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Reference re Public Service Employee Relations Act (Alta.)

Reference re Public Service Employee Relations Act (Alta.), [1987] 1 S.C.R. 313 is a leading opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada on right to freedom of association under section 2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Court held that section 2(d) does not include the right to strike.


The province of Alberta referred a reference question to the Alberta Court of Appeal, which was eventually appealed to the Supreme Court. The questions concerned the constitutionality of prohibiting strikes and replacing them with compulsory arbitration.

Opinion of the Court

McIntyre, writing for the majority, argued that the freedom of association is an individual right that protects collective activities which are already protected by individual rights. Thus, activities that are prohibited individually are also forbidden collectively. As such, a trade union cannot strike incidnet to a collective bargain.

Dickson, in dissent, also agreed with the characterization of the freedom, but argued that the right is not associated with particular activities but rather is "a freedom of persons to join and act with others in common pursuits".

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