This case concerns the ability of RCMP members to unionize. The RCMP is the only major police force in Canada that does not have a union. Two professional organizations formed on behalf of RCMP officers – the Mounted Police Association of Ontario (MPAO) and the BC Mounted Police Professional Association (BCMPPA) – have brought a challenge to laws that prohibit RCMP members from collective bargaining. A Staff Relations Representative Program is currently in place to resolve labour disputes; however that program is not structurally independent of management and final decisions rest with RCMP management.
The MPAO and the BCMPPA brought a Charter application before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice challenging the validity of provisions governing the labour relations regime for RCMP members. They argued that the regime violates sections 2(b), 2(d) and 15 of the Charter. The focus of their argument was on how the provisions prevent RCMP members from forming labour unions to engage in collective bargaining.
The judge at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice found that the current regime violates RCMP officers’ section 2(d) right to free association. The decision was overturned on appeal to the Ontario Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal found that it was not “effectively impossible” for RCMP members to meaningfully exercise the right to free association because they can and do form voluntary associations.
The BCCLA is an intervener in this case before the Supreme Court of Canada. The BCCLA argued that the regime in place for RCMP labour concerns is an unjustifiable violation of RCMP members’ right to freedom of association because it prohibits RCMP members from taking any meaningful collective action. The public interest is not served when RCMP officers have no meaningful access to workplace democracy, or to effective, independent grievance procedures.
The Supreme Court of Canada agreed, and issued its decision in January 2015 declaring the regime to violate s. 2 of the Charter, and could not be justified under s. 1. It confirmed that s. 2(d) guarantees “the right of employees to meaningfully associate in the pursuit of collective workplace goals”, which includes the right to collective bargaining. Collective bargaining is a “necessary precondition” to exercise of free association in the workplace, and the government cannot enact regimes that substantially interfere with meaningful collective action. It issued a suspended declaration of invalidity, and gave Parliament 12 months to amend the offending legislation.
The BCCLA is represented by Lindsay M. Lyster and Jessica Derynck of Moore Edgar Lyster.