January 29, 2015
The Most Famous Dissent in Canadian Labour Law History Revisited
On the eve of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Saskatchewan v. Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, it is helpful to look back at the most famous dissent in Canadian
labour law history: the dissent of Chief Justice Dickson and Justice Wilson in the Alberta Reference decision of 1987. That is the decision in which a majority of 4-2 ruled that Section 2(d) of the Charter [freedom of association] does not protect a right of workers to strike. The dissent would have found that a right to strike was protected.
Chief Dickson’s dissent looms large over tomorrow’s decision, because the SCC has in a series of decisions, including last week’s 8-1 majority ruling in Mounted Police Association of Canada ruling, referred positively to Dickson’s dissent as properly constructing Section 2(d). If the Court continues with this line of reasoning—and it is difficult to imagine the Court suddenly slamming on the breaks and saying Dickson CJC is still wrong about the right to strike—then a betting person would predict that the Court will recognize some form of a Constitutional right to strike tomorrow.
If you are interested in what a Constitutional right to strike might look like, take some time and read what Chief Justice Dickson and Justice Bertha Wilson said in their famous dissent.
Here is an abridged PDF version of the famous Dickson dissent.