A Supreme Court of Canada ruling now protects federally regulated companies from firing workers without cause. The Ontario government should follow suit for provincially regulated industries.
Linda Wang worked at a Toronto cosmetics manufacturer for four years. Then, two weeks after she asked her employer for extra pay she was owed for working a public holiday, she was fired. No reason was given for her termination.
That may appear unfair, but it’s perfectly legal. Under the law the company she worked at is entitled to fire workers without cause.
Indeed, under Ontario’s outdated 1968 Employment Standards Act not a single worker is protected from being dismissed without a stated reason.
That should change. And it will if the province follows the lead set recently by the Supreme Court of Canada.
After a six-and-a-half year battle that pitted Brampton’s Joseph Wilson against Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., the court ruled that federally regulated employees, unionized or not, can only be terminated for just cause under the Canada Labour Code.
In Wilson’s case, he claimed he was unfairly terminated by AECL for exposing “improper” procurement practices at the Crown corporation. While the company offered him a six-month severance package, it maintained it did not have to give a justification for firing him.
The court, by a majority of 6 to 3, disagreed. Its ruling will now strengthen the rights of the half million non-unionized Canadian employees who work in federally regulated industries, such as banks, airlines and telecommunications. Employers will have to give a cause – such as misconduct or incompetence – before dismissing an employee.
That should set a precedent for provincially regulated companies, not to mention industries that are currently unregulated in Ontario such as farming, flower growing, fishing and accounting.
The Supreme Court ruling could not be timelier since Ontario is currently conducting consultations to update the Employment Standards Act. The Ministry of Labour says one of the complaints it heard about during hearings on how the act should be updated involved the unjust dismissal of workers. And the Workers’ Action Centre, an organization that advocates for fair employment, has asked the government not only to ensure workers are protected from wrongful dismissal, but to eliminate all occupational exemptions to the act.
An interim report on the review of the act is due in the next few weeks.
Whether or not it recommends that Ontario follow the Supreme Court’s lead and the action centre’s recommendations, the province should ensure that its updated version of the Employment Standards Act ensures that no employee from any industry can be unjustly fired.
The giveaway is part of a broader effort by two officers to boost safety and bridge rifts between cops and community in Lawrence Heights.
Mugdaba Ullah, 4, can’t believe his luck. First training wheels on his “supercycle,” now a flashy, fire-toned helmet.
“Two peez gave me a bicycle hat,” he says, busting out his nickname for “police.”
“Mine has Snow White and Cinderella,” notes his sister Nagina, 5.
The two “peez” pals, Constables Mir Lodhi and Wayne Clarke, have been giving bike helmets to kids around the Lawrence Heights area where they walk the beat as neighbourhood officers. Launching the effort last month after seeing scores of tike bikers without headgear, the duo has doled out more than a dozen helmets to boost safety and bridge old rifts on streets where distrust of law enforcement lingers.
Two factors lie behind the dearth of noggin shells, Lodhi says: cash and awareness.
“It’s mostly financial. They can’t afford to go out and spend 30 or 40 bucks,” he says of families in a neighbourhood identified by the city as a “priority area” until 2013.
Education plays a role, too. Whenever Lodhi and Clarke ask young cyclists where their helmet is, “They’re either shocked or they didn’t know they had to have one.”
A city bylaw requires all cyclists under 18 to wear a helmet.
“We just explain — to the kid and to the mom or the dad — how unsafe it is to ride without protection, and that it’s the law,” says Clarke.
The pilot project, launched informally by Clarke and Lodhi last month, complements other efforts such as taking kids for a ride-along to buy a slushy, or co-ordinating a makeover between teens and a Yonge St. aesthetician.
Lodhi arrived in Lawrence Heights in the fall of 2013 to help spearhead the Toronto Police Service’s new neighbourhood officer program to help heal “50 years of mutual distrust between police and the community.”
Less than three years later, he and Clarke are ambling along the streets, bouncing basketballs back and forth with children and razzing tweens.
“Looking good on those blades, Romario,” Lodhi says. “Yeah, but D’Andre’s getting cocky with his skills on the court,” Clarke chirps.
Lodhi says the effort has led to healthier relationships and heightened safety, as well as tips that have helped resolve crimes.
“We realize that we may not be able to work with certain people that already have their minds made up, but we want to work with the next generation, and this is how we get them.”
While helmets are critical, infrastructure such as segregated bike lanes and lower speed limits can prevent injuries and save more lives, says Pat Brown, a road safety advocate and head of Bike Law Canada.
“Even at slow speed, slight contact with someone who’s cycling can mean death,” Brown said. “Cycling shouldn’t be considered a contact sport.”
Last year, the city imposed lower speed limits on hundreds of kilometres of residential streets downtown and in East York in a bid to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists. Meanwhile, bike lanes await installation in a Bloor St. pilot project going into gear by the end of the summer.
Toronto police have faced criticism recently for apparent victim-blaming in fatal cycling accidents.
On July 5, spokesman Const. Clinton Stibbe told reporters a biker pedalling at a high speed did not “approach the area with enough care,” resulting in the 71-year-old’s death near the intersection of Christie St. and Dupont St. Stibbe apologized over Twitter for his remark the next day, noting the cyclist had the right of way.
“Historically, we’ve seen a tendency to look at the cyclist or pedestrian first, and second at the driver. We think that comes across as a form of victim-blaming and sends the wrong message to the public,” said Brown.
He noted police are “active participants with safety and cycling, especially with the younger generation.”
Cash rewards not available for collectors redeeming soon-to-expire miles
In the race to redeem their Air Miles before they expire, many collectors are expressing frustrations about limited rewards options.
“You’re pretty much hosed,” claims Toronto collector John MacKenzie.
At the close of 2011, Air Miles introduced a five-year expiry date on rewards miles. That means on Jan.1, 2017, any unused miles collected before 2012 will disappearand become worthless. The rewards program launched in Canada in 1992.
As eager members search for ways to redeem expiring points, many are dismayed to discover that they can’t access cash rewards such as gift cards.
“It’s completely unfair,” charges MacKenzie. He says he’s struggling to find a way to collect on his miles.
No cash rewards for you
Air Miles used to offer gift cards for places like grocery stores and movie theatres along with travel rewards in one main category. Then in 2012, the company announceda “dream” rewards section for things like travel and merchandise and a separate category for cash rewards.
Collectors aware of the change could opt for cash rewards for future miles. Unspecified miles and all ones earned before 2012 automatically defaulted to the dream category.
That means miles expiring by January can’t be used for cash rewards like gift cards which are easy to redeem and often require fewer points.
“It’s quite the sleight of hand from Air Miles,” says collector and financial writer Robb Engen.
“All that valuable stuff that I would redeem for gas and groceries and movies, they’ve taken all that away while they’ve left you kind of high and dry in the dream category.”
For 95 miles, customers can get a $10 gift card in the cash category. Many offerings in the dream section such as household products, leisure activities and vacation deals require thousands of miles.
The dream section does offer a $100 gift card for select grocers, but it requires 50 miles plus a cash payment of $95 — almost the value of the card.
Engen, who lives in Lethbridge, Alta., has 400 dream miles he must use by January. He says he hasn’t found a way to redeem them.
“I’m having a hard time finding something worthwhile.”
MacKenzie has 1,400 dream miles and says there’s not much he can do with them. Because he can’t access cash rewards, he tried to donate his points to charity. But he soon discovered that the option is only available in the cash category.
So MacKenzie has concluded his miles are worthless. “I’m just going to throw the card away. It’s pointless.”
You can enter a contest
Air Miles said its new cash category, which includes instant redemptions, has proven a “successful initiative.”
As for those stuck trying to redeem dream rewards before January, the company noted that over the past year it has added more lower cost offerings to the category.
The additions will “enable collectors to use the miles in their account before they may expire,” said company spokeswoman Natasha Lasiuk in an email to CBC News.
Air Miles points to sweepstakespeople can enter to win a vacation or a meet-and-greet with a celebrity for as little as 50 miles. The company also noted that collectors can get a dining discount book for 500 miles.
Engen and MacKenzie say those options don’t interest them. “Absolutely would not consider entering a sweepstakes,” says Engen. “Might as well just flush them down the toilet.”
Call for a cash transfer
After hearing complaints from other collectors about limited options, Engen posted online an open letterto Air Miles.
He calls on the company to allow collectors to make a one-time transfer of their dream miles to the cash category before the end of the year.
“That would be a show of good faith for the company and their members,” says Engen. “Because they’re going to lose a lot of [members].”
Calgary collector Suzana Rymak says she’s not about to leave Air Miles. “I’m still grateful for the program.”
But Rymak agrees that customers struggling to redeem points before they expire should be allowed to access cash rewards.
“It would have been nice to show that this is about customers too and have some sort of transition policy to assist people,” she says.
Rymak asked Air Miles on its Facebook site if she could switch her dream miles to cash miles.
“Our system does not have the capability to transfer miles between the accounts,” replied the company.
Nix expiry date?
Collector MacKenzie suggests another option would be for Air Miles to cancel its five-year expiry rule.
“Just change the policy like Aeroplan did,” he suggests.
Aeroplan introduced a seven-year expiry rule in 2007. But after public outcry, the rewards program axed the planbefore miles started to expire in 2014.
Air Miles customers have also been complaining about long wait times to reach customers service by phone and technical difficulties with the company website.
CBC News asked the company if it was considering extending the expiry deadline because of the ongoing problems. Air Miles responded that its website was currently up and running and that it had a dedicated team to address technical issues.
The sad state of the courthouse in one of the country’s fastest growing cities is causing some cases to be thrown out.
The elevator often doesn’t work, pieces of the ceiling have fallen down, there has been flooding in at least one courtroom, and the premises are so cramped that prisoners are sometimes transported through the same areas as judges.
Welcome to the Milton courthouse. Or as veteran criminal defence lawyer Paul Stunt calls it, an “unmitigated disaster.”
Located in what has been described as the fastest-growing city in Canada, the decades-old building, with its shortage of courtrooms and judges, is vastly ill-equipped to deal with the caseload of Halton Region, lawyers say. A second, even smaller, courthouse in Burlington has also proven to be problematic.
As a result of the lack of resources, criminal cases that are taking too long to get to trial are being thrown out due to delay.
The government has said a new Halton courthouse is at the top of its priority projects list and issued a request for proposals last month to find a design expert.
But lawyers aren’t holding their breath. They’re quick to point out that other municipalities including Kitchener, Brampton and Oshawa have either received new, state-of-the-art courthouses in the last 15 years or are getting expansions while Milton has been left virtually untouched for decades.
“I look forward to being proven wrong on this but we have heard it before. At points in the last 10 years, Halton has been considered one of the priorities for court facilities only to see other regions ‘get the goods,’” said lawyer Brendan Neil, the Halton director of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association.
“Don’t get me wrong. Halton is not the only region in need but it is the fastest growing region with an antiquated building which has been termed as an embarrassment and a black eye on a justice system that deserves better.”
The impact in the region is being especially felt at the provincial court level, with its tiny bench of seven judges, two of whom deal exclusively with family law matters. When lawyer Victoria Starr was appointed in 2014, she became Halton’s newest judge in 10 years.
As judges have stated repeatedly in their rulings, there simply aren’t enough jurists and courtrooms to hear all cases without violating an accused’s right to be tried within a reasonable time.
Last year alone, at least three impaired driving cases — which make up the bulk of the provincial court docket in Ontario — and two dangerous driving charges were thrown out due to unreasonable delay.
A higher court recently upheld the decision to put a halt to one of the impaired cases, in which a man waited nearly a year for his case to get to trial.
“There is also the legitimate concern that there are no courtrooms or facilities to accommodate additional judges should they be appointed or transferred to the region to assist,” with the trial work, wrote Superior Court Justice Fletcher Dawson earlier this month in his appeal ruling.
“This represents a form of ‘Catch-22’ for deployment of judicial resources.”
Justice Stephen Brown, the local administrative provincial court judge for the region, has perhaps been the most vocal on the bench in calling out the lack of government attention in Halton. (He declined an interview request from the Star.)
“Explosive growth in Halton has been present for many years and is projected to continue for many more. It is not a temporary and ‘unusual strain’ on the judicial resources of this region, but a persistent and ever increasing one,” he wrote in his decision last year, which was upheld by Dawson.
“The government has failed to allocate sufficient resources in Halton for a lengthy period of time. This cannot be an oversight, but only a conscious decision.”
Virtually every judicial and local political player in the region feels their pleas to the government have fallen on deaf ears. Milton’s long-time mayor, Gord Krantz, believes at least part of the reason for the foot-dragging is political.
“It all depends on who is the most vocal, I would suspect, around the cabinet table, or the backbenchers. We had an opposition member for a while, so that worked against us, I would say,” he said.
Progressive Conservative Ted Chudleigh held the riding that includes the Milton courthouse for nearly 20 years, the last 10 of which was during Liberal rule. Since 2014, the area has been represented by Liberal MPPs.
Chudleigh agreed in an interview with the Star that politics can often play a role in the construction of new government projects. He said the legal community had expressed concerns to him in the late 1990s, while his party was in power, about the need for an expansion to the Milton courthouse.
He said he was told that it was on a government priority projects list, but that many projects were halted when the Liberals were elected in 2003.
“It’s political and it’s not necessarily just the Liberals. All parties do it. You stop all construction, and then restart it and take credit for it,” he said.
An Attorney General spokeswoman said the ministry recognizes the need to address the infrastructure issues in Halton and has invested $10.3 million to renovate and improve the Milton courthouse.
“We will continue to work with our justice sector partners to find ways to address these challenges and ensure that the Milton courthouse is able to function efficiently and effectively,” said spokeswoman Clare Graham.
Built in 1962, when the population of Milton was about 6,000 people, and expanded in the late ’70s, the courthouse has six provincial courtrooms. Only two of them actually hear trials and one is frequently used for family matters, said Neil with the Criminal Lawyers’ Association.
The Superior Court, which hears more serious cases and deals with civil matters, has five courtrooms.
Today, Milton’s population is nearing 100,000, part of the 500,000 people who reside in Halton Region — four times the size of the region in 1962.
“I have great concern for the overall security of that building and I think the public, my officers and special constables and in-custody accused persons would be better served and safer in a facility which is probably already 15 to 20 years overdue. We need a brand new, state-of-the-art courthouse as soon as possible,” Halton Regional Police Chief Stephen Tanner told the Star in an interview.
He said when the elevator breaks down and officers have to bring prisoners from the holding cells to the courtrooms, they sometimes have to take them up public stairwells, or through hallways where judges or potential jurors might be found.
“All those things shouldn’t happen in a modern courthouse facility,” he said.
There’s also a “satellite” courthouse in Burlington, built in the early 1990s, which has three provincial court trial courtrooms and a small claims courtroom. But all individuals in Halton region who have been charged with a crime must first appear in Milton.
Lawyers point out that cases can be moved on a whim from Milton to Burlington, yet public transportation between the two is practically non-existent, and not every accused person has access to a car to make the half-hour drive.
“I understand they’ve sent witnesses down in taxis,” said Stunt, the lawyer who has been lobbying the government for years for a new Halton region courthouse.
“There’s no space for the defence lawyers to meet with their clients in that courthouse. It doesn’t exist. You go to Tim Horton’s or the hallway. When that building was first opened, to get to the cells, you had to go through the men’s washroom. They’ve corrected that now.”
Even if plans for a new courthouse were approved this week, it would take years for the project to get off the ground, critics say. Concern is growing that even more serious cases will be tossed in the meantime.
If you’re willing to plan ahead, you can fly by some of those pesky added charges
Gone are the good old days when an airline ticket included perks like a reserved seat, a checked bag and dinner. Now many of the extras have been sliced up into separate categories with an added price tag.
So how can you avoid some of those pesky airline charges that keep adding up and up? CBC News did the research to help you stick to your no-frills ticket this summer.
If you fly economy, a $25 checked bag fee is getting more difficult to avoid. Air Canada and Air Transat only waive the charge for international flights. WestJet charges the fee for all economy fares, including international.
If you’re just not able to stuff everything into a carry-on bag, there are a few other ways to avoid the fee.
If Air Canada tends to be your airline of choice and you collect Aeroplan miles, you may want to consider a TD Aeroplan or CIBC Aerogold Visa Infinite credit card. Both offer a free checked bag when you book an Air Canada flight using your rewards.
The annual fee for both cards is $120. Sure that’s more than a checked bag charge but the card also allows you to rack up Aeroplan miles plus other travel perks such as priority boarding.
TD and CIBC also offer a higher-tier Infinite Privilege Visa card that allows members to check their first bag for free on all Air Canada flights, paid for with or without rewards. But beware — the card’s annual fee is $399.
If you’re a frequent WestJet flyer, your best bet may be to join the airline’s rewards program. Members who spend $4,000 or more on flights within 12 months move up to silver status. That means they can check their first bag for free on WestJet flights.
If you can’t hit the $4,000 cut-off, another option is to sign up for a WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard. Members and up to eight of their travel partners get a complimentary checked bag on WestJet flights.
The credit card’s annual fee is $99 but you also earn WestJet rewards and other travel perks.
If you stuff all your clothes in a carry-on, make sure it meets your airline’s size limits. (Ted S. Warren/Associated Press)
If you manage to cram all your clothes into a carry-on bag, make sure it doesn’t exceed the size limits, which vary according to the airline. Some carriers including Air Canada are now carefully monitoring on-board luggage.
Economy passengers caught with offending carry-ons are often forced to check their bag and pay the $25 fee.
No. 2: BYO food
It also pays to check in advance if you get fed on a flight.
None of the major Canadian carriers now serve complimentary meals on North American flights for economy fares. Sunwing was the last to stop serving up free food, switching to a price-based menu at the start of this year.
Most airlines still serve a complimentary meal on international flights but WestJet is now charging for all food on its flights to London, England.
WestJet’s website recommends that Europe-bound passengers pre-purchase their meals. There are no complimentary meals served on board. (WestJet)
If you choose to pack your own meal, keep in mind that you can’t take liquids through security.
Calgary aviation consultant Rick Erickson advises bringing an empty water bottle and filling it up at a fountain at the airport. They’re usually found near public washrooms.
No. 3: BYO entertainment
Inflight entertainment can also cost you these days. Most airlines, including WestJet and Air Canada, now charge for headphones so pack a pair in your carry-on.
Air Canada’s international passengers get free earbuds but not if they’re flying its discount option, Air Canada Rouge.
To avoid extra entertainment costs, Rouge passengers need to bring their own headphones and mobile screening device plus download in advance the Air Canada app. The app will allow passengers access to the airline’s entertainment system, which includes movies.
If you come unprepared, you’ll have to shell out $10 to rent an on-board iPad.
WestJet also requires you to bring your own device and download its entertainment app on some flights. So it’s best to come prepared to avoid paying up to $8 for a tablet rental.
Some WestJet flights come with seatback televisions. But if you’re flying domestic, you have to pay for movies — up to $6.89 per flick. If you’re a movie buff, you may want to consider bringing your own entertainment.
No. 4: Avoid air traffic
Another fee passengers wind up paying for is seat selection. If you desire a roomier seat or you want to guarantee a seat next to your travel partner, this charge is difficult to avoid.
But analyst Erickson offers this tip: book your trip during non-peak times such as low travel season. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are also known as lower traffic days. Not only might your flight be cheaper, but also, says Erickson, “with any luck, you might have an empty seat beside you.”