Canada: Continue the Fight for Civil, Political and Environmental Rights

Published on
by

Canada: Continue the Fight for Civil, Political and Environmental Rights

Stephen Harper might be gone, but the fight for a truly visionary Canada continues. (Photo: AP)

During this, the longest election campaign in Canadian history, many amazing movements were born and strengthened. People went door-to-door getting their communities to care about issues that matter.  

Now that Stephen Harper and the Conservatives are no longer dragging Canada down, we need to continue to build the movements that promise change. Let's get Canada back on track!

Here is a partial list collected of movements that have gathered momentum during this election. Please add more suggestions in the comments section and I will integrate them into the toolkit tools.

Election reform

This was the longest and most unfair election in Canadian history. The Conservatives used, the so called Fair Voting Actthe disenfranchisement of millions of Canadians, the skewing of Elections Canada finance regulations, and calling the longest election in Canadian history to maximize the money in their coffers, to undermine a fundamental right of Canadians, our right to vote. Justin Trudeau and the Liberals have committed to making the next Canadian election more fair. Read about the Liberal plan for election reform.

Take action:

Immigration and refugee policies

In September 2015, No One is Illegal-Vancouver Coast Salish Territories put together Never Home, a multimedia project documenting nine years of changes to Canadian immigration policy. The project provides a comprehensive look at what that the changes to immigration policy have been and the impact of these changes on people. In September, Canadians took actions en masse to say that refugees are welcome in this country, and to demand that Canada accept more refugees. Now that Trudeau is in, the fight for the rights of immigrants and refugees continues.

Take action:

  • Before the election, Canadasworld.ca put together this summary of each party's position on immigration policy. Let's work to make sure these commitments are realized and expanded. Read No One is Illegal Toronto's post about the impact of this election and stand up for the rights of all the people in Canada.

  • The crises that sparked the refugees are welcome protests are still going on. Sponsor refugees and donate to organizations working on the ground with refugees. Oliver Sachgau and Affan Chowdhry of the Globe and Mail wrote an article detailing how Canadians can help. Click through and donate.

  • We need our governments to act, we need to stand up for the Canada we believe in, a Canada that does not turn its back on the world! Want to learn more about how immigration policies have changed, read this great factcheck blog on Canada's recent humanitarian relief record and visit No One Is Illegal's Never Home website.

First Nations and Indigenous peoples

The Harper government was notorious for contemptuously undermining the rights of First Nations communities. The First Nations have been organizing with Idle No More, with campaigns to build internal capacity to challenge the Harper government's action and inaction, and by getting out the vote to get Harper out of office. Here is what Trudeau has committed to during the campaign in regard to First Nations communities. Note that the Liberals have not committed to ending the privatization of collectively-owned indigenous land which was part of the Jobs and Growth Act, Bill C-45.

Common Dreams needs you today!

Take action:

  • Who is She: The Harper Government asserted that a focused investigation into missing and murdered Indigenous women is unnecessary and defunded the few initiatives that did exist to document cases. Therefore on September 9, the Chiefs of Ontario decided to take matters into their own hands, and launched Who is She? -- a fundraising campaign for a First Nations-led national inquiry. According to Chief Isadore Day, the campaign needs at least $500,000 to begin the inquiry process. Learn more about the initiative by reading rabble.ca's Roshini Nair's interview of Chief Isadore Day. Visit the campaign website to donate, to download materials and to read accounts of families and community members.

  • Support PullTogether.ca: There is a solid wall of opposition facing the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project in B.C., and growing opposition to Line 9. One year after the federal government approved the project, the opposition is not only strong and committed, but also growing. Enbridge now faces a total of 18 court proceedings and these cases are shining light on the questionable legal position on which the federal government stands. These legal cases are the best way to stop this pipeline. A coalition called Pull Together has come together to build support for the legal cases. Visit Pull Togetherto support the legal cases.

  • Support the Unist'ot'en Camp: The Unist'ot'en camp has been standing since 2009. They have been standing up against the incursions into Unist'ot'en territory by mining and oil and gas companies. They need continued support to continue to stand up to threats.

Housing and homelessness

Canada's housing market is considered to be dangerously (~35 per cent) over-valued. Over 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness in a year and nearly 1 in 5 households are facing extreme housing affordability issues, according to a report by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness.

Take action:

  • The Canadian Association of Community Health Centres put together the campaign commitments of each party on affordable housing. Sign their petition and read party positions and hold them at account here.

  • Vancouver is leading the charge to control soaring housing costs by putting stricter controls on foreign investment in real estate. Sign the petition to build controls for foreign investment in Greater Vancouver.

Environment and climate change

The Harper government's record on climate change was pathetic. On July 5, 10,000 people marched in Toronto demanding action on Jobs, Justice and Climate. Now that the Liberals have a majority, what does that mean for the environment, climate, science and transparency? Carol Linnett is on top of things and published this great blog on Desmog.ca outlining the Liberal position on these issues. Obviously we will need to build actions if anything substantial is going to happen on these issues.

Take action:

  • Support the Leap manifesto: The manifesto warns that: "climate scientists have told us that this is the decade to take decisive action to prevent catastrophic global warming. That means small steps will no longer get us where we need to go…So we need to leap!" Do you agree with this proposition? Sign on to support the Leap Manifesto, and do watch rabble.ca's livestream of the press conference launching the manifesto here. 

  • Sign on to Mission Green's petition on climate change and support Greenpeace's work to keep 99 per cent of the tar sands in the ground.

Science, civil liberties and transparency

Cancelling the long form census, muzzling scientists and destroying research capacity, attacking institutions doing work that did not support the Conservative agenda… these were just a few of the things that the Harper government did to undermine science and transparency. And then of course there was Bill C-51 which shrouded many of the attacks on civil liberties in secrecy, which Trudeau and the Liberals voted for. This blog on Desmog.ca outlining the Liberal position on these issues. 

Take action:

  • Demand access to information reform: The Liberals have committed to take action on this issue and make government records more accessible. If you care about this issue, sign the petition to make acting on it a priority for the new government.

  • Kill Bill C-51: The Liberals in Parliament voted for Bill C-51. Trudeau promised to amend the bill but not to repeal it in its entirety. This Bill has too many dangerous and ill-considered elements, it needs to be repealed not amended. Sign on to the petition and support the movement against Bill C-51 in your community.

  • Take the Science Pledge: This pledge is about standing up for science, for the long form census, for data and undoing some of the damage created by the Conservative government. Sign on now.

  • We need more affordable access to internet and less archaic regulations of internet. Sign on to Open Media's Canada's Digital Future campaign which demands a better internet and digital policy from the federal government.

Stand up for unions

Unions and the right of workers to bargain and to organize have been under attack under the Conservative government. We need to see the anti-union bills repealed.

  • Repeal Bill C-377: The Conservative government rammed through C-377 which amends the Income Tax Act to require that all labour organizations provide financial information to the Canadian Revenue Agency for public disclosure. The Canadian Revenue Agency has estimated that implementing the new law will cost $2.6 million for the first two years, and $1.5 million every subsequent year, and that money will have to come out of the CRA's existing budget. Conservative backbencher Russ Hiebert, who introduced C-377 as a private member's bill, has said the law is an instrument of transparency. In fact, under provincial labour laws, union members already have the right to request financial records from their union, and most unions make this information available to their members at their annual Conventions. Trudeau has vowed to repeal this bill, let's make sure he does. The Canadian Labour Congress will be taking action to get this bill repealed and take it through the courts if necessary.

  • Repeal Bill C-525: The Harper Government also made it more difficult for workers covered under the federally regulated sectors to bargain and organize with Bill C-525 the Employees Voting Rights Act. Unsuccessful Liberal candidate in Fort McMurray-Cold Lake Alberta, Ken Harrietha, is on record saying that the Liberals will repeal both bills C-377 and C-525, but we have to hold their feet to the fire to make sure this happens.

  • Stop Federal interference in the bargaining at Crown Corporations: Bill C-60, the Tories' budget implementation bill, included a clause that allows the prime minister's cabinet to approve salaries, working conditions and collective bargaining positions for the CBC, according to The Hill Times. We have all heard about the courageous fight by the postal workers to fight for home mail delivery. The Trudeau Liberals have been "cagey" about their commitment to fight for home delivery according to the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and while Trudeau did promise to restore CBC funding, so did Chrétien and his government gutted CBC funding. Keep on supporting these fights and let the Liberal government know we are watching.

Prisoners rights

Under the Harper government, the number of people in prisons increased, mandatory sentencing was increased, and prison overcrowding increased. According to Statistics Canada, criminal justice spending overall increased nationally by 23 per cent between 2002 and 2012. These are large increases, particularly as the crime rate in Canada has been dropping steadily for over 25 years.

Furthermore, Harper's "Tough on Crime" agenda has undermined the rights of prisoners. These statistics and assertions are excerpted from Paula Mallea's article for Canadian Progressive on Harper's record. During the election, the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers came out against Harper and took an anybody but Harper approach because of the impact of the Harper government policies on both prisoners and the safety of workers. This great article in the Globe and Mail outlines some of what Trudeau should be taking on to undo the damage done by Harper.

Taking action:

  • Support the distribution of sterile injection equipment in prisons: In Canada, the prevalence of HIV and HCV infection among people in prison is at least 10 and 30 times higher, respectively, than in the overall population. If implemented, prison needle and syringe programs (PNSPs) would give people in prison access to the same health services available outside prisons, and also make workplaces safer for prison staff by reducing the likelihood of accidental injuries via non-sterile injection equipment shared by many people. Despite the overwhelming evidence of the benefits of PNSPs around the world, no Canadian prison currently permits the distribution of sterile injection equipment to prisoners. The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network developed an election primer on federal party positions on this issue and will be working to make sure that the government reviews their policy on sterile injection equipment.

  • In Canada, one out of every four prisoners in the federal prison system has spent some time in solitary confinement. At any given time, there are as many as 1,800 people in solitary confinement in federal or provincial prisons. The BC Civil Liberties Association and the John Howard Society of Canada have launched a constitutional challenge to the use of solitary confinement in Canadian federal prisons. Solitary confinement, called "segregation" in the prison system, is the practice of confining a prisoner to a cell and depriving him or her of meaningful human contact for up to 23 hours a day, sometimes for months and years at a time. Support and spread the word about this issue and challenge.

I know I am I'm missing other issues that people were organizing around here, so send me additional issues and I will create another blog. However, this is a long list and should provide some good initiatives to work with. We are not going to get what we want unless we keep on building these movements and supporting the good work people are doing to build a better Canada.

Maya Bhullar

Maya Bhullar is the Activist Toolkit Coordinator at rabble.ca.

Share This Article