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Timely Topics - August 2022 Edition

Timely Topics with McCarthy Tétrault curates the latest market trends on a monthly basis to help you stay informed of developments that can affect your business. This content is current as of August 8, but please connect with us if you have any questions on any of the topics below.

This newsletter is designed to provide general information only. This newsletter does not provide legal advice on specific issues. You are encouraged to consult with legal counsel should you require assistance in addressing a particular issue or concern.

Here are this month’s trending topics:

1. COVID-19: Recent Developments Regarding Vaccinations

There have been a number of COVID-related developments lately, particularly as they pertain to vaccinations. The federal government recently lifted the COVID-19 vaccine requirements for federal public servants and transportation workers. Shortly thereafter, the Superior Court of Quebec dismissed a case brought by the United Steelworkers regarding the validity of the vaccination requirement for the transportation sector, upholding the policy as reasonable. Over the past year, we have seen various other challenges to vaccine mandates, particularly in the labour arbitration context, with many decisions resulting in favourable outcomes for employers. On the vaccination dosage front, Canadian Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos recently indicated that Canadians may soon be required to get a booster shot every nine months for the foreseeable future in order for vaccination status to be seen as ‘up-to-date’; various provinces have opened up access to fourth dose boosters; and Health Canada has now approved the Moderna vaccine for use in children under five. As Canada enters a summer wave of COVID-19, we anticipate more developments across the country, as evidenced by the Federal Government’s announcement that mandatory random COVID-19 testing of international travelers will resume.

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If you’d like to speak with a Labour & Employment lawyer to help make sense of it all, please don’t hesitate to contact us. 

2. Skilled Talent Shortages Across Industries May Mean Employers Turn to Foreign Talent

Staffing shortage headlines continue to surface across many industries. Provincial and federal governments have been discussing potential solutions including training and reskilling strategies, as well as shorter-term strategies aimed at supporting skilled newcomers to Canada to enter the job market. Click here for a great read on the skilled labour shortage and how, by 2025, immigration is expected to account for 100% of net growth in the Canadian labour market. Canadian executives have long stated that the shortages amongst skilled workers is one of their top business concerns. To provide context, one in five Canadians are nearing retirement, while the current unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in over 35 years. 

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As an employer, if attracting foreign talent is a strategy for your organization and you’d like to speak about the potential challenges, opportunities and approaches, please connect with a member of MT>iPlus.

3. Is There Currently a Pro-Union Movement in Canada?

Current economic conditions, the COVID-19 pandemic and the United States of America’s labour movement may all be contributing to an increase in strikes across industries and an uptick in unionization efforts within certain industries. Unions are also finding new markets and have been successful in industries that previously did not have any real union presence in Canada. Only time will tell whether there is growing momentum in Canada towards unionization. 

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Please connect with our National Labour & Employment group if you’d like to discuss your rights and obligations in connection with union organizing and click here for some key considerations for employers.

4. Privacy Legislation Overhaul - Bill C-27

The recent introduction of Bill C-27: Digital Charter Implementation Act, 2022, aims to fundamentally overhaul Canada’s existing privacy compliance regime by creating three new pieces of legislation: a) The Consumer Privacy Protection Act (“CPPA”); b) The Personal Information and Data Protection Tribunal Act (“PIDPTA”); and c) The Artificial Intelligence and Data Act (“AIDA”). The bill features a substantial list of new obligations, including with respect to enhanced consent obligations, privacy impact assessments, cross border data transfers, record retention, and accommodating individual rights. If adopted in their current form, fines for non-compliance with the new could reach up to $25, million or 5% of worldwide revenue, whichever is greater. Organizations should plan for a significant compliance effort.

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Please connect with our Cyber/Data group to discuss the impacts to your business.

5. Supply Chain Update: New Regulations and Trends

Supply chain disruption is an ongoing challenge for companies across industries globally. Recent updates affecting supply chains include:

  • Bill S-211 - Canada's Fighting Against Forced Labour and Child Labour in Supply Chains Act – Dubbed the “modern slavery reporting bill”, this bill requires increased transparency and annual reporting to disclose steps taken by Canadian businesses to prevent the risk of forced labour. This is one of Canada’s meaningful steps to address forced child labour. The bill has passed a Second Reading in the Senate. 
  • Increase in friend-shoring: The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the volatility of supply chains, bringing to light the global dependency on Russia and China for critical minerals. The Canadian and US governments are now highlighting the importance of “friend-shoring” - the idea that countries with shared values deploy policies encouraging trade within that group, so that countries have multiple sources of supply and are not overly reliant on sourcing important goods from countries where there are geopolitical concerns. The goal is to prevent less-like-minded nations from unfairly leveraging their market position in key raw materials. Meanwhile, many Canadian traders argue that the focus on redistribution within supply chains should be on trading blocs, as opposed to trading “friends”.

Our trade team’s blog “Terms of Trade” contains many up-to-date resources on supply chain issues, including updates on sanctions and modern slavery legislation. It’s available here: Terms of Trade | McCarthy Tétrault

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If you’d like to discuss these and other supply chain issues you are facing, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team.

6. Greenwashing: Regulations Expected to Come

Greenwashing – misrepresentations by a company of its sustainability-related practices or commitments or the sustainability-related features of its products or services – is a hot topic in light of the sustainability conversation globally. A number of European and US companies, including mutual fund and asset management companies, have recently been fined or are being investigated by regulators for greenwashing. In Canada, poor quality data has made it harder for market experts to assess if investments are in fact ‘green.’ The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) recently issued draft guidelines on climate risk management, and the Canadian Securities Administrators is currently developing climate-related disclosures for issuers following already-released guidance for investment funds earlier in 2022.

While Canada’s current approach to regulations is considered relaxed, the federal budget and many provincial budgets include commitments to mandatory ESG disclosure in the near term. To learn more, please check out our recent article on climate change-related shareholder activism, as well as an our Climate Change Essentials Guide

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If you’d like to discuss the legal impacts of climate change and related regulations, please connect with our ESG Group.

 

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