People’s Voice September 16-30, 2017

Volume 25 – Number 15   $1

CONTENTS

1) DIVISIONS COMPLICATE VANCOUVER COUNCIL AND TRUSTEE BYELECTION

2) ACTIVISTS CALL FOR END TO THREATS AGAINST VENEZUELA

3) RCMP SPYING ON BLACK LIVES MATTER IN CANADA

4) FTQ CONDEMNS THE RISE OF INTOLERANCE AND RACISM

5) NEEDED: PROGRESSIVE TAXATION - Editorial

6) SOLIDARITY: OUR URGENT PRIORITY - Editorial

7) NEW ATTACKS ON WORKERS’ RIGHTS IN NOVA SCOTIA

8) UNIFOR BACKS BDS CAMPAIGN

9) TRENDS IN UNION DENSITY IN ONTARIO

10) “OUR QUESTIONS ABOUT CANADA’S DEFENCE BUDGET”

11) RE-ENGAGING UNIONS IN THE FIGHT AGAINST FASCISM

12) AN EXPERT LOOKS AT THE STATE OF CUBA-US RELATIONS

13) HURRICANE IRMA RELIEF & RECONSTRUCTION FOR CUBA CAMPAIGN


PRINTER FRIENDLY ARTICLES

PEOPLE'S VOICE      September 16-30, 2017 (pdf)

 

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(The following articles are from the September 15-30, 2017, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading socialist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.)

1) DIVISIONS COMPLICATE VANCOUVER COUNCIL AND TRUSTEE BYELECTION

PV Vancouver Bureau

 

    An October 14 civic byelection in Vancouver offers voters an opportunity to express their views on municipal policies, and about the future of public education. But the competition among left-oriented forces may give an advantage to the city’s dominant centrist and right-wing parties.

 

    The byelection was the outcome of a chain of events, beginning with last year’s arbitrary firing of the Vancouver School Board by then-Premier Christy Clark. The removal of nine democratically-elected school trustees was widely seen as part of a vendetta waged by Clark against the BC Teachers Federation and public education in general, going back to her days as Education minister under Liberal premier Gordon Campbell.

 

    After the Liberals fell short of a majority in the May 2017 provincial election, the new NDP government moved quickly to increase education funding, and to respond to demands to either reinstate the fired trustees or call a byelection. When Vancouver city councillor Geoff Meggs resigned to take a top staff position in NDP Premier John Horgan’s office, the premier ordered a vote for a new VSB to coincide with the council seat byelection.

 

    The jostling for the vacant council seat began immediately, particularly among forces which have been strongly critical of the governing Vision Vancouver party for its pro-developer policies.

 

    The left-wing One City party announced plans to nominate the city’s former housing advocate, Judy Graves. But before One City scheduled its nomination meeting, a grassroots campaign was launched to run radical anti-poverty organizer Jean Swanson as an independent. The debate over which candidate to back - or how to create a united left campaign - was sharp and divisive.

 

    Supporters of Graves argue that she has wider appeal across the city, and that her inside knowledge of Vancouver’s housing crisis is crucial to help force a policy shift at City Hall. Swanson backers reply that their candidate has far longer experience in civic politics, a stronger set of platform policies, and a proven track record as a fighter for progressive change. They were also first out of the blocks, with a motivated campaign team based largely in the low-income Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. The Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) is no longer a potent electoral force, but its subsequent endorsement of Swanson will bring her some votes.

 

    By the close of nominations, several other candidates were on the ballot. Faced with growing public anger over their links with big developers, Vision has nominated Diego Cardona, a 21-year-old youth and migrant organizer from the Latin American community. The Greens, who already hold one council seat, have put forward well-known neighborhood activist Pete Fry. Independent candidate Mary Jean Dunsdon (“Watermelon” of Wreck Beach fame and now the owner of a Commercial Drive candy shop) is a strong voice for small businesses which face huge problems in the over-heated Vancouver economy.

 

    This crowded field of centrist and left candidates could be tailor-made for another candidate to win with as little as thirty percent of the vote.

 

    The right-wing NPA’s wealthier base is known for a high turnout on election day, but Pete Fry of the Greens is riding a wave of support, since his party is perceived by many voters as a viable alternative to the corporate-backed NPA and Vision. Among socialist-minded voters, there is considerable frustration that Graves and Swanson could get a combined vote total higher than any centre or right-wing candidate, only to lose through vote-splitting.

 

    The Communist Party’s BC Provincial Executive has endorsed Swanson, noting that her record has earned her the support of the left. But the party’s statement on the byelection also warns that divisions among progressive forces make it more likely that one of the parties currently on council will win, and that unity must be a stronger consideration in Vancouver politics heading towards the 2018 civic election.

 

    The nine school trustees will be elected on a city-wide basis, since Vancouver does not have a ward system. For decades, NPA trustees have resisted calls by teachers, other school staff, students, and parents to act as strong advocates for improved public education. The NPA’s candidates for the Oct. 14 vote are no different, and with the support of private school advocates and the corporate media, they could win a majority. A number of NPA candidates have “anglo-saxon” surnames, always an electoral advantage in a city where many quietly racist residents still “vote white.”

 

    There is some potential to minimize vote-splitting in the VSB race, since progressive forces have only eight candidates to back. One City has nominated two particularly strong candidates: high-profile public education activists Carrie Bercic and Erica Jaaf. COPE is running Diana Day, a well-known second-time trustee candidate with deep roots in the indigenous community. Vision has nominated three of its fired trustees - Mike Lombardi, Joy Alexander, and Allan Wong - who won wide respect for their courageous battles against Christy Clark’s efforts to create a de facto two-tier school system in British Columbia. Vision has also nominated former trustee Ken Clement, and Theodora Lamb.

 

    Complicating this picture, the Greens have nominated three candidates, including fired trustee Janet Fraser. They will benefit from the party's popularity spike, but despite the Greens’ “progressive” image, Fraser never took a consistent position against the Liberal anti-public education policies, and the Greens have often been critical of the BC Teachers Federation.

 

    Former trustee Jane Bouey, an outspoken opponent of the Liberal agenda during her two terms on the Board, is not running this time. Bouey is urging voters to cast a ballot for the eight One City, Vision and COPE candidates, as the best way to elect a new progressive majority on the VSB.

 

    There will be more byelection coverage in the next issue of People’s Voice.

 

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2) ACTIVISTS CALL FOR END TO THREATS AGAINST VENEZUELA

            A recent “virtual meeting” brought together activists from across Canada to discuss the reality of the “crisis” in Venezuela, with the intention of strengthening the Canadian movement in solidarity with Venezuela.

            The event was organized by individuals and organizations including Calgarians Against War and Intervention, Toronto Venezuela Solidarity Committee and Frente para la Defensa de los Pueblos Hugo Chavez (based in Vancouver). It was live streamed from Calgary on August 28.

            The organizing group stated in a media release: “The U.S. government has issued several rounds of sanctions against Venezuelan officials, and President Trump has recently declared that a `military option’ is still a possibility. The latest White House set of sanctions [was issued] on August 25.” The release added that the Canadian government has “intervened in the affairs” of Venezuela with “unfounded accusations against the Maduro government.”

            The panel included four analysts from Canada and a community organizer living in Venezuela. They shared analysis on issues affecting Venezuela to an audience in Calgary and were joined by many viewers via live stream.

            Miguel Figueroa, acting President of the Canadian Peace Congress, stressed that even when Venezuela has the “largest proven oil reserves, this is not just ‘blood for oil’. It is much more than control of resources. The economic war on Venezuela is part of the imperial take over.” He asked: “What can we do in Canada?”

            Juan Restrepo, a community activist from the Toronto Venezuela Solidarity Committee, spoke about the significance of the Bolivarian Revolution for the region. He referred to Venezuela's important contribution to ending the conflict in Colombia, and observed the utter hypocrisy of the US/Western mainstream media coverage which gives exaggerated reports of casualties arising from the violent protests in Venezuela (invariably blamed on the Maduro government) while saying virtually nothing about the assassinations of community, labour and human rights activists by right-wing paramilitaries in Colombia, with the aim of undermining the peace process in that country.

            Sarah Ali, a grassroots community organizer and digital advocacy specialist from Toronto, spoke about the need and the possibility of building a national digital network for solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution. She explained how to identify and target an audience in order to raise their knowledge and interest about Venezuela.

            Nino Pagliccia, a spokesperson for the Frente Hugo Chavez para la Defensa de los

Pueblos, reported on the solidarity activities undertaken by his organization, addressing broader peoples’ struggles in Latin America with a special focus on Venezuela. He stressed that not only Venezuela, but “indeed all of Latin America is under attack.”

            “We cannot lose Venezuela. That would mean a return to the hegemonic and colonial domination by the US in Latin America,” he added.

            The last speaker was Carlos Perez, a community leader involved in the local CLAP (Local Committee for the Supply and Stock) initiative, which delivers essential food items to members of the community on a bi-weekly basis. He focused on the period he called “between counter-revolution in 2015 to Revolution 2.0 in 2017.”

            The 2015 reference is to when the right-wing took parliament with an overwhelming majority, but after a campaign was filled with irregularities. Carlos added, “the aim of the right wing was to force the people into civil war, and set the panorama for foreign intervention.” This had to be done through a political, media and economic war.

            Maduro realized that Chavismo needed “evolutionary contingencies to protect the spiritual epicenter of the revolution.” Carlos said that Chavez’s vision for all Venezuelans through social programs like Mision Vivienda has provided homes to 1.7 million families across the country, and that the CLAP program introduced by Maduro “is an emergency measure to intervene against the sabotage affecting food and hygiene items in the marketplace.”

            According to Carlos, “the Constituent Assembly took over duties to pass legislation and work with the rest of the state powers in order to get the political system up and running again. That is the Bolivarian Revolution 2.0 taking place in Venezuela today.”

            Speaking from his community base in Venezuela, Carlos ended his presentation with a call to Canadians, “our solidarity, your marches, your debates and critiques, your voice of hope gives us strength. The revolutionary fight belongs to all of us. It is the fight to keep alive the Bolivarian struggle for La Patria Grande.”

            The webinar was very successful and helped achieve the goal of the organizers, to build a national network of Solidarity with Venezuela in Canada.

            For more information, email fdphc.so@gmail.com

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3) RCMP SPYING ON BLACK LIVES MATTER IN CANADA

By Kimball Cariou

           Recent media reports indicate that the RCMP has engaged in surveillance of Black Lives Matter Vancouver, and perhaps other organizations critical of racism in this country.

            The latest revelations follow 2015 reports in the Toronto Star that the RCMP had been using dummy Facebook profiles to track BLM activists and rallies, despite the fact that the organization has never posed any threat to public safety. It appears that the very existence of a group of Black activists is enough to be considered dangerous by the Mounties.

            VICE News Canada recently obtained what it calls a “cache of intelligence reports obtained ... through Canada’s Access to Information Act.” The documents were requested after the killing of five law enforcement officers at a Black Lives Matter protest last year in Dallas. That led the RCMP to look for possible links between what it calls “African American hate groups” and Black Lives Matter in Canada.   The RCMP began to surveil the social media accounts of Black Lives Matter Vancouver and its members, but also asked the US State Department through the Vancouver consulate to provide intelligence on U.S. groups which have called for police killings.

            What astounds anti-racism activists in the Vancouver area is that the RCMP attentions were spurred by a July 10, 2016 vigil planned by BLM Vancouver for Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. The shootings of the two men by police in Minnesota and Louisiana led to protests across the United States, including a rally on July 7 in Dallas, where the five officers were shot by a sniper. The killer, Micah Xavier Johnson, was a US military veteran known to have been angered by the prevalence of anti-Black racism among white police officers.

            The surveillance of BLM Vancouver was part of an “ops plan,” including social media monitoring of various Facebook, Twitter, and GoFundMe pages linked to the movement, allegedly to “ensure public and law enforcement safety.”

            The reports involve input from the RCMP’s B.C. Hate Crime Team, their Criminal Analysis section, and Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams (INSETs), which monitor domestic terrorist threats across Canada.

            The RCMP told VICE News that social media tracking does not constitute surveillance. The force claims that their actions were “a matter of conducting due diligence, in regard to public and police officer safety,” and that “no indications of violence” were found. The monitoring continued from mid-July, 2016, until the end of the month, during the same time period that BLM Vancouver called for the city police to be banned from the Vancouver pride parade in early August.

            The report concludes: “At this time there are no indications that violence will be used as a tactic.” and notes that it will be a “peaceful rally.” But in a disturbing indication of the true mentality of the police, the report was put into the category of “unfolding event – serious crime”.

            No reason has been given for this classification. But the same report containing “threat assessments” of Black Lives Matter Vancouver shows the RCMP looking for Canadian connections to U.S. groups, the so-called “New Black Panther Party” (which has been denounced by members of the original Black Panthers) and the African American Defence League. Not surprisingly, no such connections were found, since these organizations have very sharp political and ideological differences with BLM.

            In fact, as VICE News points out, “there has been little indication that the New Black Panther Party has ever been active in Canada, although in 2007 a leader of the organization was barred from entering the country to speak at an event in Toronto.

            There are some reports that Micah Johnson, the Dallas gunman, had previously been a member of the New Black Panther Party, but police concluded that Johnson acted alone.

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4) FTQ CONDEMNS THE RISE OF INTOLERANCE AND RACISM

Letter from Daniel Bond, president of the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ, the Quebec Federation of Labour) which has 500,000 members.

            Since the attack in Quebec City [the mass shooting on January 29, 2017, at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City], the events which followed remind us of the importance of our commitment to a fairer, more egalitarian and peaceful society.

            The election of Donald Trump in the United States seems to have exacerbated and accelerated a rise of the intolerance that we could already see growing, in the form of the National Front in France or other extreme right-wing movements in some European countries.

            The events in Charlottesville have shocked and appalled us all. Our outrage at US President Donald Trump increased when he refused to repudiate fascism and white supremacy.

The presence of similar groups in the Quebec political landscape is alarming. We have already had to deal with the phenomenon of “trash radio” in Quebec City for several years. Now add to this environmental demagoguery of extreme right-wing groups like La Meute, Atalante and Pegida.

            Sisters and brothers, in this dark context, it is even more important to roll up our sleeves and to assert our project of a society based on the principles of social justice, sharing and tolerance. Modern Quebec is made up of citizens, including people from diverse backgrounds, whose contribution is essential to the development and collective wealth of Quebec society. The trade union movement has always fought against racism, as well as for inclusion and equality. We will continue to do so. Our voice becomes all the more essential when the proponents of exclusion and discrimination become active.

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5) NEEDED: PROGRESSIVE TAXATION

People’s Voice Editorial

                 The uproar over the federal government’s move to close tax loopholes for those who incorporate as businesses is drawing attention away from the wider topic of tax fairness in Canada.

            Last year the Liberals backed down on an election promise to close the stock options deduction that gives almost a billion dollars annually to the wealthy. Bowing to pressure from Bay Street CEOs, Finance Minister Morneau kept this loophole, which allows a 50% discount on taxes. A recent Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives study found that on average, the richest 10 per cent of income earners get a discount of more than $20,000 a year from tax loopholes -- an increase of $6,000 since 1992.

            Governments inevitably cry poverty when it comes to funding child care, healthcare, education, public transit, social assistance, clean drinking water for indigenous communities, etc. But they always have deep pockets to give tax breaks for the rich (or fighter-bombers for the military!).

            The business incorporation loophole is relatively small, costing Ottawa about $250 million a year. About 60 percent of this amount goes to households with income over $150,000 a year. It is true that the majority of small business owners have much lower incomes, but other social policy and economic tools could be used to assist this sector. We also note that the Canadian Federation of Independent Business staunchly opposes higher minimum wages and progressive reforms to the Canada Pension Plan, so their pose as defenders of equality around this issue is utterly hypocritical.

            Putting things in perspective, Canadians for Tax Fairness points out that this loophole pales in comparison to the capital gains exemption (costing almost $10 billion a year) or the stock options deduction mentioned above. Real tax fairness means going after the wealthy who always get a free ride from Liberal and Tory governments

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6) SOLIDARITY: OUR URGENT PRIORITY

People’s Voice Editorial

            Recent developments in a several global hot-spots stress the need to stand in solidarity with countries on the front lines of resistance to imperialism. At this crucial time in human history, any temptation to sit on the sidelines pointing out real or imagined shortcomings of those who face intense US pressures must be sharply resisted. This is especially true in three very different but equally important cases: Syria, Venezuela and the DPRK.

            In Syria, the elected, secular government of al-Assad, with the support of key allies, has begun to turn the tide in its struggle against US-backed “regime change” forces and violent Islamic fundamentalists. This is welcome news, not because the Syrian government is above criticism, but because its survival is a powerful blow to the reactionary forces stretching from central Asia to North Africa.

            Another example is the epic battle against Washington’s dictates by the Bolivarian Revolution. “First world” carping about the Maduro government’s strategies should be put on the shelf. As in Syria, those who hope that a victory for the so-called “democratic movements” would bring positive change are deluding themselves. The sovereignty of both countries must be defended as our most urgent priority.

            As always, the DPRK (North Korea) remains the target of racist vilification by the corporate media and politicians. The DPRK has survived against incredible odds and constant imperialist pressures, in part because it retains the military capacity to respond against any US military attack. Instead of piling on the DPRK, we should speak out strongly for a negotiated political solution to the unresolved conflict in the Korean peninsula, including a withdrawal of US occupation troops from South Korea, and the denuclearization of all powers in the region.

            Rather than give unwanted advice to the peoples of these countries, our duty is to call on our own government to oppose outside intervention strategies.

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7) NEW ATTACKS ON WORKERS’ RIGHTS IN NOVA SCOTIA

Special to PV

            The McNeil Liberal government of Nova Scotia is “blindly moving ahead with unconstitutional, anti-worker legislation,” according to Nan McFadgen, the President of CUPE Nova Scotia. Last month, the government proclaimed Bill 148, the Public Services Sustainability Act, capping wage increases and freezing the long-service award as of April 2015. This will affect almost 12,000 CUPE members.

            CUPE says that Bill 148 attacks the rights of union members to fairly negotiate their collective agreements, a constitutional right of all workers protected by the Canadian Charter of Freedoms.

            The same Liberals, in an open letter to union members in 2013, claimed they would like to "clarify misinformation being circulated," declaring that they "believe in the collective bargaining process, the right to strike, and protecting workers' rights, both unionized and non-unionized." The letter was signed by Premier McNeil.

            "Reducing wages, taking away retirement income and attacking workers creates an environment that will not attract new workers and their families to live in this province," says McFadgen. "The premier is leading us down a dark path."

            The premier says he plans to ask the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal about the constitutionality of the Bill; however, CUPE says, unions have fought and won court challenges against similar legislation in other provinces, and governments have fallen when they crossed the line on workers' rights, at the expense of taxpayers and the people who depend on public services.

            In Ontario, education workers fought back and won when the Ontario Superior Court decided in favour of education unions, ruling Bill 115 unconstitutional; and in British Columbia, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the teachers, supporting the right to collective bargaining.

            "We'll be working with our members and labour in Nova Scotia to determine the next steps in response to the McNeil Government's failure to recognize the value of the work done by public sector workers," says McFadgen.

            Meanwhile, nurses in Nova Scotia are warning that hospitals may be affected by the province's decision to impose Bill 148.

            Janet Hazelton, president of the Nova Scotia Nurses Union, said the lack of respect the Liberal government has displayed to public sector workers is worrisome.

            “Nurses and other health care workers make decisions every single day to go in and work overtime. But if they feel a total lack of respect from their employer and from this government, they'll stop taking extra shifts,” she said.

            Hazelton was among the leaders of seven labour groups, including the Teachers Union and the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union , who said on Sept. 6 they want to be added as participants to a legal proceeding over Bill 148, the Public Services Sustainability Act.

            In 2001, nurses threatened mass resignations and a strike after the government introduced legislation that would remove their right to strike and allow cabinet to set contract terms. But Hazelton said nurses wouldn't have to resign to cripple the health care system.

            “They just have to say 'I'm not coming in tonight,”' she said. “Our health care system relies on a lot of people agreeing to work overtime shifts. I'm not saying this as a threat. They'd have to close units. The more you keep taking things from people and showing a lack of respect for their union, the more disappointed and the less likely people will want to help you out in a crunch.”

            Nova Scotia Federation of Labour president Danny Cavanagh says there is a misconception that public sector workers have “gold-plated pensions” and “extreme wages.”

            He said the government has taken a “divide and conquer” approach to workers, which is driving a wedge between union and non-union Nova Scotians. “It's divisive,” Cavanagh said. “Everyone deserves to have a pension and retire with dignity.”

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8) UNIFOR BACKS BDS CAMPAIGN

            The recent meeting of the Unifor Canadian Council, held August 18-20 in Winnipeg, adopted a strong resolution in support of BDS against Israel, and vowed to oppose all anti-democratic attempts to silence the BDS campaign in Canada. Observers believe that this marks the first time that a major private sector union in Canada has publicly supported BDS.

            Here is the text of the approved Resolution No. 5, “Palestinian Self-Determination and the Movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.”

WHEREAS article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying power from transferring parts of its own civilian population to territory it occupies; and

WHEREAS the International Court of Justice has ruled that Israel’s settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) violate international law; and

WHEREAS Israeli settlement expansions in the OPT are an undeniable obstacle to the IsraelPalestine peace process; and

WHEREAS Israel has continued, despite international pressure, to expand its settlements and to demolish Palestinian homes and other infrastructure in the OPT; and

WHEREAS Canada and other nations have previously succeeded in ensuring respect for human rights through the use of economic and political sanctions, including in the case of South Africa; and

WHEREAS the Liberal and Conservative parties recently supported a motion ‘condemning’ attempts by Canadians to promote the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement; and

WHEREAS nothing in this resolution condones the use of force against innocent civilians or other human rights violations by either side in the conflict;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Unifor supports the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (“BDS”) that are targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the OPT; and

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Unifor will support such a form of BDS until such time as Israel implements a permanent ban on further settlement construction in the OPT, and enters into good faith negotiations with representatives of the Palestinian people for the purpose of establishing a viable, contiguous and truly sovereign Palestinian state; and

THEREFORE BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that Unifor opposes all efforts to prohibit, punish or otherwise deter expressions of support for BDS.

Respectfully Submitted By: Local 222

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9) TRENDS IN UNION DENSITY IN ONTARIO

Public Sector Workers Club CPC, Toronto

            Ontario has 1.3 million public sector workers and currently 943,000 of them are covered by a union. That means that 72.2% of public sector employees have union coverage. 

            Since 1997, public sector union density has modestly increased from about 70% to 72% of total public sector employees. With a significant increase in public sector employment also occurring over that period, there has been an increase in public sector union coverage from 652,000 to 943,000 employees – about a 47% increase in 19 years.

            That still leaves another 363,000  unorganized public sector employees. Assuming that 10% of public sector employees are management (130,000) then there would be roughly 233,000 public sector workers still to organize in the province. In other words, maximum public sector union growth is about 25% (assuming no further increases in public sector employment).

            In contrast, there are still about 4 million private sector workers who do not have union coverage – almost seven times the current level of private sector union coverage. Consequently, there are currently about 50% more public sector workers with union coverage in the province than private sector workers in Ontario (943,000 versus 631,000).

            Union coverage in Ontario as a whole is 26.7% -- down from 29.9% in 1997. The current level of 26.7% is significantly below the Canada-wide average of 30.4%. If Ontario was extracted from the Canada-wide average, the gap would be even larger, with the rest of Canada at 32.6% union coverage. So there is almost a six percent gap between Ontario and the rest of Canada.

             As far as the public sector is concerned there are two basic ways to increase unionization.

1] Increase Public Sector Employment: Part of the low level of union coverage in Ontario is the low level of public sector employment in the province.

            If Ontario had a similar level of public sector employment as the rest of Canada (10.56% of population instead of 9.41%) we would have another 160,800 public sector workers and  this would add (at the current 72.2% union density in Ontario) 116,100 more unionized public sector jobs.

2] Increase the relatively low level of unionization of public sector workers in Ontario. Another factor depressing unionization in Ontario is that public sector union coverage is higher in the rest of Canada: public sector union density is just 72.2% in Ontario but it is 78.67% in the rest of the country excluding Ontario (and 76.3% across Canada if Ontario is included).

            It's not clear why public sector union density has been consistently lower than the rest of Canada, but if Ontario did achieve 78.67% public sector union coverage, that would mean another 84,300 union employees in Ontario. Raising public sector union density to the same level as in the rest of Canada is not quite so important as improving public sector employment to levels found in the rest of the country, but it is still very significant for improving unionization levels.

            Surprisingly, private sector unionization is also lower in Ontario than the rest of Canada:13.7% in Ontario compared with 17.6% in the rest of Canada (excluding Ontario).

            While total private sector employee coverage in Ontario in terms of the number of employees covered is about the same in 2016 as in 1997, the rate of private sector unionization in Ontario has declined from 19.2% in 1997 to 13.7% in 2016.  If the private sector as a whole had maintained the rate of unionization it had in 1997, there would be another 250,000 unionized workers in Ontario – roughly a 20% increase in total (public and private sector) union coverage.

            For Ontario, a key issue is the very large decline in manufacturing unionization since 2006. This is driven in part by a very steep decline in manufacturing employment, but, even more, it is driven by a declining percentage of manufacturing workers who are unionized: from 35% in 1997 to 20% in 2016.

            If manufacture had maintained the 34.5% unionization level that it had in 1997, there would be another 100,000 unionized workers in Ontario. As manufacture has been the core of the labour movement in Ontario, this decline  is, of course, a very serious change negatively affecting the bargaining power of all workers -- public and private, union and non-union alike. More positively, there is clearly room to grow the labour movement in manufacturing.

            More success has been achieved in the construction sector. Unionized construction workers are now almost as numerous as unionized manufacturing workers, having almost doubled their numbers since 1997. Employment in construction has increased significantly and the unions have kept up with the growth by keeping the rate of unionization steady (unlike most other private sector industries which saw a decline in the rate of unionization since 1997). Employment in “business, building and other services” has also grown quickly and the density of unionization in that sector has also increased—but it still remains at only 13.6%.

            The labour movement has fundamentally changed in the last twenty years. There are still significant opportunities to grow public sector unionization, but a vital task for everyone to increase private sector unionization. While the last twenty years have been difficult, some successes have been achieved and other opportunities exist.

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10) “OUR QUESTIONS ABOUT CANADA’S DEFENCE BUDGET”

From the Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers)

            In June, Canada’s Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan announced a 73% increase in military spending, which, if it happens, would take Canada’s military budget to $32.7 billion a year. This is a complete about face from policies under the previous government, which cut Canada’s defense spending (along with other cuts to government spending).

            Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland said in her speech about Canada’s new foreign policy priorities, “Canadian diplomacy and development sometimes require the backing of hard power.” Freeland suggested in discussion with the press that there are “many threats to the liberal international order” and so Canada must be ready to fight wars internationally to protect our values and human rights. Taken together, it appears that a push is being made to increase Canada’s involvement in wars abroad.

            The logic offered by Minister Freeland for this move is not compelling. A key point from her speech is that the US is no longer interested in being a leader on the world stage and that “Canada’s geography has meant that we have always been able to count on American self-interest to provide a protective umbrella beneath which we have found indirect shelter” but this is for some reason no longer appropriate. There is no good explanation as to why.

            In fact, the government of the US is seeking to greatly increase its military budget, already by far the biggest in the world. And there is no threat to Canada’s territory or “our values” that hasn’t existed for years. We see no major change in international affairs that could have triggered a major shift in Canada’s military policy and spending.

            The majority of the announced spending will be for fighter jets and war ships, with a 5% proposed increase in sailors, soldiers, and air force personnel (about 5,000 regular and reserve personnel all told). The next five years of the new plan propose an increase of $6.6 billion in spending with much greater increases happening in subsequent years. No explanation has yet been offered as to whether budget cuts to other departments, or an increased deficit, will pay for this increase in military spending.

            The new defence policy is primarily focused on offensive capabilities, rather than supporting Canada’s territorial integrity, reinforcing individual safety through search and rescue in Canada, or reviving Canada’s role in peacekeeping activities. It is also noteworthy that while the justification for this spending was an increased role for Canada on the world stage, the government chose not to offer any increase in foreign aid spending.

            There are many uncertainties at this point. For instance, will this new money actually materialize? The bulk of it is not guaranteed by any means, and is contingent on future governments continuing to support this policy direction. Also, we don’t know how much the military equipment Canada is planning to purchase will actually cost. Canada has a history of severe problems with military procurement, with costs often ballooning even as quality of equipment proves not up to the standards promised in initial announcements.

            It’s disturbing that such a major policy shift was not an election issue. If any government department’s budget was to be raised by more than 70%, that should have been a significant part of the Liberal campaign platform, if not the single cornerstone policy. Forthrightness about policy plans would have allowed Canadians to learn about this significant issue and decide whether or not they support it. As it stands, there have not been parliamentary, much less public, debates about increasing Canada’s role in foreign wars. We believe such a process of public discussion must still take place.

            Canadian Friends Service Committee is continuing to track this issue, while supporting a Department of Peace as a way to constructively engage on the world scene and avoid needing the “hard power” the Minister of Foreign Affairs has focused on.

            (For more information, and to see the footnote links for statistics and other details in this commentary, visit http://quakerservice.ca/news/our-questions-about-canadas-defence-budget/\)

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11) RE-ENGAGING UNIONS IN THE FIGHT AGAINST FASCISM

By Nora Loreto, Canadian Association of Labour Media

            In Charlottesville, Virginia, when a car ploughed into a crowd of anti-racist activists killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others, many people linked that tactic to recent terror attacks, especially in Europe. Indeed, driving a truck into a crowd of protesters has become a favoured tactic for some who seek to murder. So much so that even Quebec City's Carnival parade erected barriers to lower the potential of this happening last February.

            "The attacks in Charlottesville show the violence of racism and white supremacy," read a statement from the Teamsters Joint Council 16 in New York City. "We stand with Charlottesville and honour the memory of Heather Heyer. We also know that our union and the labour movement must lead in the fight against white supremacy. Those in power have always sought to divide workers based on race. Unions are the voice of equality and justice in the workplace. It is our responsibility to unite the working class for racial and economic justice."

            For labour activists, seeing a car drive into protesters is a strong reminder of the routine danger that workers face when they walk a picket line. That, when your body is on the line to force a company to slow down or close, the likelihood of injury from a car driving into you is very high.

            Back in 2006, when Ontario college workers were on province-wide strike, John Stammers was killed by a driver while he was on the picket line at Centennial College. The driver was not charged.

            Cars are dangerous, especially when used as a weapon. As protests have grown in the United States, some lawmakers are exploring ways to legalize injury by car. Republican lawmakers have considered legislation that would make it legal to hit protesters who are blocking a street, if the consequences of that action were "unintentional" or "accidental." In North Dakota, a proposal defeated by 41-50, actually stated: "A driver of a motor vehicle who negligently causes injury or death to an individual obstructing vehicular traffic on a public road, street, or highway may not be held liable for any damages."

            This has triggered Republicans in other states to try to pass similar pieces of legislation. In North Carolina, legislation passed that would shield drivers who exercised "due care" but still hit protesters.

            There's no doubt that these laws are being passed with protests coordinated by Black Lives Matter and other civil rights movements in mind. Criminalizing and crushing dissent through any means necessary is nothing new.

            Fascism is nothing new either, and the connection between the rise in the alt-right and the power of organized labour goes far beyond the similarities of tactics employed by individuals who seek to cause harm. Labour's principal role in a democratic society is to be a counterbalancing political force to power, both the economic power of the bosses and the political power of the state.

            Trade unions were at the epicentre of the fight against fascism in Europe in the 1930s. As a result, dictators outlawed independent unions. Mussolini took over trade unions and turned them into state-run fascist entities. By 1935, four million Italian workers were represented by the Fascist Trade Unions. Controlling workers through their governing bodies helped to undercut anti-fascist organizing.

            Crushing trade unions was also critical to Hitler's rise. Even before the Nazis were installed as the state government in July 1933, he jailed union leaders, had his police take over union offices and seized their assets. He forced them to merge with the Nazi party, ending independent trade unionism.

            As a democratic and independent voice of workers, it's obvious why the labour movement poses a threat to leaders with dictatorial tendencies. With resources, internal democratic structures, access to people and communities and various platforms, they are a critical node in the fight against fascism.

            But it's been social movements, especially Black Lives Matter that have been doing the heaviest lifting in the current iteration of this struggle. With union density of just 10.4 per cent, perhaps it's unfair to expect the labour movement to be the standard bearer against fascism.

            Mass mobilizations against fascism, both expressions of it in the streets and within the White House remind us that organized resistance remains our best chance at defending democracy and confronting state power. This is as true today as it ever has been. While AFL-CIO representatives Richard Trumka and Thea Lee resigned yesterday from Donald Trump's manufacturing council, the question must be asked: why were they ever there in the first place?

            Too much of organized labour has forgotten that the primary role of unions goes far beyond dues-paying members. That people power manifests in various ways, but none so powerful, resourced and broad as the labour movement. Trade unionists should be arm-in-arm with Black Lives Matter and anti-fascist organizations. They should be supplying advice and tools to topple monuments. They should co-ordinate food, sound systems and a political analysis that cuts through the right-wing, divisive rhetoric that has seemingly confused some among the working class.

            In Canada, where union density remains much higher, at almost 30 per cent, the responsibility that trade unionists have is even greater. They should be linking arms with the thousands of newly arrived refugees, helping with relief efforts and volunteering their resources and time. They should be paying for anti-racist organizers. They should be boosting these messages in the mainstream press.

            They need to hold the spot in social democracy that they're supposed to hold.

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12) AN EXPERT LOOKS AT THE STATE OF CUBA-US RELATIONS

Cuba-U.S. Relations-Obama and Beyond, by Arnold August, Fernwood Publishing, (2017), review by Nino Pagliccia

            A new book by Canadian journalist and political scientist, Arnold August, titled “Cuba-U.S. Relations-Obama and Beyond,” has a well-written foreword by eminent Canadian scholar Keith Ellis, who writes, “Arnold August brings to the task his finest gift, his superbly developed talent as a journalist.”. In his introduction, Ricardo Alarcon, former permanent representative of Cuba to the United Nations, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Deputy and President at the National Assembly of People’s Power, recalls that Che Guevara’s warning, “never trust imperialism, not one iota,” remainsas relevant as ever.”

            There is no doubt that August does not trust imperialism either.

            The main focus of the book is an informed assessment of the scope and impact of the historic three-day visit to Cuba in March 2015, the first by a U.S. president in nearly a century, following joint declarations by Barack Obama and Raul Castro on December 17, 2014 to re-establish Cuba-U.S. diplomatic relations. 

            Much of the content presented in the book is based on articles written by the author in recent years, which shows August’s long-standing study, research and foresight about many aspects of Cuba U.S. relations. For example, he condenses six of his previous articles in the first chapter, to set the stage for the “historical/political context” going back to the inception of U.S. policy on Cuba. This is a good memory refresher and a clear response to Obama’s much-criticized stance during his visit asking Cubans to forget the long history of constant U.S. intentions to annex the island, and the subversion attempts against the Cuban Revolution.

            Throughout the book one gets the feeling that the author writes from a solid Cuban standpoint, as someone who has close knowledge of current events in the country and follows its political pulse. This does not make it a biased book, rather one that gives Cubans a voice that has been silenced by the Western media for almost 60 years. This personal perception is corroborated by a full chapter dedicated to interviews with five Cuban authors and analysts who are active writers and bloggers, and who “contribute one or more specific perspectives” on Cuba-U.S. relations.

            From them we hear, for instance, about the “hegemonic status of the U.S.” such that the “asymmetry…is so marked that one cannot speak of a normalcy based on equality between parties.” One cannot speak of “normalization” but rather of “co-existence between opposites.”

            Another analyst interviewed by August alerts us more explicitly, “Obama is engaging with civil society with a view to identifying the sectors that will come on board with the changes to Cuba policy that he wants to put in place”. The former president “has a carrot for civil society and a stick for the revolutionary government.” This is a sentiment fully shared by August.

            It is precisely because of this “new” engagement with Cuban civil society and individuals, much more prominent through the wider use of the Internet among Cubans, that the author refers repeatedly to the perceived danger of cultural aggression as the ultimate weapon to undermine the Revolution. The notion of cultural aggression is not new, but it is much more recognizable now as a serious challenge for Cuba.

            August writes: “The point of view that refuses to recognize the reality of the cultural war and pretends that it somehow disappeared with the Cold War, or 17D, has now in effect merged into the cultural aggression against Cuba. The cultural war’s long historical antecedents and dangerous wide-ranging shifts in appearances over time do not leave room for neutrality.”

            August is clearly not neutral. As a French Canadian he is quite well versed on the threats of a dominant culture. He goes on to write, “The danger is amplified because the defence of the Obama policy increasingly exists both on and off the island, and they rely heavily on each other.”

             In addition to the more obvious danger of an incipient “private sector” that could be easily co-opted by the U.S. to undermine the socialist system, August also refers to the subtler World Learning initiative for “leadership” training launched by the U.S. Agency for International Development as moving “from aggression to seduction” of Cuban youth.

            It is not a secret that within Cuba there is an ongoing broad debate about the hope for Cuba-U.S. relations. It is evident that August decided to make his book part of that debate. He does not shy away from a direct challenge to those Cubans whom he perceives to have “the mindset that assists the U.S. in subtly introducing its new tactics to achieve its same goal of regime change.” This may also be a challenge for the reader.

            The book was published before we learned of U.S. President Trump’s much-publicized announcement of “reversal” of Obama’s policies towards Cuba. However, it is still a timely read mostly because Obama’s policy changes were more cosmetic than substantial. While the respective embassies remain open, the small concession for U.S. citizens to be able to travel to Cuba under fewer restrictions is now gone. The bulk of the U.S. blockade on Cuba was never changed and the U.S. occupied territory of Guantanamo has not been returned. Also remains the U.S. government continued goal of regime change in Cuba.

            Will this push some Cubans to “miss” Obama’s rhetoric about Cuba? Will it confirm without doubt the long history of Cuba-U.S. relations and help close ranks around socialism?

            At this particular time - when Cuba fights back the continued economic challenges, and the ongoing U.S. designs on the island, when Cuba brings about the necessary changes established by the Lineamientos (Guidelines), when Cuba moves towards its new social economic model while preserving the socialist system, and when Cuba is about to experience the first government without the historical leadership of the revolution to take place in 2018 - those of us in the Cuba solidarity movement must be alert but never fail to trust that Cubans are at the frontline of the Revolution. In order to do that we must support and rally for strong unity while the dialogue and debates will continue on and off the island.

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13) HURRICANE IRMA RELIEF & RECONSTRUCTION FOR CUBA CAMPAIGN

Canadian Network on Cuba

            Hurricane Irma menaced and devastated the eastern and northern Caribbean, striking Cuba from September 7-10, resulting in significant and widespread damage. Accompanied by massive flooding, its sweeping destruction encompassed housing, communications, infrastructure, agricultural equipment, crops, and community buildings.

            While we are confident that the Cuban people will overcome any challenges posed by Hurricane Irma, Cuba will, nevertheless, have to expend considerable resources, both immediate and long term, in order to overcome the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Irma.

            To assist Cuba in its immense efforts of recovery and reconstruction, the Canadian Network on Cuba (CNC) is launching the Hurricane Irma Relief & Reconstruction for Cuba Campaign. All donations will be forwarded 100% directly to Cuba.

            In recent years, the CNC has had a series of successful Hurricane Relief Campaigns. The most recent was in 2016 when Hurricane Matthew struck eastern Cuba, devastating Baracoa, Cuba’s oldest city. In 2008, the CNC’s most extensive campaign was launched when a series of hurricanes caused damage in excess of $10-billion. The CNC not only raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, but also directly participated in the construction of a new social and cultural centre on La Isla de La Juventud (Isle of Youth).

            In 2017, as Cuba faces this latest challenge, we are confident that Canadians - as they have repeatedly done - will once again demonstrate their friendship and solidarity with Cuba by supporting the island as it recovers from the ravages of Hurricane Irma.

            Our experience with regard to Cuba's response to natural disasters is that it knows how to multiply the value of any donations it receives. We feel confident, based on the island's unsurpassed humanitarian work - both within Cuba and in other countries - that it has the skills, the organization and the ethical and moral values to put whatever assistance it receives to the best possible use.

            Even at this difficult time, in the midst of Hurricane Irma’s havoc, Cuba’s deep internationalist spirit has once again been profoundly demonstrated by the sending of more than 750 Cuban health workers to Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Haiti, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, and the Bahamas.

            As in past campaigns, we hope that solidarity organizations and individuals will generously support Cuba in its efforts to rebuild after this devastating hurricane.

            Donations to the Hurricane Irma Relief & Reconstruction for Cuba Campaign can be made by mailing cheques made out to the Canadian Network On Cuba to: CNC Hurricane Relief, 56 Riverwood Terrace Bolton, ON L7E 1S4. Please write "CNC Hurricane Irma Relief Fund" on your cheque's memo line.

            -Isaac Saney, CNC National Spokesperson, September 10, 2017

 

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