC has argued that Canada was also systematically violating international Conventions dealing with labour rights, collective bargaining and employment policy.

“For the first time in the CLC’s history, we have linked local actions of labour councils to an international process,” said CLC Executive Vice President, Marie Clarke Walker, adding that the responses expected from the ILO could play a role in shaping an agenda for change by a new government after the October 19 election.

Walker believes that the CLC reports are a strong indictment of Harper’s record on social and worker issues – in essence, he has displayed contempt for Canada’s international commitments. “We aim to report ILO’s findings to labour councils, and to help strengthen their resolve for a national Decent Work Agenda that respects workers’ rights and dignity,” she said.

For copies of the CLC reports to the ILO regarding the following ratified Conventions:

•        C88 – Employment Service
•        C100 – Equal Remuneration
•        C111 – Discrimination (Employment and Occupation)
•        C162 – Asbestos
•        C187 – Promotional Framework on Occupational Safety and Health