Representing Canada in international forums

The Labour Program manages Canada's participation in key international labour forums, most notably the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labour (IACML). Government positions on labour issues in other international fora, such as the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the G8 and G20, the World Bank and other United Nation (UN) organizations, summits and events are also developed by the Labour Program.

International Labour Organization

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is the UN specialized agency that promotes social justice and internationally recognized human and labour rights.

The ILO:

  • is the only tripartite UN organization – with representatives of governments and workers' and employers' organizations participating in its administration and activities. The ILO has 185 member States, representing industrialized and developing countries as well as countries in transition (former Eastern Bloc countries).
  • adopts international labour standards in the form of Conventions (international treaties subject to ratification by ILO member States) or Recommendations (non-binding guidelines for national policy and action).
  • may call for appropriate action where it identifies a non-conformity to any ratified Convention. Complaints may be submitted to the ILO by a member State that has ratified the Convention or by workers' or employers' organizations. Complaints concerning freedom of association and collective bargaining are handled by a special supervisory mechanism that allows complaints to be filed whether or not the applicable Conventions have been ratified.
  • ensures the principles of the "Declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work"—freedom of association and collective bargaining, the abolition of forced labour and child labour, and the elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation are embodied in fundamental or "core" Conventions.
  • carries out, in addition to its traditional standards-setting functions, a broad range of activities such as providing assistance to developing countries in training their labour forces and strengthening their labour administration systems; developing legislation; research and publications on labour and employment issues; meetings dealing with particular sectors or branches of the economy, etc.
  • works with international organizations, including other UN agencies as well as the Bretton Woods Institutions, to address the social dimensions of globalization and ensure that trade liberalization is beneficial for all, and contributes to global discussions related to economic crisis recovery responses.

For full details on the International Labour Organization, and to keep abreast of ILO issues, visit its website.

Canada's participation in the International Labour Organization (ILO)

As a founding member of the ILO and member of the ILO's governing body, Canada has played an active and constructive role since the formation of the ILO in 1919, working consistently in support of the Organization's aims, values, and tripartite structure.
In managing Canada's ILO participation, the International Labour Affairs Division of the Labour Program:

  • develops government positions on ILO-related issues in consultation with other federal departments, the provinces and territories, and Canadian worker and employer organizations. ILA works closely with officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs, both in Ottawa and at the Canadian Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, to ensure effective Canadian representation and involvement.
  • consults with the above-mentioned partners on a wide range of international labour issues, ILO questionnaires, reports and government positions on the development of international labour standards.
  • provides information to the ILO on Canadian labour law and practice; monitors, assesses, and reports on Canadian compliance with ILO conventions; and ensures that federal and provincial government responses to ILO supervisory bodies, including the Committee on Freedom of Association, are provided in a timely manner.
  • ensures that Canada meets its ILO membership obligations, including tabling reports in Parliament on new instruments adopted by the International Labour Conference.
  • manages the process for Canadian ratification of ILO Conventions.
  • ensures Canadian Government representation at the Governing Body of the International Labour Office, the ILC and at sectoral, technical, expert, and regional meetings.
  • ensures Government, worker and employer participation at the International Labour Conference.
  • participates in the promotion of the ILO declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work and in its Follow-up procedures.
  • provides technical assistance funding which support the ILO Decent work agenda and the joint ILO/International Finance Corporation Better work programme which seeks to improve labour standards and enterprise performance in global supply chains.

Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labour (IACML)

Operating within the framework of the Organization of American States (OAS), the Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labour (IACML) is the main forum in the Hemisphere where Labour ministers address labour and employment issues common to all countries of the Americas.

The IACML guarantees the participation of workers and employers through its two advisory bodies: the Trade Union Technical Advisory Council (COSATE) and the Business Technical Advisory Committee on Labor Matters (CEATAL).

The IACML has created two working groups to deepen the analysis of the Conference's priority themes, to spread information and pertinent studies, and to follow up hemispheric initiatives.

Canada supports the IACML's objective of strengthening the capacities of Ministries of Labour throughout the Americas and is a key financial contributor to the IACML's mechanism for cooperation and technical assistance, the Inter-American Network for Labour Administration (RIAL, by its Spanish acronym). The Labour Program is responsible for managing Canada's ongoing participation in the IACML.

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