CUPE, and its provincial occupational health and safety committee in Quebec, is reiterating the importance of regulating child labour, as a reported 203 children under 16 years of age received compensation from the province’s Commission on workplace standards, fairness, health and safety (CNESST) in 2021, which some experts say underestimates the actual number.

“Following the CNESST investigation report that came out in the wake of the death of a 14-year-old worker at the Village Vacances Valcartier, CUPE has added its voice to those demanding legislative oversight of child labour given the importance of protecting this category of more vulnerable workers and due to the negligence of some employers. Careful monitoring of the steps leading up to the tabling of this legislation will be crucial to ensuring that it provides bona fide protection for these workers,” says Sophie Martin, a lawyer and union representative responsible for the committee.

The latest survey on the health of secondary school students in Quebec revealed that 46% of first-year secondary students are working during the school year, and most are 12 years old.

“The CUPE Quebec occupational health and safety committee has denounced the disengagement that has taken place and is calling for more restrictive regulations to protect the physical and psychological health and safety of children in the workplace. Specifically with regards to training, which will be essential to protecting them. It is crucial that safeguards be put in place in terms of the number of hours they work and also the types of duties they can perform,” says Sophie Martin.