Child Labour in BC

Child Labour Campaign

New in 2018

Media Release
For immediate release
August 31, 2018

First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition Calls for Employment Standards that Protect Children from Exploitation and Injury

Vancouver – Today, First Call submitted recommendations to the Ministry of Labour and The Law Institute of B.C. calling for better government protection for children who are working.

“A modern approach to the employment of children and adolescents, is long over due in B.C.,” remarked Adrienne Montani, First Call’s Provincial Coordinator. “Year over year we’ve seen data that tells us children are getting injured doing jobs meant for adults.”

First Call’s recommendations provide a framework for the B.C. government to develop employment standards consistent with Canada’s commitment to establish 16 as the age for formal employment. Canada made this promise when the Prime Minister ratified the International Labour Organization’s Convention 138 in 2016.

Data obtained through First Call’s Freedom of Information requests shows that every single year over the past ten years children under 14-years were injured on the job seriously enough for WorksafeBC to pay out tens of thousands of dollars in injury (disability) claims and health care claims.

“We’re calling on government to raise the formal employment age to 16 and oversee appropriate casual work opportunities for children aged 12 – 15 through a permit system that sets out reasonable hours of work, places of work and suitable tasks,” explained Montani. “We must act to protect children from experiencing needless work-related injuries and from employers who exercise poor judgement.”

Not all work is harmful to children. Appropriate light work of a casual nature can be beneficial to psychosocial development, and promote self-sufficiency and confidence. But in B.C., with few government protections, some employers are clearly hiring children for inappropriate and dangerous work.

First Call shares widely accepted international principles that call for special protections for children and youth related to employment.

  • Childhood is a period of life which should be dedicated, not to work, but to education and development. “Child labour” by definition is never acceptable.
  • Child labour means work that compromises children’s safety, that is harmful to physical or mental development, and that interferes with their education.
  • Child labour often accompanies family and community poverty. It also perpetuates poverty by depriving the child of opportunities to pursue studies and to fully develop.
  • Children and adolescents are generally more compliant, will accept lower pay, and are less aware of safety issues and their rights than adults.

Read First Call’s Submission

First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition is a non-partisan coalition of 105 provincial and regional organizations who have united their voices to put children and youth first in BC through public education, community mobilization, and public policy advocacy.

First Call thanks the Law Foundation of British Columbia and Lush for their support of the BC Child Employment Standards Improvement Project.



Media Release (July 2018)

Mustel Group Survey Report (June 2018)

WorkSafeBC Data Tables on Under 15 Accepted Injury Claims (April 2018)

Law Institute of BC Employment Standards Act Reform Project Consultation Paper (June 2018) see pages 203-213 “Employment of Children”

List of ILO Ratifications for Canada

Media Inquiries: Helesia Luke | | 604-709-6970 (desk) | 778-858-0553 (cell)

Take Action

First Call is renewing our efforts to protect BC’s children from exploitation and injury in workplaces. We’re undertaking a new campaign to modernize provincial employment standards that recognize the unique vulnerabilities of children and adolescents.

We must, at a minimum, ensure that our laws are aligned to the international conventions to which Canada is a signatory.

We encourage you to get involved by sending a letter to Premier John Horgan calling for him to immediately act on the recommendations in Child Labour is No Accident: The Experience of BC’s Working Children. You can click here to download a letter to sign and send to Premier Horgan’s office.

Do you have a child or youth work related story to share? Please call or email us at or 604-709-6970


In the Media

More than $5 million in disability claims paid to kids 15 and under injured on the job in B.C.
The Vancouver Sun | Glenda Luymes | July 5, 2018

Child and youth advocates say “Twelve is too young to work”
CBC Radio | The Early Edition | July 6, 2018

Should we raise the minimum working age in B.C. from 12 to 16? What should that age be?
BC Today with host Angela Sterritt and Guests including Adrienne Montani, Minister Harry Bains, and Irene Lanzinger
CBC Radio | July 6, 2018
Listen to Podcast

Child and youth advocates say ’12 is too young to work’
‘They’re being exploited,’ says Adrienne Montani, who wants the legal working age raised to 16
CBC News | July 7, 2018

B.C. youth advocates calling on provincial government to amend labour laws
The Lawyer’s Daily | Amanda Jerome | July 10, 2018

B.C. needs better rules to govern youth employment
Adrienne Montani | The Province | July 13, 2018

BC’s child labour laws and the need to change them with guest Helesia Luke
Redeye | Co-op Radio | July 14, 2018
Listen to the episode

How young is too young for a child to be employed? with guest Helesia Luke
The Jill Bennett Show | CKNW AM | July 15, 2018
Listen to podcast


The Issue

Did you know that in British Columbia, children as young as 12 years old can legally work in virtually any job? And we’re not just talking about babysitting or paper routes, 12 year olds can work in any industry, the most common being food services and accommodation, and many are even working in construction. Many of these children are working in unsafe conditions, their rights aren’t being respected and their education is being affected.

This has been the case since 2003, when Bill 37 amended the Employment Standards Act eliminating the requirement that an Employment Standards Officer determine the suitability of a workplace and issue a permit prior to an employer hiring a 12- to 14-year old. Now a letter from a parent is all that is required. Since the new law came into force in 2004, BC is the only province that does not place legislative or regulatory restrictions on the occupations, tasks, or time of day a child can work.


First Call has been monitoring the situation since Bill 37 was introduced in 2003:

  • April 2004: First Call wrote to the labour minister expressing our concern with the recent policy change , following up in June with a public awareness campaign, “Everyone Counts”
  • October 2009: First Call published What’s Happening to Our Children?: A Look at Work-Related Injury Claims in BC Over the Past 10 Years, examining the startling increase in the number of workplace injury claims by children accepted by WorkSafeBC since BC’s work-start age was lowered to 12 in 2003
  • October 2009: First Call met with the Minister of Labour to present the findings in the report and wrote a follow up letter
  • 2010 -2012: Correspondence with government continued
  • 2012: To better understand the affects of this legislation, First Call undertook research and interview with young workers and produced the report Child Labour is No Accident: The Experience of BC’s Working Children. Premier Clark dismissed the findings in the report and re-asserted the inaccurate claim that parents are in a position to ensure their child’s safety in the workplace.
  • May 2017: Created a campaign handout on the Child Labour in BC Campaign to provide an overview and background of the issues.


First Call’s Child Labour Report

As the provincial government was not tracking the effects of Bill 37, First Call decided to write a report. Child Labour Is No Accident: The Experience of BC’s Working Children brings together original research through interviews and focus groups and existing studies to examine the consequences of child labour laws in BC. It focuses on three areas of potential impact: health and safety, wages and working conditions, and education. It also contrasts BC with other jurisdictions.


On the eve of publishing the report, we received important new data from WorkSafe BC. Since it was too late to integrate this new data into the report, we have included it as an addendum: Child Labour Is No Accident: Addendum

Key findings of the child labour report include:

  • 43% per cent of youth study participants reported sustaining workplace injuries.
  • Lack of pay for training is a common experience among working children
  • 16% of participants reported having dropped out of school due to their work schedule and/or financial need and 46% reported being too tired and/or not having enough time to complete their homework or participate appropriately at school as a result of working too much.

Media coverage


The funding for researching and writing Child Labour Is No Accident: The Experience of BC’s Working Children was generously provided by the Law Foundation of British Columbia.