rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Decent work and dignity can counter the rise of radical right-wing populism

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Across this country there has been an overwhelming sense of grief at the tragic loss of life of six Muslim-Canadians gunned down because of their religion in a mosque Sainte-Foy Quebec. The murder by a white supremacist, fuelled by the Islamophobia of Marie Le Pen and Donald Trump, stands as a shocking notice of what is at stake in 2017 and beyond.

It's not surprising that the inauguration of Donald Trump was met with the largest outpouring of anger in living memory. In the first month he proved our worst fears to be justified. Executive orders to build a wall against Mexico and bar Muslims foster a climate of fear and division, while his cabinet of billionaires are set to gut labour standards, public education and equality rights.

In Canada, the Trudeau government is positioning itself to accommodate the new reality of an America First doctrine. The cabinet was shuffled, disgraced former PM Brian Mulroney was recruited, and the Keystone pipeline decision applauded. Business leaders are trying to position themselves for future trade relations, while oil, gas and mining interests prepare to challenge measures for carbon pricing or climate justice.

There will be much to protest in the next four years. Hatred will spread as the most powerful man on earth gives license to xenophobes, racists and misogynists to act out their worst instincts. Civil liberties will be under attack by Republican majorities and the Supreme Court and anti-labour legislation is being tabled. Here at home Kevin O’Leary and Kellie Leitch will try to ride to power by mimicking the Trump formula. It is becoming a much nastier world.

But signs of resistance were everywhere on January 21, as millions turned out to repudiate the Trump agenda. The presence of hundreds of lawyers at U.S. airports to assist those caught in the net of repression was a hopeful sign, along with court rulings that challenged the legality of the immigration ban. Mayors and State Governors have vowed to obstruct the repression against undocumented residents, and a sanctuary movement is blossoming.

Canadians have already responded in vigils across the country to support our Muslim neighbours, and to publicly reject division and hate. But we need to ensure that no Canadian politician or businessman is allowed to "normalize" the rule of Trump and the extremist Republicans. It will be ever more important that people have decent work and dignity -- this is absolutely vital to countering the despair that is a fertile ground for right-wing populism.

We need to be resolute in standing for the true values of Canada, guided by the courageous last words of Jack Layton as he urged us to affirm our shared humanity:

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we can change the world.

But the world won’t change just with positive emotions. We need a comprehensive plan to address these troubling times. Here are some key features that would make a difference:

  • Build powerful movements to challenge Islamophobia and all forms of discrimination, and deepen the equity agenda in schools, workplaces and every organization. Strengthen the refugee, migrant rights and sanctuary movements and support those in the U.S. who are working to uphold civil liberties. Rescind the "Safe Third Country" agreement and repeal Bill C-51.
  • Strengthen the economy and secure good jobs for all. If NAFTA is being re-negotiated, delete Chapter 11 and enshrine labour and environmental rights. Enact Just Transition policies to assist transformation to a low-carbon economy. Defend public services and enact fair corporate tax policies. Strengthen workers’ rights and economic security.
  • Support Indigenous peoples in their struggle to defend land and water, for justice for missing and murdered indigenous women, and implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Report. Justice in Canada cannot be achieved without addressing our relationships with the first peoples.
  • Defend the principles of professional journalism and the financial sustainability of Canadian media as a key component of democracy. We need to be informed in order to make effective judgements, and to maintain accountability of those we elect -- and all those who wield power in our society.

John Cartwright is President of the Toronto & York Region Labour Council.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.