Question: Could you please clarify the rationale behind standard 4.1.9 All paid camp staff and volunteers will have access to legal counsel.
This is a common misconception of this standard. The standard is written to ensure that workers, paid or volunteer, will be able to access legal counsel should the need or desire arise for them. The standard does not require that the camp pay for, furnish, or provide legal counsel. The standard merely ensures that the camp does not create any barrier between its team members and legal counsel, whether preventative or punitive. This may mean that the camp needs to act proactively to provide access to communication or written resources.
It is not inconceivable that an organization or agency could write a contract or have in place a policy that would prohibit or silence a camp staff member in a myriad of cases where they may feel they need to contact legal counsel for advice, consultation, or representation. Given that the workers in a camp setting are performing jobs that have real risk involved and are often asked to perform non-standard work there may arise a situation where a worker might benefit from legal counsel to the legality of the work being asked of them or to clarify their obligations to follow a policy that may contravene a law or piece of legislation.
One thing to consider is that camping is often the first work experience a person may have. A camp job is often in an isolated setting where mature advice of any kind comes from internal sources to the camp. Additionally, we often have people in our camps that are not local to Alberta and are therefore not familiar with all the labour laws that protect them. While it is not incumbent upon each camp to fully educate every worker on all rights they have in the workplace it is the intent of this standard to ensure no barrier is in place to prevent a worker from consulting legal advise in any way.
Simple ways a camp work could potentially fail to meet this standard would be examples like the following;
- A policy that states camp staff may make a personal call to a lawyer or to a hotline only on their breaks, and that restriction means they can never make a call during the regular workday where it may be reasonable to reach anyone.
- Confidentiality policies that prohibit a camp staff member from discussing incidents that occurred at camp or to campers under the auspices of protecting the privacy of parties involved. This would be a violation of a youth workers "duty to report" in cases of learning about potential child abuse.
- Forced mediation policies that require staff to deal with incidents, confrontations, or complaints internally to the camp, or its agency or church.
For more information, please email Rob Brown.