A story in today's Toronto Star describes a Court challenge launched by RCMP officers to end a ban, in place since 1918, on Mounties forming Unions.
There is a notation in the article that they aren't seeking anything that other police forces don't already have, and describes an existing "staff relations representative program" which is described as not providing for meaningful collective representation.
In light of the B.C. Health Services case, you'd think it's pretty academic, then: Prohibiting union membership would violate the Charter, and couldn't be justified under s.1 because other police forces can unionize without adverse consequences.
Nothing's ever quite that simple, however. In fact, other police services do not have the right to unionize. In Ontario, the Police Services Act expressly prohibits police officers from being members of trade unions. However, they are part of respective "Police Associations", which are very similar to unions, with similar rights to those conferred under the Labour Relations Act.
It does sound like the program available to the Mounties isn't on the same level as these Police Associations. But, without knowing the exact dynamics of the program, I think Fraser might be an obstacle for this challenge. Fraser confirms that there is a right to collective bargaining, but held that no particular structure for such bargaining is required. In other words, if the existing program grants the right to make collective representations, there is a strong prospect that the Courts would read into it an obligation on the RCMP to consider these representations in good faith, and that any Charter issues would be thereby resolved.
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