We have all heard about the current National Prisoners Strike in the United States which has been declared from August 21 to September 9. If you want to learn more about the strike, donate to the strike fund or take other actions in solidarity, visit incarceratedworkers.org.
In Canada, there have been a few strikes in recent months. In Edmonton, prisoners went on hunger strike in July to demand increased breaktime, and in January to demand an end to violence by guards. In Nova Scotia’s, Burnside jail, prisoners went on strike in solidarity with the U.S. National Prisoners Strike demanding better healthcare, more nutritous food at all facilities and better access to libraries and other basic needs.
Here is a useful historical analysis of prisoner organizing in federal prisons in Ontario and Quebec, which brings us to the modern day. One of the many issues brought up by prisoners is that 2013, the Harper government introduced cuts to prisoner’s benefits and wages including a 30-per-cent cut to the $6.90 or less inmates received for a day’s work. When existing deductions were factored in, as in prisoners having to pay for board, the daily pay prisoners could retain became $1.95 or less. A court challenge has been launched, and prisoners across the country are demanding their rights. Visit demandprisonschange.wordpresss.com for some posters and tools to learn about what has been happening, though some of the materials are a bit dated. The Harper government’s gave a boost to the prison industrial complex in Canada, and prisoners are still waiting for many of the meaningful reform promised by Trudeau’s government and provincial governments.