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Yellow Vests Canada lacks left-wing populism of gilets jaunes in France

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Facebook photo by El Comandante Cheronimo

Yellow vest protests are now being organized in Canada. The "Yellow Vests Canada" Facebook page was set up on December 5 and already has 43,506 members.

On December 9, the Saskatoon Star Phoenix reported, "Activists donned high-visibility yellow vests and rallied outside Saskatoon City Hall to protest against the federal government's actions regarding a carbon tax and an international migration pact."

Protests also took place last weekend in Regina, Calgary and Edmonton. The CBC adds, "Members of Soldiers of Odin were also in attendance in Edmonton and Calgary. The anti-immigration group was founded in 2015 in Finland by a white supremacist."

Protests were also planned for Saturday, December 8, in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, London, Hamilton, Kelowna, Kamloops, Red Deer, Fort McMurray, Saint John, Halifax, St. John's, Fredericton, Moncton and other communities.

A primary focus appears to be opposition to the United Nations Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

The text of the non-legally binding Global Compact "reaffirms the sovereign right of States to determine their national migration policy and their prerogative to govern migration within their jurisdiction" and notes that "States may distinguish between regular and irregular migration status."

Despite this, the Star Phoenix article on the yellow vest protests last weekend highlights, "Most critics say the compact doesn't distinguish well enough between legal and illegal migrants, and that it infringes on Canadian sovereignty."

While the Global Compact has been criticized by right-wing populist groups, from a progressive perspective it should be evaluated on the basis of key migrant justice principles such as demanding an end to unjust practices like deportations, detentions, the exploitation of temporary workers, denying services to those without documentation, and the wars, repression and environmental crises that drive forced migration.

In that regard, the Global Compact (weakly) states as objectives: "Minimize the adverse drivers and structural factors that compel people to leave their country of origin" and "Use migration detention only as a measure of last resort and work towards alternatives."

Yellow Vests Canada also opposes the Trudeau government's carbon tax scheduled to begin next year at $20 a tonne because it is "overtaxation." They do not appear to make other related demands such as stopping the Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies -- both of which are costing taxpayers billions of dollars.

From a progressive perspective, the carbon tax can be criticized because, according to Simon Fraser University Professor Mark Jaccard, the tax would need to begin at $30 a tonne and increase by $15 a tonne each year to $200 a tonne by 2030 just to meet the weak target set in the 2015 Paris climate agreement. In other words, a carbon tax alone isn't going to stop climate breakdown (especially when the Trudeau government is pushing to add into the mix the 890,000-barrel-per-day Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline).

Along with their opposition to the carbon tax and the Global Compact, the "Proclamation" on "Canada's Rebellion" notes (with poor syntax): "Canada's Rebellion advocates a complete energy self-sufficiency, including pipelines, and opposes any import of oil from foreign states."

In France, the gilets jaunes or yellow vest movement has significant left-wing support, including from the Socialist Party, Europe Ecology-The Greens, and many members of the CGT and Confédération Paysanne unions.

That's because the yellow vests in France appear to be demanding: a 40-per-cent increase in basic pension and social welfare payments, a re-establishment of public services and the hiring of more civil servants, an end to the privatization of public services, massive construction projects to house the homeless, a ban on genetically-modified crops as well as plastic bottles, and that France end its participation in foreign wars.

Furthermore, Benoit Coquard, an expert at the National Institute for Agronomic Research, has told the Washington Post: "It's important to understand that this movement of 'yellow vests' is not at all an opposition to the environment."

Coquard says, "What is disputed is that drivers from the middle and lower classes are made to pay, but that in their eyes we don't ask enough of the big companies and the rich, who also pollute the most because they often take airplanes."

While Yellow Vests Canada has adopted the symbolic clothing of the movement in France, it does not appear to have embraced its left-wing, anti-austerity politics.

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.

Facebook photo by El Comandante Cheronimo

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