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One year after the adoption of the child labor law, what are its effects ?

Photo: Renaud Philippe Archives Le Devoir The Minister of Immigration, Francisation and Integration of Quebec, Jean Boulet, photographed during an interview with “Le Devoir” on December 21, 2021.

Caroline Plante – The Canadian Press

Posted at 12:46 p.m.

  • Quebec

It will almost be a year since the Law on the supervision of child labor, led by Minister Jean Boulet, was adopted in the National Assembly. Has this law achieved its objectives ?

“Yes,” Mr. Boulet immediately responds in an interview with The Canadian Press in his office in parliament . He notes a marked reduction in work accidents among young people.

Remember that the law sets the minimum age for work in Quebec at 14, with exceptions, and prohibits young people aged 14 to 16 to work more than 17 hours per week during the school year, excluding holidays.

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The minister has set two objectives, namely to ensure the health and safety of children, in addition to enabling school perseverance and educational success.

The law came into force in two stages: employers who employed a young person under the age of 14 had 30 days from June 1, 2023 to send them a notice of termination of employment.

Three months later, on September 1, young people aged 14 to 16 saw their working hours limited to 17 per week (including weekends) during the school year, excluding holidays .

Monday to Friday is a maximum of 10 hours.

Armed with a review preliminary, Minister Boulet affirms that the law has had a positive effect on young people. In 2023, occupational injuries among miners fell by 19% compared to 2022.

For those under 14, it's a drop of 33.3%, and for those 16 and under, 17%.

If l If we look more closely at the months from June to December 2023, the months following the adoption of the law, the figures are even more telling: those under 14 experienced a 41% drop in work accidents. compared to the same period in 2022, and those aged 16 and under, a drop of 17%.

“I am very satisfied,” declares Jean Boulet, smiling. Remember what motivated us. From 2017 to 2022, there was a 640% increase in workplace injuries among those under 14, 80% among those 16 and under.

“As a society, we can be proud of having contributed to reducing the issue of injuries among children,” he adds. We slowed down this upward slope. […] We must continue to move in the same direction. »

Regarding school perseverance, the minister says he is waiting for data from the Quebec Network for Educational Success, which will be updated this fall, before draw conclusions.

582 compliance inspections

To enforce the law , the Commission for Standards, Equity, Health and Safety at Work (CNESST) carried out 582 compliance inspections between June and December 2023.

Ten violations were noted, four of which concerned the prohibition of work for a child under the age of 14.

Three were linked to the obligation to obtain and maintain the written consent of the holder of parental authority to exceptionally employ a child under 14 years of age.

An infraction was noted in relation to non-compliance with the ban on employing a child between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.; another concerned the obligation to enter in the register the date of birth of a worker under 18 years of age.

Finally, one last infraction was reported, subject of a child who worked more than 17 hours per week or 10 hours Monday to Friday.

The law provides for hefty fines for offending employers: $1,200 for a first offense and $12,000 for a second offense. Of the 10 infractions, only one report was issued and the employer decided to contest it.

The minister does not hide it: there was “resistance”, especially in the catering and retail sectors, which demanded more flexibility from the government, in particular so that it allows young people under the age of 14 to obtain exemptions from the piece.

However, with the Advisory Committee on Labor and Manpower, a group of union and employer associations, “we had reached a consensus […] and that gives […] support to resist,” he said.

Children, play!

To parents who disagree with the law because they would prefer their 12-13 year old child to work instead of sit in front of a screen, the minister responds that we must encourage children to flourish differently, through play.

“There are summer camps, reading, games with friends, outdoor activities. We cannot say: “If my child does not work, he will act on screen”, that is false. You must ensure that your child is well supervised and this involves a multitude of educational activities. There are a lot of them during the summer,” says Jean Boulet.

“It is also the responsibility of parents to ensure that the child does activities which are beneficial to its development”, he insists.

Improvible law ?

So, is the law governing child labor perfect as it is ? All laws can be improved, underlines Mr. Boulet, who cannot rule out certain “adaptations” in the future.

“The law had the desired effect. At the same time, can it be improved ? We will see over the years. […] We will see to adapt it if necessary. […] We will also have to evolve while taking into account social changes. »

He thinks out loud about the possibility of artificial intelligence jobs being safe for children, before stopping. “It’s a bit futuristic what I’m saying,” he says.

When the question is asked directly to him as to whether he intends to add or remove exceptions, he concludes with a “no, certainly not.”

Exceptions provided for in the law

There are eight exceptions in the law. Thus, a young person under 14 can continue to work as:

  • creator/performer in artistic production;
  • newspaper delivery man ;
  • child caretaker ;
  • tutor/homework help ;
  • worker in the family business if it has fewer than 10 employees;
  • helper in a day camp/social or community organization;
  • marker in a non-profit sports organization;
  • if he is 12 years old and over, worker in an agricultural business which has less than 10 employees to take care of animals, prepare or maintain the soil or harvest fruits or vegetables, if he is This involves light manual work.

The Canadian Press

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116