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Legislation in Saskatchewan

The entries in this section are arranged according to the following:

Family Law

Labour Law

Adoption Act, 1998

Formerly part of the Family Services Act, the Adoption Act has since 1990 governed the process of adoption within the province. The legislation sets out the consents required on the part of the birth mother, birth father and the child him/herself where the child to be adopted is 12 years of age or more. It also establishes the conditions for giving consent to an adoption, for revoking consent, and for dispensing with consent by court order. An order of adoption is granted only if a Queen’s Bench judge believes that adoption is in the best interests of the child, and its general effect is to confer all the rights and obligations of parenthood upon the adoptive parents as if the child had been born to them. The Act also contains provisions governing step-parent adoptions, adoptions of children permanently committed to the Minister, adoptions of adults, international adoptions, and interprovincial placements. All documents and proceedings related to the adoption must ordinarily be kept confidential, but an adoption registry is maintained where information related to adoptions is recorded. The regulations provide for the release of non-identifying and identifying information from the registry.

Wanda Wiegers

Child and Family Services Act

The purpose of the Child and Family Services Act is to promote the well-being of children under 16 who are in need of protection by offering “services that are designed to maintain, support and preserve the family in the least disruptive manner.” The Act establishes threshold criteria for interference with parental care and control of children. A “child in need of protection” is defined as a child who has suffered or is likely to suffer physical harm, a serious impairment of mental or emotional functioning, or has been exposed to sexual abuse, domestic violence, or “severe domestic disharmony” that is likely to cause physical or emotional harm. A failure to remedy a condition that will likely seriously impair the child’s development, or a failure to provide essential medical, surgical or remedial care will also trigger state intervention. The Act establishes a duty to report where there are reasonable grounds to believe that a child is in need of protection, and creates provincial offenses for the abuse, neglect and abandonment of children.

Where a child is in need of protection, the Act sets out a process for the provision of services to the family and, where a child is at risk of serious harm, for the apprehension and removal of the child from the parents’ care. Depending upon an assessment of the child’s best interests, a court may order that parental care be supervised for a specified period, that the child remain in foster care for a temporary period, or that the child be permanently committed to the Minister. Over the last decade, the Act has incorporated a greater emphasis on cultural heritage and continuity, particularly with respect to Aboriginal children. Band officials can now participate in hearings related to Status children, and kinship care or care by extended family members or those having a sufficient interest in the well-being of the child may be ordered. The Act also allows for delegation of powers to Indian Child and Family Service agencies which now provide child welfare services on reserves throughout the province.

Wanda Wiegers

Children’s Law Act, 1997

The Children’s Law Act, 1997 allows for applications regarding the custody of and access to children, the determination of parentage, and the guardianship of a child’s property. The Act was significant when first passed in 1990 because it eliminated all distinctions related to the status of illegitimacy, securing equal treatment for children born inside and outside of marriage in accordance with section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As with the previous Infants Act, the Children’s Law Act sets out the basic principles governing custody of and access to children. In making custody and access orders in contested cases, courts are to take only the child’s best interests into account. Unless otherwise ordered, the parents of a child are the joint guardians of the child’s property, but the Act also makes provision for guardianship upon the death of one or both parents. In addition, the Act allows for applications to determine parentage, establishes presumptions of paternity in certain circumstances, and sets out the conditions for jurisdiction in custody and access matters and for the enforcement of extra-provincial orders related to children.

Wanda Wiegers

Family Maintenance Act, 1997

The Family Maintenance Act, 1997 establishes a legal right to spousal and child maintenance. The Act, when first passed in 1990 by the Conservative government, significantly changed the parameters and grounds for spousal support obligations. Consistent with changes to the federal Divorce Act, enactment of the provincial legislation marked a shift away from a focus on fault as the basis for support to a focus on need, on compensation for economic advantages and disadvantages arising from the spousal relationship or its breakdown, and to a promotion of economic self-sufficiency where practicable. Under previous legislation, the Deserted Spouses’ and Children’s Act (and before that the Deserted Wives’ and Children’s Maintenance Act), an entitlement to support was contingent on proof of adultery, cruelty or a failure without sufficient cause to supply necessaries by the respondent spouse. Until 1985, a claim to support was lost if the claimant spouse was found guilty of adultery. The new Act not only moved away from fault-based claims, but also provided a critical source of support for unmarried cohabitants for whom relief was not available under the Divorce Act. Eligible spouses under the Act now include parents in a relationship of some permanence, or persons who have cohabited continuously as spouses for two years. The Act also provides a right to support for children regardless of whether the parents have married or cohabited. Where neither marriage nor cohabitation has occurred, a mother may claim prenatal expenses and maintenance for up to nine months.

Wanda Wiegers

Family Property Act

The NDP government of Allan Blakeney introduced The Matrimonial Property Act in 1979 in the aftermath of the Supreme Court of Canada’s judgment in Murdoch v. Murdoch. In this 1973 case, a farm wife who had laboured for twenty-five years on the family ranch was denied a property interest when she separated from her husband because title was held in his name. Although the position at common law subsequently changed to recognize a spousal claim based on unjust enrichment, The Matrimonial Property Act went further to establish a presumption of an equal split of all property acquired during a marriage regardless of who held title to the property. The primary objectives of the Act were to recognize that domestic labour and financial provision were joint and mutual responsibilities of spouses, and that this inherently joint contribution presumptively entitled each to an equal distribution of family property. By setting out specific exemptions and equitable considerations that would justify an unequal division, the Act structured judicial discretion and generated more predictable outcomes. In 2001, the name of the Act was changed to Family Property Act, and the right to claim possession and division of property was extended to unmarried couples who had cohabited as spouses for two years, both same-sex and heterosexual, provided the claim was made within two years after cohabitation ended.

Wanda Wiegers

Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Act, 1999

The Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Act, 1999 establishes an Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Commission, whose mandate is to identify trades which require the development of a workforce with particular skills, and to oversee the apprenticeship of new entrants to that trade. The Commission has members who represent employers and members of particular trades, as well as educational institutions, the government, and groups which are underrepresented in the skilled labour force. For each trade designated by them, the Commission develops an apprenticeship plan which includes a definition of the training objectives, a curriculum, and a progressive sequence of wages. The apprenticeship plan is designed to ensure that an apprentice can proceed to obtain the skills necessary to qualify as a journeyperson in the trade. The Act also permits the Commission to designate a sector in which employers have related labour market needs, and to encourage employers in the sector to work towards common training and skill requirements for employees.

Beth Bilson

Construction Industry Labour Relations Act, 1992

The Construction Industry Labour Relations Act was enacted in response to unique features of the construction industry, notably the emphasis in the building trades unions on representation of workers possessing particular skills (such as plumbing, carpentry, or sheet metal work), the mobility of the construction workforce as they move from project to project, and the ease with which construction companies can be given a new identity. The idea of a fixed bargaining unit tied to a particular geographic location, which is the basis of bargaining under the Trade Union Act, was not suitable to the construction industry from the point of view of the building trades. The first Construction Industry Labour Relations Act was passed in the late 1970s and repealed in 1982. A new version of the statute was passed in 1992. The Act sets out a scheme for bargaining between a building trade union representing employees in a particular craft, usually on a province-wide basis, and an organization representing the group of contractors who are named in certification orders for that craft. The province-wide agreement which results covers any construction project where one of the signatory employers is using employees from that craft group.

Beth Bilson

Education Act, ss. 234-269

Teachers are the only employees in Saskatchewan who are not eligible to support a union for certification under the Trade Union Act. A separate statute, the Teachers’ Federation Act, established a body which is responsible for the interests and professional standing of teachers; and the Education Act provides, in sections 234-269, that the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) is responsible for bargaining with respect to the salaries and working conditions of teachers. A bargaining committee of the STF bargains a province-wide agreement with representatives of the Saskatchewan School Trustees’ Association. This agreement covers the major issues of compensation and conditions affecting teachers, but the Education Act also provides that school division boards (or the conseil scolaire in the case of the French-language school division) can bargain with committees representing local teachers concerning a limited range of issues such as teacher sabbaticals, pay for substitute teachers, and pay periods. This part of the Education Act sets out a process for conciliation of disputes designed to minimize the possibility of strike activity by teachers, and also an arbitration procedure for teacher grievances. These processes are overseen by an independent Educational Relations Board.

Beth Bilson

Essential Services Emergency Act

Unlike other jurisdictions, the Government of Saskatchewan, in passing the Trade Union Act in 1944, chose not to exclude groups of workers from access to collective bargaining on the grounds that they performed an essential service. Thus, from that time, groups such as firefighters, police officers and Health Care workers were legally entitled to join unions and to go on strike. Furthermore, successive governments have generally not opted to enact legislation of the kind seen in other provinces which addresses industrial disputes in essential services, choosing instead to legislate workers back to work on an ad hoc basis when it is considered necessary. The exception to this was the Essential Services Emergency Act, enacted by the Liberal government of Ross Thatcher in 1966, which permitted the Cabinet to end any strike involving the delivery of water, heat, electricity, gas or health care, and to impose binding arbitration. This legislation was repealed when the Blakeney government was elected in 1971.

Beth Bilson

Health Labour Relations Reorganization Act

The Health Labour Relations Reorganization Act was passed in 1996 in response to the administrative restructuring of the Saskatchewan health care system. In the course of this restructuring, over 500 individual unionized employers in the health sector, including hospital and nursing home boards, home care districts and ambulance services, were replaced by 31 district health boards which assumed the responsibility for health care employees. The government appointed a commissioner, Mr. Jim Dorsey, an arbitrator and consultant from British Columbia, to consult with health care employers and trade unions with respect to the design of a new configuration of union representation and collective bargaining responsibilities. The commissioner recommended the creation of a single province-wide bargaining unit for paraprofessional employees and nurses, as well as district-based multi-employer units for support workers; and the Act and its accompanying regulations put this system in place, to be administered by the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board. The legislation was amended in 2000 and 2002 to reflect a further consolidation of the health districts into a smaller number of units now called health regions.

Beth Bilson

Labour Standards Act

Labour standards legislation is designed to maintain a minimal level of terms and conditions of employment for all employees, whether or not they are represented by unions. It typically deals with such issues as minimum wages, restrictions on hours of work, the provision of notice when employees are laid off, and the length of vacation leave. Employees can complain about violations of the standards, and their employers can be ordered to observe the standards if the complaint is found to be valid. Early in the history of the province, a 1906 Railway Act established fair wages for railway workers, and a Factories Act passed in 1909 restricted child labour and set limits on working hours for women. In 1919, a Minimum Wage Act, which incorporated several statutes, set standards with respect to wages and hours of work for all workers. Later entitled the Labour Standards Act, this legislation has been amended many times, most recently in 1994. In addition to the issues alluded to above, the statute includes provisions requiring that male and female employees be paid equal wages for equal or similar work; prohibiting the discharge of pregnant, disabled or injured employees; and setting out requirements for the payment of wages.

Beth Bilson

Labour-Management Dispute (Temporary Provisions) Act

This controversial statute was passed during the 1981-82 session of the Saskatchewan legislature to order striking workers at cancer clinics to return to work. The statute is generic in form, permitting the government to issue an order requiring any group of striking employees to return to work, and extending the provisions of existing collective agreements, during an election campaign. Particular provisions and schedules of the statute dealt with the situation of the health care workers which had resulted in the decision to pass the legislation. The labour movement expressed outrage at the legislation, and vowed to withdraw support from the New Democratic Party (NDP) government of Allan Blakeney. Although it is not clear how much influence the rift with labour had in the subsequent defeat of the government by the Conservatives under Grant Devine, there were constituencies where labour candidates were nominated to oppose NDP candidates. The generic portions of the legislation remain in force, though they have not been invoked on any later occasion.

Ken Leyton-Brown

Occupational Health and Safety Act

Even before the establishment of the province of Saskatchewan, the territorial government had passed legislation providing standards for safety in mines and putting in place a system of inspection to maintain those standards. Subsequent legislation imposed similar standards on railways and in factories, and this legislation was ultimately consolidated into a comprehensive Occupational Health and Safety Act. Legislative amendments in the 1970s completed the set of distinguishing features which are still at the heart of this statute: a statement that both employers and employees have responsibility for workplace safety; that employers and employees—both unionized and non-unionized—must jointly address health and safety issues through workplace committees; that employees have a right to refuse to work in conditions which are unsafe; and that the government will back up the requirements for health and safety by inspections and enforcement. The regulations which accompany the legislation lay out specific standards which must be met concerning a wide range of issues, including such things as air quality, exposure to noxious substances, protection from the risks created by machinery, first aid facilities, and emergency procedures. In 1994, Saskatchewan became the first province to add workplace harassment to the legislation as an issue of health and safety.

Beth Bilson

Trade Union Act

From the earliest days of European settlement in the west, some workers chose to be represented by trade unions in settling their wages and working conditions with their employers, a process which came to be known as collective bargaining. Till the end of the 19th century, trade unions were regarded as illegal organizations because they interfered with the commercial activities of employers; by the time Saskatchewan became a province, however, Canadian legislation had been passed declaring trade unions to be legitimate organizations. In the first decades after 1905, the legal status of trade unions and of their collective bargaining activities was somewhat unclear, though a number of employers engaged in bargaining with trade unions representing their employees. In 1938, the Saskatchewan legislature enacted the Freedom of Trade Union Association Act, which recognized the right of employees to form and join trade unions for the purpose of bargaining collectively with their employers. It did not, however, place a legal obligation on an employer to recognize or bargain with a trade union. When the Douglas government came to power in 1944, it acceded to calls from the labour movement and from supporters of social democracy in eastern Canada, to pass new legislation. The Trade Union Act not only included a renewed statement of the right of employees to be represented by trade unions, but also gave the trade unions selected by groups of employees the exclusive legal right to represent those employees in matters concerning their terms and conditions of employment, and placed an obligation on employers in unionized workplaces to bargain in good faith. The statute also defined certain conducts by employers or trade unions as unacceptable and constituting an unfair labour practice. The administration of this new collective bargaining system was placed in the hands of an independent Labour Relations Board consisting of members representing employers and employees, as well as a neutral chair. Though there have been some amendments to the Trade Union Act, the basic framework has remained the same.

Beth Bilson

Workers’ Compensation Act

Worker’s compensation legislation represents an effort to provide financial protection for the loss of income through injuries which occur in the workplace, and was first conceived by Otto von Bismarck in Germany in the 1880s. Though legal doctrines with respect to contributory negligence and assumption of risk retarded the development of such legislation in Canada, Saskatchewan was one of the earlier provinces to enact a Workmen’s Compensation Act in the 1910-11 session of the legislature. Under this statute, workers could prosecute an employer in court and seek compensation for injuries. Representatives of labour criticized this system as too cumbersome and as placing too great a burden on injured workers. The legislation was amended in 1929 to introduce the system we are familiar with today, in which compensation is paid out of a pool to which all employers are legally required to contribute. Claims under the Workers’ Compensation Act (the name was changed in the amendments of 1979) are assessed and the administration of the fund supervised by an independent Workers’ Compensation Board. The administration of the claims process now includes the oversight of an extensive system aimed at the rehabilitation and return to work of injured employees.

Beth Bilson

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