Merit logoMerit Canada, the national organization representing open shop contractors across the country, got a boost in its efforts to see Bill C-377 passed into law to  require labour organizations coast to coast to disclose certain financial information.

Merit Canada today released an opinion by a former Supreme Justice concluding the legislation being considered is in fact constitutional.

Merit Canada’s press release, and a link to the decision, are below.

Union Financial Disclosure Bill Constitutional: Former Supreme Court of Canada Justice

“I conclude that, if Bill C-377 is enacted into law, it would likely be upheld by the courts,” The Honourable Michel Bastarache.

OTTAWA, June 5, 2013 /CNW/ – Merit Canada today released an opinion authored by The Honourable Michel Bastarache, retired Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, concluding that Bill C-377 would likely be upheld by the courts. M. Bastarache considered the legislation, which would require unions to disclose certain financial information, in light of the division of powers under the Constitution Act, 1867, as well as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I conclude that, if Bill C-377 is enacted into law, it would likely be upheld by the courts as a valid enactment of Federal Parliament’s power over taxation under section 91(3) of the Constitution Act, 1867,” said M. Bastarache. “Moreover, I conclude that Bill C-377 is consistent with the Charter and that, in any case, any infringement would likely be justified as a reasonable limit under section 1 of the Charter.”

M. Bastarache’s opinion, commissioned by Merit Canada, comes as the legislation, which has passed the House of Commons, is being considered by the Senate. Opponents of the legislation have argued, in part, that the bill would not survive a court challenge.

M. Bastarache was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada in 1997 by The Right Honourable Jean Chretien, where he served until his retirement in 2008.

“As long as the pith and substance or matter of Bill C-377 is related to taxation, the law is a valid enactment of Parliament’s powers,” said M. Bastarache. “Because Bill C-377 does not attempt to regulate the activities of labour organizations or determine how they spend their money, it is unlikely that a court would find that it limits freedom of association under section 2(d) of the Charter.”

“Merit Canada welcomes this opinion from one of Canada’s most esteemed jurists,” said Terrance Oakey, President of Merit Canada. “I urge Senators to quickly pass this legislation which would bring much-needed financial transparency and openness to unions in exchange for the very favourable public benefits they enjoy.”

M. Bastarache’s opinion is available here.