Labour relations in Canada falls under provincial jurisdiction, unless the entity concerned is a federal work or undertaking as defined in our Constitution. Professional sports teams are not so defined. Therefore, the legality of the current NHL lock-out is determined by reference to the Labour Relations Acts in each of the Provinces.
There are NHL teams in 5 provinces. The Labour Boards in two of them – Alberta and Quebec – have recently issued decisions concerning whether or not they would interfere in the NHL lock-out and declare it unlawful. To date, both have declined. For similar reasons, both Boards have determined that there is no ‘irreparable harm’ in the case of the Quebec Board, or ‘it makes no labour relations sense’ in the case of the Alberta Board, to justify intervention at this time. Both Boards examined the structure of the relationship between the NHL and the NHLPA and took into account the fact that the league operates in a number of jurisdictions, most of them being American, and that to require the strict adherence to the specific requirements for a legal strike or lock-out in the particular jurisdiction would not ‘solve’ the dispute and might fragment a bargaining structure that has been in place for many years. The Quebec decision, however, was effectively only a ‘provisional’ (or temporary) order, pending a final determination. That determination has yet to be made.