Related Fields: International Labour, Refugee, Humanitarian and Criminal Law

AuthorMark Freeman, Gibran Van Ert
Human rights do not exist in a legal vacuum. As explained in Chapter
One, international human rights law developed in part from the older
disciplines of international labour and humanitarian law. Human rights
did not overtake these fields. They continue to exist as separate but
related areas of law. Similarly, the fields of international refugee protec-
tion and international criminal law overlap significantly with, but exist
independently of, human rights.
The purpose of this chapter is to introduce international labour,
refugee, humanitarian, and criminal law. The treatment of these areas
is necessarily summary. We describe only the main instruments and
A. International Labour Law
Two basic human rights guarantees — freedom of association and free-
dom from forced labour — serve as the cornerstones of international
labour law. Yet the main source of international labour law is not
human rights treaties but the many conventions of the International
Labour Organization (ILO). Though the ILO conventions we consider
below are human-rights-related, most ILO conventions concern mat-
ters beyond human rights. The North American Agreement on Labour
chapter 7
Cooperation 1993 (NAALC),1another source of international labour
law, is of special relevance to Canada. We examine it below, too.
1) Conventions of the International Labour Organization
The ILO was established in 1919 and its constitution adopted in 1946.2
The Philadelphia Declaration 1944 concerning the aims and purposes
of the ILO, which is annexed to the constitution, refers to various
human rights including freedom of expression and association. To date
the ILO has sponsored over 180 labour rights conventions, many of
which are broadly ratified.3Canada is party to thirty ILO conventions,
twenty-eight of which are still in force.
The ILO has declared eight of its conventions “fundamental.” They
the Forced Labour Convention (No. 29) 1930,4
the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize
Convention (No. 87) 1948,5
the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention (No.
98) 1949,6
the Equal Remuneration Convention (No. 100) 1951,7
the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention (No. 105) 1957,8
the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention (No.
111) 1958,9
the Minimum Age Convention (No. 138) 1973,10 and
the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (No. 182) 1999.11
The significance of this “fundamental” designation is explained in the
ILO’s Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work 1998:
Related Fields: International Labour, Refugee, Humanitarian and Criminal Law 119
1 [1994] CanTS no. 4.
2 Constitution of the International Labour Organization 1946 [1946] CanTS no. 48.
3 The ILO also formulates international labour standards in the form of non-bind-
ing recommendations. Like the conventions, the ILO’s recommendations are
adopted at annual meetings of the International Labour Conference. Since 1919,
the ILO has adopted more than 185 recommendations.
4 39 UNTS 55. Canada is not a state party.
5 [1973] CanTS no. 14.
6 96 UNTS 257. Canada is not a state party.
7 [1973] CanTS no. 37.
8 [1960] CanTS no. 21.
9 362 UNTS 31. Canada is a state party, but the treaty is not published in CanTS.
10 1015 UNTS 297. Canada is not a state party.
11 [2001] CanTS no. 2. Child labour is currently one of the ILO’s major preoccupations.

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