Santé et sécurité bannière

No-Half Measures—Workers Compensation 100 years after Sir William Meredith

No-Half Measures—Workers Compensation 100 years after Sir William Meredith


October 31, 2013 kicks off a 3-day conference in Toronto to mark the 100 year anniversary of Sir William Meredith’s famous report that founded Ontario’s workers’ compensation system.

Halloween 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of former Ontario Chief Justice Sir William Meredith’s 1913 report that founded Ontario’s workers compensation system. A collaboration of groups, such as the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups, unions, organizations, and academics such as McMaster University’s Dr. Robert Storey and University of Guelph’s Carol Elston have organized the conference October 31-November 2, 2013 to stimulate a dialogue and release interim findings from Storey/Elston’s forthcoming “People’s Commission Report on Workers Compensation” where they have re-created Meredith’s hearing format to speak to more than 50 injured workers in over 11 locations across Ontario.

The conference starts with a history bus tour on Halloween that will visit Meredith’s gravesite, his former Rosedale home and a few other key locations. The bus tour ends with a Hallow’s Eve dinner at Osgoode Hall where Meredith wrote his final Report. The keynote speaker at dinner is Katherine Lippel, Canada’s Research Chair in Occupational Health and Safety, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa. Friday, November 1 and Saturday November 2 activities continue at the Ontario Federation of Labour building in Toronto at 15 Gervais Drive.

Meredith’s “ghost” will remind us about key principles he included in his 1913 report “Laws Relating to the Liability of Employers.” Speakers from across Canada will join with injured workers, academics, unions, and other organizations at the conference to compare today’s compensation system with the system created from Meredith’s vision 100 years ago. According to Meredith, the true aim of compensation law was “to provide for the workman and his dependents and prevent their becoming a charge upon their relatives or friends, or the community at large.” He identified six basic principles for a compassionate compensation system, based on what has come to be known as the “historic compromise.”  This meant that workers would give up their right to sue their employers in exchange for income security in the event of a workplace injury. And employers would receive protection from loss of their business while paying for the system as a cost of carrying out that business.

However, over the last hundred years, workers compensation has become more “insurance-like” in nature and it is debatable whether Meredith’s principles still exist or whether the founding principles have died along with him. The conference will provide opportunities to discuss and evaluate the extent to which Meredith’s vision can be re-incorporated into a workers’ compensation system that provides justice and dignity to injured workers in 2013.

To register for the conference and to view the entire conference program, click here