Seamus O’Regan Jr.
Minster of Labour
Canada’s Minister of Labour, The Honourable Seamus O’Regan Jr., discusses enhancing workplace safety, observing the National Day of Mourning, and strengthening workers’ rights.
What recent initiatives has Canada taken to improve occupational health and safety?
We introduced 10 days of paid sick leave for federally regulated workers last fall. This set a high bar for workers’ benefits across the country. Governments had heard the call from workers and union leadership on the need for paid sick leave for years. It became clear during COVID – if we’re asking people to stay home from work for two weeks, we have to give them paid sick days to do it. I’m making the case to my provincial and territorial colleagues to join us on this every chance I get.
Despite progress in improving workplace safety, there are still reports of workplace injuries and fatalities. What more needs to be done to ensure the safety of Canadian workers?
The nature of work is constantly changing, so our regulations and practices have to keep changing too. More importantly, the bar for what a safe, healthy, and respectful workplace is keeps rising. That’s a good thing. It used to be that workers just had to be physically protected. We know now that’s not good enough anymore. Our government is looking at how to protect mental health and the right to disconnect. We’re moving ahead with paid leave for women who have suffered pregnancy loss or a stillbirth. A good job doesn’t just look after someone financially. It’s something that makes you proud to wake up every morning and get to work. We have to keep listening to workers to learn what they need to succeed, and then work with industry and unions to make it happen.
Why is the National Day of Mourning important for Canadians to observe?
This past Monday was the 10th anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster. An eight-story garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed, killing over 1,300 people. No worker should have stepped foot in that factory. No worker should have to risk their life or safety for a paycheque. Not in Bangladesh. Not in this country. Not anywhere. This Friday is a day for Canadians to honour workers who were killed or injured on the job. But it’s also a day to remember the workers we’ve failed in the past, and the responsibility we all have — governments, unions, industry — to make sure every worker is safe, healthy, and respected on the job.
What is Canada doing to prevent workplace accidents around the world?
The Labour movement in Canada has made us a standard-bearer on workers’ right around the world. We have a responsibility to make a difference beyond our borders. We work with the International Labour Organization and other like-minded governments, unions, and businesses to improve and enforce international labour standards. We’ll introduce government legislation next year that eradicates forced labour from Canadian supply chains. Last fall, we joined with the US to launch M-POWER — a partnership that supports unions and other labour organizations around the world. Products destined for Canada were being made when the Rana Plaza factory collapsed. Our supply chains reach far and wide, and our obligations don’t stop at our borders.