We are All Canadians: Toronto and York's Labour Council calls for solidarity over fear

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Responding to what they perceive to be a rising tide of Islamaphobia in Canada, the Toronto and York Region Labour Council has adopted a statement of solidarity, calling on workers to recognize their commonalities as opposed to their differences.

“It started after the Charlie Hebdo tragedy and the incredible mixed reaction to that,” said President of the Toronto York Region Labour Council John Cartwright. “Muslim and Arab residents of France, whether born there or immigrants, are clearly suffering incredible prejudice and backlash. And of course we've seen the debate in Quebec not that much earlier about the Charter of Values and our own activists of colour were just horrified that that would be moving forward.”

“As we looked at the backlash that was building in Europe in particular we thought we should speak out sooner than later to challenge the existing prejudices,” said Cartwright, who also added that “people are horrified by the brutality of ISIS and that is very fertile ground for Harper to roll out his anti-terror agenda. We can't overlook how appalled most Canadians are by that cruelty and barbarity.”

Cartwright explained that the Labour Council invited an imam from the local Somali community to speak with the council's executive board about the reality that he and his family face on a daily basis.

“The Labour movement must stand in solidarity with all working people, and challenge any form of prejudice or discrimination,” the Labour Council's statement reads, “In these trying times, we have a special responsibility to do so with our Muslim sisters and brothers.”

Noting that this is by no means the first instance of racism and discrimination in Canadian history, the statement also notes that the Harper government has whipped up anti-muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment to “shore up Conservative election hopes.”

Unanimously adopted by delegates at their meeting last Thursday, the statement "We are All Canadians - don't let race or religion divide us" has been sent to every one of the Labour Council's affiliated unions and will be sent to all mosques and Muslim community organizations in the GTA.

Ella Bedard is rabble.ca's labour intern. She has written about labour issues for Dominion.ca and the Halifax Media Co-op and is the co-producer of the radio documentary The Amelie: Canadian Refugee Policy and the Story of the 1987 Boat People. 


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