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The Big Three Post-Pandemic Challenges in Labour Relations: return to work, accommodation, and ???.

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          Wednesday, November 23, 2022

    The Saskatoon Club

    417, 21st Street East, Saskatoon

    5pm to 7pm, cocktails and appetizers.

               Free event. No need to RSVP.



The Saskatoon Chapter of the Canadian Industrial Relations Association presents:


   Leslie Belloc-Pinder, K.C. (arbitrator and investigator)

   Robert Frost-Hinz, Partner, MLT Aikins (employer counsel)

   Shannon Whyley, Whyley Legal Counsel & Labour

   Relations (union counsel)


As pandemic related restrictions are lifted, and the workplace returns to ‘business as usual’ there is a sense that change is underfoot and the employment relationship is forever changed.  What are the lasting effects of the pandemic on labour relations?  What are the big issues that employers and unions are grappling with as the new post-pandemic workplace takes shape? 


Please join us as Saskatoon’s labour relations community meets in-person for the first time since Covid-19 forced us all online.  We are a vibrant community engaged in sharing, listening and learning about emerging issues that affect the unionized workplace.  We are friendly and there is a cash bar and tasty food, plus we all need a break from another [insert bad word] Zoom meeting.

Labour Arbitration and

the Courts: Zoom Session

Date: June 27, 2020
Time:  10:15 am  EST (12:15 pm in SK)



You are invited to join an expert panel that will review how courts will approach labour arbitration in the wake of the Supreme Court of Canada’s December 2019 decisions in Vavilov and Bell Canada. Is the current system of expansive arbitration beyond the “four corners” of the collective agreement adequately serving the needs of employers, unions, employees, and society at large? Will courts continue to give arbitration awards wide deference or will second-guessing become more common?


Panel Members are:
Allen Ponak (Moderator), former president, National Academy of Arbitrators
Pnina Alon-Shenker, Professor of Law, Ryerson University
Richard Charney, Global Head of Employment and Labour, Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP
Wassim Garzouzi, Union and Employee Advocate, Raven Cameron Ballantyne & Yazbeck LLP



A link to the session will be available several days in advance. If you want to be sure to receive the link, please email

Going Remote: Developing a Common Standard for Remote Labour Arbitration Hearings in Saskatchewan

Join the meeting on Zoom on May 20th, 2020 at 10 -11:30 am. 

Free and no need to RSVP.

Hosted by Scott Walsworth.


Members of the Saskatchewan labour relations community are invited to gather on Zoom to discuss the requirements for conducting remote hearings.  Participants will discuss a list of considerations including: platform selection, technical requirements and support, sharing documents, witness testimony, and privacy and security issues, among others.  The intent of the discussion is to move closer to a 'made in Saskatchewan' set of standards for conducting remote hearings.

Click the button to view the report generated from the webinar, including five identified best practices.

Identifying and Understanding Problem Substance Abuse: an Interview with Dr. Charl Els, a Leading Addiction Specialist (MD., Addiction Psychiatrist, MRO, Expert Witness, Clinical Professor, Author)

$60 per ticket (includes dinner)

Tuesday September 24, 2019

TCU Place, 35, 22nd Street East, Saskatoon

5pm cocktails, dinner at 6pm

and program from 7pm to 8:30pm.


The administration of an effective drug and alcohol policy is only

possible if managers are well versed in the most recent evidence from

medical addiction specialists.  This knowledge is equally important for

union representatives.  Although drug and alcohol abuse has long been a concern for workplace safety, the legalization of recreational cannabis has increased the need to distinguish between acceptable substance abuse and a substance use disorder which may trigger the duty to accommodate.  In this interview, a leading addiction specialist will explain the difference, provide tips for investigating, and discuss the nature of an addiction.  From a medical perspective, the culpability of employee misconduct related to an addiction will be explained.

Specific topics to be discussed include:

  • Define substance use disorder and explain how it is different from recreational drug or alcohol use.

  • Is substance abuse always problematic? Is it always experienced as a chronic and progressive disorder?  Are relapses part of a substance use disorder? 

  • Are employees with a substance use disorder unable to stop themselves from substance pilfering to support their addiction?  Is this workplace misconduct non-culpable? 

  • Is denial an expected and inherent aspect of a substance use disorder?  Should an employee who is not forthcoming or candid about their addiction be held responsible and disciplined?

  • Is cannabis addictive?  How long after consumption is an employee impaired?  What medical evidence supports workplace policies that prohibit cannabis consumption for extended periods (12 to 30 days before a work shift)?

  • Explain the job performance and workplace behaviours that are common signs of problematic substance abuse.  What are effective methods for observing and documenting problematic signs?

  • What are some best practices for dealing with an employee with a substance use disorder?



Dr. Charl Els is one of Canada’s leading addiction specialist.  Trained as a medical doctor and psychiatrist, he is a medical review officer, as well as a Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Alberta.  He frequently serves as an expert medical witness in arbitration hearings concerning impairment and addiction, most notably he provided testimony in the decision reviewed by the Supreme Court of Canada, Stewart v. Elk Valley Coal Corp.  He has authored several authoritative reviews of the existing medical evidence linking substance abuse and workplace behaviours.

He completed medical and psychiatry training in South Africa followed by two fellowships at the University of Toronto. He co-chairs the Occupational and Environmental Medical Association of Canada’s Guideline Committee, and served on the University of Alberta's Health Research Ethics Board. Aside from his clinical practice, Dr. Els is involved in training residents and medical students in the fields of occupational psychiatry and addiction medicine. He also conducts research, has authored more than 30 peer-reviewed publications and regularly conducts assessments on employees in safety-sensitive and decision-critical positions.

Biometric Scanning and Employee Privacy

This event has been approved for 3.0 Continuing Professional Development credits by the Law Society of Saskatchewan.

Biometric authentication uses identifiers that are distinctive, measurable characteristics related to the shape of the body.  Examples include, but are not limited to fingerprint, palm veins, face recognition, DNA, palm print, hand geometry, iris recognition, retina and even scent.  While these security measures provide significant advantages to employers in terms of safety and security, they compromise the privacy of employees by collecting and storing 

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information that may be regarded as highly personal. In a 2013 decision (Irving), the Supreme Court of Canada indicated that employee privacy may be breached by a workplace policy only if the employer can show a heightened workplace risk, and that the advantages of a policy outweigh the consequences of diminished privacy.  As biometric authentication becomes cheaper and more accessible to employers in Saskatchewan, the number of policy grievances filed by concerned unions is sure to grow.  Both employers and unions must understand the requirements of a sound policy to be successful at grievance arbitration.


To help the labour relations community appreciate this emerging issue, Kevin Stanley PhD., a computer science expert from the University of Saskatchewan, will explain the basic technology behind biometric authentication, describe the products currently available on the market and give us a glimpse into future offerings, such as body odour scans.  Once we understand the technology, an employer-side lawyer (Brent Matkowski from MLT Aikens) will square off against (Samuel Schonhoffer from Gerand Rath Johnson) and argue a fictional biometric authentication policy grievance, as if they were before a grievance arbitrator.

Kevin Stanley, PhD. is an Associate Professor in the Department of

Computer Science at the University of Saskatchewan.  His primary

research interest is in building technology to measure, analyze and

act on sensed human behaviour.  He collaborates with health and

social science researchers as user communities, as well as teaching

courses at the introductory level, upper level courses on computer

game programming, robotics and machine learning, and at the 

graduate level on sensing human behaviour.


Brent Matkowski is an employer-side lawyer.  He is an associate with

MLT Aikens, LLP working out of the Saskatoon office.  He assists

unionized and non-unionized employers with a variety of labour and

employment law issues including labour relations, human rights,

occupational health and safety, workers’ compensation, labour

standards, employment contracts, employer policies, and discipline.

Brent has appeared before the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board,

Provincial Court, Court of Queen’s Bench and Court of Appeal.  He

was called to the Bar in Saskatchewan in 2014.

Samuel Schonhoffer is a union-side lawyer.  He is an associate with

Gerrand Rath Johnson, LLP working out of Regina.  He maintains a

specialized labour and employment law practice, exclusively

representing trade unions as well as individual workers in non-

unionized environments. He has represented clients at the

Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board, the Canada Industrial

Relations Board, numerous boards of labour arbitration, and in the

courts. He also practices in the area of general litigation, representing

both plaintiffs and defendants in matters of various types. He has

appeared in Provincial Court in Saskatchewan and Alberta as well at the

Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench and other tribunals throughout

the province. He was called to the bar in Saskatchewan in 2016. 


A Visit with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission

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This event is run in partnership with the Chartered Professionals in Human Resources (CPHR) Saskatchewan.

The CIRA Saskatoon Chapter presents an intimate conversation Scott Newell,

General Counsel with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission. 

Amy Gibson from MLT Aikins will moderate the discussion.


As human rights law develops, it plays an ever-increasing role in governing the workplace.  It was not long ago that human rights were considered a separate and unrelated body of law; however, today there are very few labour relations professionals and union representatives who are not immersed in human rights issues.  The scope of the law has grown to include a comprehensive list of 15 protected grounds prohibiting discrimination.  Several items on the enumerated list are quickly evolving, for instance recent jurisprudence has important workplace implications for disability, gender/sex, and family status.  Despite the important implications for employer policies and union representation, there remains uncertainty around how human rights law is handled in the workplace.  Some important questions to be discussed include:


  • What is the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code?

  • What is the process for making a human rights complaint?

  • What role does the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission play?

  • Who adjudicates human rights complaints?  Does Saskatchewan have a tribunal like other provinces? 

  • What remedies are available?

  • Do you file a grievance or go to the Human Rights Commission? How does the Commission deal with these types of complaints?

  • When are unions named as respondents?

  • Can a labour arbitrator rule on the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code?

  • How has drug testing, marijuana addiction and medical marijuana affected the duty to accommodate and human rights complaints?

  • What issues have arisen with recent complaints? What issues remain unresolved?    


Scott Newell

Scott has been General Counsel with Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission since 2012. He is responsible for oversight of the legal department, legal advice to the Commission, litigation of complaints and policy development.  Scott graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a law degree in 1997 and was called to the Saskatchewan Bar in 1998.  Prior to joining the Human Rights Commission, Scott was in private practice in Saskatoon and Calgary doing Civil Litigation with focus on labour and employment law, wrongful dismissal actions, arbitrations, human rights, employment standards, and mergers and acquisitions. He also worked in house for a large employer as a Labour Relations Director from 2009-2012 doing collective bargaining, arbitrations, wrongful dismissal defence, human rights complaints as well as labour and employment standards complaints in Saskatchewan, Alberta, B.C. and Manitoba.

Workplace Harassment at the One year Anniversary of the #metoo Movement

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Nasser Centre, Edwards School of Business, Downtown Campus,  256, 3rd Avenue South, Saskatoon, SK.

(corner of 3rd and 20th).

5pm cocktails and hearty appetizers,

Program from 6:30pm – 7:45pm.


Although the ‘Me Too’ movement was founded in 2006, victims of sexual harassment did not capture the public's interest until 2017 when the #metoo hashtag went viral.  The courage and resilience of victims from high profile cases, along with the movement’s main message of “empowerment through empathy,” have urged us all to think about the victim’s perspective.  As a result, there is heightened vigilance for predatory behaviour in the workplace.  While workplace harassment has long been a concern of managers and unions, there is a renewed call for understanding the legal requirements of investigating and responding to situations involving workplace harassment and bullying.  Please join us, as an expert panel discusses the practical knowledge required to appropriately recognize warning signs, investigate and respond to allegations, and protect complainants and witnesses while safeguarding the rights of the accused.  Leah Schatz, Q.C., employer counsel and Rick Engel, Q.C., union counsel, join Alma Wiebe, Q.C., an experienced workplace harassment investigator, in a panel designed to apprise the labour relations community of an emerging workplace issue.


Panel Biographies

 Alma Wiebe, Q.C.

Alma graduated with a Bachelor of Law in 1978 and has been practicing law in Saskatchewan since her admission to the Bar in 1979. Her practice, for many years, consisted primarily of litigation. In recent years she has shifted her emphasis from litigation to workplace harassment and misconduct investigations, labour arbitrations, coroner’s inquests and administrative tribunal work.  She is Past-President of the Law Society of Saskatchewan, served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Law Foundation of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons as well as being sessional at the University of Saskatchewan College of Law. She is a professional discipline chair, an Inquest Coroner and is active as a volunteer in her community. She has conducted numerous harassment, professional conduct and other workplace investigations for institutional clients and professional governing bodies.


Rick A. Engel, Q.C.

Formerly of Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan, Rick Engel obtained a Bachelor of Arts (Honours), majoring in Political Science from the University of Saskatchewan in 1982, and a Juris Doctor’s degree from Queen’s University in 1983.  He practiced law in Swift Current, Saskatoon, and Regina before joining the firm in 1989.  He became a partner Gerrand Rath Johnson LLP in 1993 and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2004.  Rick has developed a highly concentrated practice in Labour Law and Human Rights litigation and is current solicitor of record for a number of major unions in Saskatchewan.   Rick has been union counsel on a number of significant public sector lawsuits and appeals.  In 2014/2015, he was co-counsel on behalf of the SFL and numerous unions at the Supreme Court of Canada on the first case from the Court to recognize the right to strike under s. 2(d), Freedom of Association, of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Rick is recognized as one of the leading union-aligned labour lawyers in Saskatchewan.  He known for fashioning new and novel arguments in motions and hearings before the Courts, the Labour Relations Board and numerous Arbitration Boards. 

Leah Schatz, Q.C.

Leah practices as a partner with MLT Aikins LLP, primarily in the area of labour and employment law. She advises on issues related to the workplace, and acts in a variety of roles in collective bargaining, occupational health and safety, and human rights, including representing employers as chief spokesperson during collective bargaining and conducting workplace investigations. Her practice is focused primarily in the health and public sectors, as well as in the area of Aboriginal business and economic development. She has lectured extensively throughout Saskatchewan, and also presented throughout Canada on labour and employment issues affecting workplaces. As counsel, she appears regularly before numerous administrative boards and tribunals, including the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board and the Canada Industrial Relations Board. She has appeared before all levels of the Saskatchewan courts, as well as the Supreme Court of Canada.

A Fireside Chat with Vince Ready

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Radisson Hotel, 405, 20th Street East, Saskatoon

5pm cocktails, 6pm dinner, 7pm – 8:30pm program

Deadline to register is 2pm Friday September 21

The CIRA Saskatoon Chapter presents an intimate conversation with arbitrator and mediator Vince Ready, moderated by arbitrator Allen Ponak.


“The mediator never sees himself as the story,” is an old labour relations adage.  While this may be true, the CIRA Saskatoon chapter is curious to know more about Vince Ready, one of the busiest, most high profile mediators and arbitrators in Canada. Colleagues have marveled at his instinct to know when to probe the parties, when to inquire, when to initiate discussion and when to sit back and listen.  However, unless you have been a party in one of the over 7,000 disputes he has mediated, or unless you bump into him in a hotel hallway as he shuttles between union and employer meeting rooms, you likely know very little of Mr. Ready.  He rarely gives interviews, and as much as possible, prefers to keep a low profile, despite being at the centre of some of the highest profile labour disputes of our time. 


In this fireside chat, Arbitrator Allen Ponak will interview Mr. Ready about his approach to labour dispute resolution and what secrets he can share of his storied career. Please join us for an intimate conversation with a man often at the center of some of the toughest labour relations disputes of our era.


This event has been approved for 3.0 Continuing Professional Development credits by the Law Society of Saskatchewan.




Vince Ready was born is the in the Ottawa Valley city of Pembroke, Ontario, Mr. Ready worked in construction and mining and then, eventually, as an organizer with the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers before becoming an organizer with the United Steelworkers of America.  In 1982, he launched his own firm and since then he has mediated in more than 7,000 labour and commercial disputes. Mr. Ready has mediated deals in strikes affecting transit, pulp mills, grain ports, the province's ferry service and truckers at the port of Vancouver. In the early 1990s, he was appointed a special mediator at the Giant Mine in Yellowknife where nine replacement workers were murdered in a bombing. His work helped bring about a deal.


Allen Ponak (BA, MLIR, PhD) was born in Montreal.  He has arbitrated since 1985 and is a listed arbitrator in a number of national and regional collective agreements, including most recently Major League Baseball. He has been a faculty member at UBC, McGill, University of Calgary, and University of Saskatchewan.  His film, “Beyond Collision: High Integrity Labour Relations”, won a Silver Screen Award at the 2005 Los Angeles International Video and Film Festival. In 2015, Allen was named the winner of the prestigious Bora Laskin award for his contributions to Canadian labour law. In 2015/2016 he was president of the National Academy of Arbitrators, the fourth Canadian president in the Academy’s 70 year history. 


What is Appropriate Medical Documentation for a Mental Health Duty to Accommodate Request?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Radisson Hotel, 405, 20th Street East, Saskatoon

5pm cocktails, 6pm dinner, 7pm – 8:30pm program


Bryan Salte, Associate Registrar and Legal Counsel for the

College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan

Aaron Fornwald, Senior Director of HR, Nutrien

Glenn Billingsley, Senior Labour Relations Officer, SGEU


The duty to accommodate a medical condition has become a prominent issue for the labour relations community.  In order to validate the presence of a medical condition and determine the implication for job performance, the employer and the union depend on the expert opinion of physicians.  As the importance of medical documentation has grown, so has the frustration of the labour relations community with medical evidence that is vague and poorly suited to the needs of the workplace.  Without intimate knowledge of the patient’s job requirements, physicians are understandably reluctant to provide the level of detail required by the workplace.  The disconnect between what the labour relations community requires and what the medical community is willing and able to provide is especially pronounced in mental health accommodation requests, where an injury or illness is not easily apparent to managers and union representatives, thus making job related implications even more difficult to assess without appropriate medical evidence. 


The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan has published a helpful policy statement (Physician Certification of Work Absence or Accommodation Due to Illness or Injury and Completion of Third Party Forms) that provides a number of physician limitations and responsibilities, and makes several instructive recommendations.  The implementation of these guidelines would go a long way to solving the disconnect between the labour relations and medical community.


Bryan Salte, Associate Registrar and Legal Counsel for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan will provide insight into the obstacles and successes in implementing the policies and explain the concerns and limitations of physicians in providing the medical evidence requested by the workplace.  He will be joined by Aaron Fornwald, Senior Director of Human Resources with Nutrien (PotashCorp) who will raise the key challenges for employers.  Glenn Billingsley, Senior Labour Relations Officer with SGEU will serve as the third member of the panel and will provide the union perspective.


This event has been approved for 3.0 Continuing Professional Development credits by the Law Society of Saskatchewan.


Panel Biographies


Bryan Salte is currently the Associate Registrar and Legal Counsel for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan. He has worked in that position since 1999.  In addition to acting as legal counsel to the College, Bryan has a significant role in policy development and works with College committees and on College projects.   Bryan received his B.Ed. in 1975 and LL.B. 1978 both from the University of Saskatchewan. He was appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 2009. He received the distinguished service award from the Canadian Bar Association in 2016. Bryan has authored a number of publications including Licensing and Regulation of the Health Professions, a chapter in the book Canadian Health Law Practice Manual and a book, The Law of Professional Regulation, which was published in 2015.  Bryan also has had extensive involvement in the community and has been a member of the Board of Directors of a number of charities.


Aaron Fornwald has worked for Nutrien (formerly PotashCorp) for ten years and is currently the Senior Director of Human Resources.  Previously he has held management positions as a Special Care Home Administrator, Director of Human Resources at Moose Mountain Health District, and Manager of Labour Relations at Saskatoon Health Region.  The employers he has worked for have employees in various unions including SEIU, CUPE, SUN, HSAS, USW and UNIFOR. He has a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Saskatchewan.


Glenn Billinglsey has not provided a bio, so I (Scott W.) have written one for him.  Glenn is a Senior Labour Relations Officer with SGEU.  He represents members at the Labour Relations Board and at grievance arbitration hearings, in addition to his collective bargaining responsibilities.  Glenn lives with six cats, all named after members of the Royal family.


Developing a Workplace Policy for Legal Marijuana


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Radisson Hotel, 405, 20th Street East, Saskatoon

Registration closes at 2pm on February 9, 2018.


Dr. Perry Sirota, Workplace Psychologist

Kevin Wilson, MLT Aikins, Employer Counsel

Lisa Olson, HR Director, Saskatoon Police Services

This event has been approved for 3.0 Continuing Professional Development credits by the Law Society of Saskatchewan.


Legalized marijuana, both for medical and recreational use, is coming soon to a workplace near you. In the absence of an accepted impairment test for marijuana equivalent to the .08 breathalyzer standard for alcohol, employers and unions will be entering uncharted territory. Marijuana may show up in a urine or blood sample weeks after ingestion and its presence does not necessarily indicate impairment. How will employer policies reflect the legalization of marijuana? What are the responsibilities of unions in balancing the off-duty rights of their members with helping to ensure safe workplaces?

At this early stage, it is important for the parties to identify the various ways that the use of medical and recreational marijuana affects the employment relationship.  Dr. Perry Sirota will discuss the emerging workplace psychological issues prompted by medical and recreational marijuana.  From a legal position, Kevin Wilson will outline the emerging concerns, responsibilities, and liabilities of employers.  Lisa Olson will share her experience with developing policy for safety sensitive (sworn police officers) and civilian staff.   


Developments in Privacy Labour Law

Tuesday, November 28, 2017  |  5:00 - 8:00 PM
TCU Place, 35-22nd Street East, Saskatoon

Panel Discussion

Anne Wallace, Arbitrator

Heather Jensen, Plaxton Jensen, Union Counsel

Amy Gibson, MLT Aikins, Employer Counsel

Privacy in the workplace is a quickly changing area of labour law, constantly evolving to balance the employer’s right to manage the workplace with the employee’s right to privacy.  Social media, new work arrangements, and new privacy legislation affect the workplace, and create uncertainty for employees, managers, and labour relations/human resource professionals.  For instance, can an employee be disciplined for Facebook posts, tweets, or Snapchat pics?  Is an employee required to comply with an order to submit a personal laptop or smart phone to an employer for inspection?  When is off-duty conduct the concern of an employer? Is an employer entitled to examine personal emails on the company server? These, and many other questions will be addressed as the panel reviews the key developments in this interesting area of labour law.


The panel will address four scenarios.  To view a pdf document with all four scenarios, please click on the button to right.  A hard copy of the scenario document will be provided to all participants at the event.

The Practical Significance of the Supreme Court's Freedom of Association Jurisprudence


September 26, 2017


Roy Adams, Ph.D, Professor Emeritus, McMaster University

With Comments from Crystal Norbeck (Union Counsel) and 

Gordon Hamilton (Employer Counsel)

To date the SCC's Freedom of Association jurisprudence has had its main effect in the public sector. What does this mean for the private sector? There are strong reasons to suspect that several aspects of private sector law and practice could be successfully challenged in the courts. Professor Adams will review the potential challenges and their likelihood. Crystal Norbeck will offer comments from her experience as union council and Gordon Hamilton will do the same from an employer’s perspective.

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