Ontario proposes toughest penalties in Canada for safety violations

Fine for corporations increased to two million dollars, province also imposing penalties for withholding travel docs

Ontario proposes toughest penalties in Canada for safety violations

Ontario is moving forward with new legislation to increase the maximum fine for corporations convicted under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). Maximum fines would jump from $1.5 million to $2 million. It would mean Ontario would have the harshest penalties in Canada for corporations that violate the OHSA.

Last spring, the province raised fines for individual corporate directors from $500,000 to a maximum of $1.5 million.

The province is also proposing changes that would see it impose the highest fines in Canada on employers convicted of withholding a foreign national’s passport or work permit. 

The practice of taking and keeping travel documents has been well documented by advocates of migrant workers. It is a tactic to control migrants and keep them from speaking out about unfair treatment and unsafe workplace conditions.

Offenders could face fines between $100,000 and $200,000 for every worker whose rights are violated. The Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development states in a press release in addition to the per-passport penalties, “individuals convicted of withholding passports would be liable to either a fine of up to $500,000, up to 12 months imprisonment, or both.”

Corporations convicted of this offence could face a fine of up to $1 million. 

“Anyone who preys on vulnerable members in our community has no place in our society,” says Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development.

“If you think you’re going to deny someone’s basic human rights by withholding their passport, we’re going to hit your pocketbook, and you will be behind bars for a long time. We will continue to use every tool in our toolbox to ensure Ontario is a province where hard work pays off and big dreams come true.”

These proposed legislative changes are contained in the Working for Workers 3 act. It follows similar legislation of the same name in 2021 and 2022.