The Public Service Alliance of Canada is the first union to legally challenge the fundamentally discriminatory sections of the Quebec’s Professional Syndicates Act (PSA).
Sections 1, 8 and 26 of the PSA prevent workers who are not Canadian citizens from being employed by a union or running for office of the board of directors of their local if it is registered under the PSA. The very existence of a union registered under the PSA may also be jeopardized if the number of non-citizen members exceeds one-third of the total membership.
PSAC represents several union locals in the university sector across the country, including 17 in Quebec, many of which are registered under the PSA. In Quebec, most PSAC locals in the university sector have at least one non-Canadian citizen sitting on its board of directors.
Due to the growing number of international students enrolled in Canadian universities, union locals that represent these students employed on campus are now particularly susceptible to contravening the requirements of the PSA. As a result, they are forced to choose between discriminating against their non-citizen members or taking the risk of losing their certification under the PSA.
While citizenship is not a recognized ground of discrimination under the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, the situation is quite different with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. PSAC is working to have these discriminatory provisions struck down once and for all.
The PSA, a harmful relic
When it was created in 1924, the PSA was intended to counter competition from American and international unions that were suspected of adhering to “undesirable ideologies”. Almost 100 years later, non-citizen workers are paying a high price for this discriminatory legislation.
In 2017, an accounting technician of Haitian origin who had permanent resident status was fired by the Quebec Association of Proprietor Pharmacists because of the restrictions imposed by the PSA. The Commission québécoise des droits de la personne et de la jeunesse rejected her complaint.
It is immigrant and racialized workers who bear the burden of the outdated provisions of this legislation. PSAC remains committed to fighting systemic racism in all its forms.