A Quebec Liberal MP calls for a transparent committee on child labor

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Liberal MP Marwah Rizqy is calling for the creation of a cross-party committee to begin work this summer on the child labor issue.

Quebec’s opposition MP for Saint-Laurent expressed her concerns to Labor and Education Ministers Jean Boulet and Jean-François Roberge on Friday in a letter obtained by The Canadian Press.

She wants a study on the possibility of imposing a legal minimum age to work, as well as a maximum number of hours that can be worked by a young person in Quebec.

“With the current labor shortage in Quebec, you know that recruiting young workers is becoming a growing concern,” she writes. “There have been numerous reports in recent weeks of children as young as 11 or 12 already working in the middle of the school year. This is of great concern to us.”

Unlike other Canadian provinces, Quebec has no legal minimum age to work. With parental permission, a child can start working whenever they want.

“But we all know that this legal authorization is often flouted by employers,” writes Rizqy, who co-signed the letter with liberal spokesman Frantz Benjamin.

The Liberals are calling for an urgent meeting with ministers to find solutions before the next school year.

Rizqy has proposed the creation of a transparent committee, which would bring together elected officials from all political parties this summer.

“I want to participate. (…) Let them open the discussion so that we can all work together in an intelligent way,” she said.

She did not rule out the idea of ​​hearing various speakers in a parliamentary committee this fall.

“Because child labor is a problem that we should have seen coming and is very real,” she said. “It’s not true that a generation of teenagers will be sacrificed because we couldn’t stem the problem of the labor shortage.”

She worries about the risks associated with early work, including the impact on school dropouts and work-related injuries (which jumped 36% for under-16s in 2021).

“A young person might say, ‘I don’t need my high school diploma, I’m already making $26 an hour,'” Rizqy said.

Under the Education Act, a person 16 or younger who has not graduated cannot work during school hours.

“A young person who finishes at 11 p.m., (…) arrives at home around 11:30 p.m.-midnight and then goes to school the next day. Do we think this is normal?” Rizqy asked.

She added that an 11-year-old doesn’t know his “limits” or the “rules of workplace bullying.”

Last Tuesday, after receiving an opinion from the Consultative Commission for Labor and Manpower, Boulet committed to “in-depth reflection” on this question.

He says he asked his ministry to “make an inventory of all the provisions concerning child labor. After that, I will make a comparison with the legislation of other provinces”.

“We are going to do an impact analysis, then we will determine whether or not we need to perfect our articles of law,” said the minister, who did not give a precise timetable.

The electoral platform of the Liberal Party of Quebec, made public on June 11, is silent on the issue of child labor.


— This report from The Canadian Press was first published in French on June 17, 2022.


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