On May 17, 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada handed down a
significant decision regarding division of powers in labour
relations matters. In Tessier Ltée v. Quebec
(Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du
travail),1 the Supreme Court of Canada was asked to
determine whether the employer was governed by federal or
provincial occupational health and safety legislation. The employer
regularly engaged in the loading and unloading of ships, an
activity known as long-shoring or stevedoring. The employer also
engaged in crane leasing, maintenance and repair of equipment, and
intra-provincial road transportation. What makes this case unique
is that the employees worked indistinctly across the different
sectors of the organization, which made it an indivisible
The Supreme Court pointed out that the federal government has
jurisdiction to regulate labour relations in two circumstances.
First, Parliament has direct jurisdiction when the employment
relates to a work, undertaking, or business within federal
legislative authority, and second, when it is an integral part of a
federally-regulated undertaking. The Supreme Court pointed out that
the second circumstance is a case of derivative jurisdiction.
Contrary to what the case law and doctrine might suggest, the
Supreme Court ruled that stevedoring is not an activity that brings
an undertaking directly within a federal head of power for purposes
of labour relations regulation. Parliament is therefore only
justified in regulating stevedoring labour relations if the
stevedoring activities at issue are an integral part of the
extra-provincial transportation by ship, which falls under federal
The Supreme Court then established an analytical framework for
assessing whether a related undertaking is integral to a federal
undertaking. Essentially, the Court found that the relationship
must generally be considered from the perspective both of the
federal undertaking and of the work said to be integrally related
to it, assessing the extent to which the effective performance of
the federal undertaking is dependent on the services provided by
the related operation, and how important those services are to the
related work itself.
Applying this criterion to the facts of this case, the Court
found that the employer was not subject to federal jurisdiction
with respect to its labour relations, as its stevedoring activities
do not form a significant part of its operation and because the
evidence did not show that its stevedoring services were integral
to the federal shipping companies it serviced.
This Supreme Court of Canada ruling is relevant to all Canadian
companies that engage in stevedoring activities, as well as to all
companies wishing to qualify as federal undertakings for labour
relations purposes under the derivative jurisdiction rule.
The employer was represented before the Supreme Court of Canada
by a Fasken Martineau team that included Sébastien Gobeil
and Maxime-Arnaud Keable. For further information, please contact
Sébastien Gobeil at 418-640-2032.
1 Tessier Ltée v. Quebec (Commission de la
santé et de la sécurité du travail), 2012 SCC
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