Document Type

Book Review

Publication Date


Source Publication

81 Labour/Le Travail (2018) 265-69.


The constitutionalization of labour rights in Canada is one of the most remarkable and, perhaps, unexpected developments in the 36 year history of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Few observers in 1982 would have predicted that the Charter rights of freedom of expression and association would provide constitutional protection for picket-line activity, collective bargaining, and strikes. Indeed, for some critical observers, the advent of the Charter was viewed as an ominous development, advancing the neo-liberal project of degrading and bypassing democratic institutions to insure the maintenance of conditions favourable to capital accumulation and the power of economic elites. Who better, after all, than the judiciary, the guardians of individual market rights and freedoms, long hostile to collective action by workers, to entrust with this task? However, in recent years, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) has provided workers with some cover against the assault of neoliberal governments pursuing austerity measures that restrict collective bargaining and the freedom to strike. How did this happen and what are its implications for the future of the Canadian labour movement? These are some of the questions Savage and Smith set out to answer in this insightful account of the labour movement’s engagement with the Charter and the SCC’s evolving jurisprudence.


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