Did you catch the story this past summer about the sleeze ball from B.C. who was convicted and imprisoned for having sex with children in the Philippines and Columbia? The full decision of the B.C. Supreme Court can be found here.
That’s pretty interesting, isn’t it, that a Canadian citizen can be convicted of a violation of Canadian criminal laws for actions taking place on the other side of the world. How is that possible? The answer is that the Criminal Code of Canada makes it possible. Read section 7(4.1) of the Code:
… every one who, outside Canada, commits an act or omission that if committed in Canada would be an offence … shall be deemed to commit that act or omission in Canada if the person who commits the act or omission is a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident …
The sleeze-ball challenged this provision as being beyond the jurisdiction of the Federal government, since it regulates behaviour occurring completely outside of Canadian soil. The judge rejected that argument, noting:
The prospect of Canada assuming jurisdiction over activities carried on entirely within another country appears, at first blush, to be anomalous, and discordant with precepts of the territorial and jurisdictional integrity of nations represented by the notion of sovereignty. However, as with many broad precepts, a closer scrutiny brings illumination to the issue.
This area of the law is very interesting and a little complex, but the decision provides a nice overview. The court rules that Canada has jurisdiction to apply Canadian laws to Canadian nationals engaged in unlawful conduct abroad.
What does this have to do with workplace law issues?
This: if the Canadian government can pass a law that regulates the behavour (child sex) of Canadian citizens when they are in other countries, then can it also pass a law that regulates the employment practices (say, child labour) of Canadian companies when they are operating outside of Canada? Should the Canadian government pass laws that do that?
This is what Bill C-492 was intending to do, which I mentioned a while back. [I don’t know what came of this Bill, does anyone?].
We can imagine a law that required that all Canadian companies ensure that Canadian employment and labour laws are complied with wherever the company employs workers in the world. Leaving aside the issue of whether the Canadian government would have jurisdiction to pass such a law, do you think that this would be good public policy? Or should we leave the regulation of employment conditions to the governments of the countries where the workplaces are located?
Do you think Canadian companies should be required to pay the minimum wage in the Canada Labour Code to factory workers in Sri Lanka and China, or risk prosecution in Canada?