Ottawa—Changes to Canada Labour Code included in omnibus Bill C-4 create new dangers for women’s reproductive system.
A detailed analysis reveals that Bill C-4 will take away women’s right to refuse dangerous work even when exposed to organic solvents or other mutagenic*, teratogen* or carcinogenic products, or ionizing radiations, bacterias or virus.
The current version of the labour code defines the word “danger” as including “any exposure to a hazardous substance that is likely to result in a chronic illness, in disease or in damage to the reproductive system.”
In the version proposed by Bill C-4, the definition of danger is limited to a situation that can be an imminent or serious threat to the life or health of a person. The words “reproductive system” are completely eliminated in the amended definition.
Larry Rousseau is the Regional Executive Vice-President for the Public Service Alliance of Canada in the National Capital Region. For him, those changes amount to a full fledge attack against rights that women earned after decades of difficult battles.
“This is an outrageous step backward for all workers,” Rousseau said, “especially for women who once again will bear the worst consequences of the federal government’s regressive approach to women’s issues.”
Rousseau believes that Dr. Kellie Leitch, MP for Simcoe-Grey, has a lot to answer for. Not only is she the Minister of Labour responsible for the application of the Canada Labour Code, but she is also the Minister of the Status of Women.
“Is she really proposing to do away with the ability of women to protect themselves from hazards to their reproductive health at work? If so, she better produce the evidence and rationale to back up her proposals before it becomes law,” Rousseau said.
Healthy and safe working conditions are the right of every worker and a scheme that strips those rights away and puts workers in harm’s way is, in a word, deadly.
*mutagenic: An agent, such as a chemical, ultraviolet light, or a radioactive element, that can induce or increase the frequency of mutation in an organism.
*teratogen: Any agent that can cause maldevelopment of the embryo in the first trimester of pregnancy.