Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

Canada ratifies international workplace violence prevention treaty and prepares to meet requirements

Posted by Jon Elliott on Fri, Jul 07, 2023

Canada-May-21-2021-08-51-52-41-PM-2Canada has ratified International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 190, the “Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019” (also referred to as C190). Ratification was made on January 30, 2023, to become effective January 30, 2024. Canada will consider ILO’s “Recommendation 206,” which provides guidelines on how to apply C190, accounting for complementary roles by governments, workers and employers, and their respective organizations. Readers should note that Canada was intimately involved in the development of C190, proving the chair of the ILO Standard-Setting Committee on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work at the 2018 and the 2019 International Labour Conference.

What does Convention 190 provide?

The ILO General Conference adopted C190 in June 2019, in formal recognition of a set of overlapping labor and human rights principles, including “the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment, including gender-based violence and harassment.” Accordingly, “Each Member which ratifies this Convention shall respect, promote and realize the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment”, and to adopt “an inclusive, integrated and gender-responsive approach for the prevention and elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work.”

  • What critical terms does the Convention define?

To guide these efforts, the Convention provides the following broad definitions:

“(a) the term ‘violence and harassment’ in the world of work refers to a range of unacceptable behaviours and practices, or threats thereof, whether a single occurrence or repeated, that aim at, result in, or are likely to result in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm, and includes gender-based violence and harassment;

(b) the term ‘gender-based violence and harassment’ means violence and harassment directed at persons because of their sex or gender, or affecting persons of a particular sex or gender disproportionately, and includes sexual harassment;

  • Who and what are included in the “world of work” include?

The Convention and its protections are intended to apply throughout workplace situations, including employees, “persons working irrespective of their contractual status, persons in training, including interns and apprentices, workers whose employment has been terminated, volunteers, jobseekers and job applicants, and individuals exercising the authority, duties or responsibilities of an employer.” The Convention is designed to apply to public and private sector workplaces. It applies throughout the cycle of work-related activities, including

“(a) in the workplace, including public and private spaces where they are a place of work;

(b) in places where the worker is paid, takes a rest break or a meal, or uses sanitary, washing and changing facilities;

(c) during work-related trips, travel, training, events or social activities;

(d) through work-related communications, including those enabled by information and communication technologies;

(e) in employer-provided accommodation; and

(f) when commuting to and from work.”

  • What elements should national protections include?

National protective efforts should include all the following elements:

“(a) prohibiting in law violence and harassment;

(b) ensuring that relevant policies address violence and harassment;

(c) adopting a comprehensive strategy in order to implement measures to prevent and combat violence and harassment;

(d) establishing or strengthening enforcement and monitoring mechanisms;

(e) ensuring access to remedies and support for victims;

(f) providing for sanctions;

(g) developing tools, guidance, education and training, and raising awareness, in accessible formats as appropriate; and

(h) ensuring effective means of inspection and investigation of cases of violence and harassment, including through labour inspectorates or other competent bodies.”

Member nations are also to prohibit forced labor, and workplace discrimination against women and other “vulnerable groups.”

Each Member is to adopt laws and regulations requiring employers to take appropriate steps to prevent workplace violence and harassment, including:

“(a) adopt and implement, in consultation with workers and their representatives, a workplace policy on violence and harassment;

(b) take into account violence and harassment and associated psychosocial risks in the management of occupational safety and health;

(c) identify hazards and assess the risks of violence and harassment, with the participation of workers and their representatives, and take measures to prevent and control them; and

(d) provide to workers and other persons concerned information and training….”

What’s Next?

Canada’s federal government, as well as provincial and territorial governments, already administer broad labor and human rights laws directed toward prevention of workplace violence. Ratification of Convention 190 reinforces these laws and policies, and the respective ministers and agencies are reviewing applicable laws and policies to ensure that they meet Convention 190 standards.

Self-Assessment Checklist

Are any of the organization’s workplaces subject to federal, provincial, and/or territorial laws and regulations requiring efforts to evaluate workplaces and prevent workplace violence?

Does the organization operate any activities or facilities where employees may be subject to workplace violence, including violence by clients or customers, including patients in healthcare settings?

  • If so, does it maintain a workplace violence prevention plan?

Do the organization’s worker safety programs and policies include elements relevant to workplace violence prevention (i.e., in a dedicated plan, or as elements within other programs and policies):

  • Have a plan for workplace violence prevention, including procedures to ensure appropriate prevent and response activities?
  • Have established communication and cooperation procedures with local emergency responders and law enforcement?
  • Record incidents of workplace violence?
  • Have procedures and method(s) for reporting incidents?
  • Provide employees training in workplace violence hazards, prevention and responses?

Has the organization ever had a workplace violence incident at one of its operations?

  • If so, how has the organization responded?

Where Can I Go For More Information?

  • ILO

 - Convention 190 (Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019) 

 - Recommendation 206 (Violence and Harassment Recommendation, 2019) 

About the Author

jon_f_elliottJon Elliott is President of Touchstone Environmental and has been a major contributor to STP’s product range for over 30 years. 

Mr. Elliott has a diverse educational background. In addition to his Juris Doctor (University of California, Boalt Hall School of Law, 1981), he holds a Master of Public Policy (Goldman School of Public Policy [GSPP], UC Berkeley, 1980), and a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (Princeton University, 1977).

Mr. Elliott is active in professional and community organizations. In addition, he is a past chairman of the Board of Directors of the GSPP Alumni Association, and past member of the Executive Committee of the State Bar of California's Environmental Law Section (including past chair of its Legislative Committee).


You may contact Mr. Elliott directly at:

Tags: Workplace violence, workplace safety, Canada, ILO, C190