Consequences for the children of British Columbia
Play is not just about providing safe playgrounds for children. It is fundamentally about protecting their right to be free to explore and discover the physical and social world around them. Children aged 12–15 should be learning and playing not working.
Many students who work find problems balancing work and school demands, and many limit their participation in extra-curricular activities. Pressure to buy the latest fashions and toys also motivate even very young children to seek paid employment.
Statistics Canada's recent report Learning, Earning, and Leaving points out the relationship between working while in high school and dropping out. Students who worked more than 30 hours per week in their last year of high school had a greater likelihood of dropping out than other students. Changes to the legislation would remove any regulations or limits on the number of hours a young worker can be assigned. Without a graduation certificate or adequate post secondary training and skills, workers know they face a lifetime of low earnings with little hope of changing their fortunes.
Cuts to B.C.’s public schools are measurable and well documented and have resulted in less support for vulnerable and special-needs students. Larger class sizes, decreased services, closed schools, and the downloading of costs to individual school boards and parents are now routinely reported in all areas of the province.
Children are getting the message: the provincial government does not care about their education. Now it appears, government does not care about their right to be protected from exploitation in the workplace.
Health and safety
Many young workers die or are hospitalized from injuries at work. WCB facts and figures show that many suffer adverse health effects from hazardous exposures in the workplace.
The faces of two hundred young Canadians aged 16 - 24 killed and injured on the job are depicted on the Lifequilt.
One hundred who were killed on the job are depicted on individual blocks; one hundred permanently injured, appear in the center. Read the tragic, often grueling, stories that led to their injuries or death.
Thirteen of the 100 who died on the job are from British Columbia even with the current regulations and permitting process. What number of deaths and injury can we expect with no employer regulations and no outside monitoring agency protecting the health and safety of children even younger than those on the quilt?
“On May 12, 1995 my 15-year-old nephew made headlines, becoming the youngest person in the province of British Columbia to ever die in an industrial accident.
Luke was only 5 days into his first summer job when he was killed, buried under a mountain of garbage, while working for Wastech Services Ltd., of Coquitlam. My brother (Luke's Dad) also worked for Wastech, and assumed, because he worked there, that Luke would be safe. It wasn't until the Coroner's Inquest, that we discovered that Wastech had previously been fined for other safety infractions. Like any big business, they pay the fine and move on, and in the case of Luke, his death hopefully made them more cautious for a few years.This morning while watching CTV, I listened to your Minister of Labour, Graham Bruce, try and justify, why he feels the labour laws should be changed to include 12 - 15 year olds. I can give him 100 reasons why it shouldn't.”
From a letter to the editor written by Deborah (MacIver) Stead of Jasper, Ontario.
Until mid-December 2003 when we know what is included in the promised new regulations, what we know now is that under the changes to B.C. Child Labour Law in Bill 37, children can be scheduled to work night shift, will be subject to pressure from employers to work longer hours, will be put in dangerous or compromising positions. Additionally, the young worker safety certificate initiative introduced in 2003 in British Columbia places the onus for safety on the worker rather than the employer. General worker safety training can not replace specific on-the-job training, the responsibility of which should be the employers.