2023 sparklers.
Looking back at the year 2023. Credit: christmashat / Free Images Live Credit: christmashat / Free Images Live

Hello rabble readers! Another year is in the books. Looking back on the year that was 2023, I had a hard time finding many bright spots I’m sorry to say, but if there was any hope and joy to be seen, it came from the labour movement.

Let’s dive into the top stories of 2023.

2023 is the year Canada went up in smoke

This summer saw historic wildfires in Canada that were unparalleled in all records.

Starting in the spring and continuing well into October, wildfires in 11 out of 13 provinces and territories burned over 185,000 sq. km of land in Canada, an area larger than the size of the island of Newfoundland.

The fires destroyed homes and businesses, habitats for wildlife, and created a national health crisis with clouds of toxic smoke hanging over much of the country.

These fires showed that now, more than ever, Canada needs to be at the forefront of the fight against the climate crisis and a shift towards a fossil fuel free economy.

Bill C-18 creates further uncertainty in the media landscape

Just as the wildfires began to reach their peak in the late summer, the controversy over the Liberal government’s Bill C-18 became a central issue.

In reaction to the government’s efforts to get companies like Meta (which owns Facebook and Instagram) and Google to pay their fair share for Canadian news content, Meta removed that same content from their social media platforms.

Those who relied on Facebook to get news about the wildfires in their communities were suddenly met with radio silence from their local news outlets on social media.

Google has since reached an agreement with the government to pay $100 million to support journalism in Canada, but so far, Meta has refused to come to the table and news outlets have yet to return to their social media platforms.

What this has meant for some media is a drastic loss of traffic to their websites, some of whom depend on that traffic to sell ads.

In a year where Canada lost thousands of journalism jobs, this was another heavy blow to a crucial component of our democracy.

Rise of 2SLBGTQIA+ hate and a national push back

This year saw a rise in discrimination and attacks against trans people and other members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.

Following in the far-right footsteps of their American counterparts like Florida Governor Ron Desantis, conservative Canadian premiers began passing laws that discriminate against the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, specifically trans youth.

Both New Brunswick and Saskatchewan enacted rules requiring trans youth to seek permission from a parent to have their correct gender and name used in schools and Ontario has threatened to do the same.

These rules would put trans youth at risk as not every child is able to live in a loving home where they are accepted by their family.

Compounding the issue of rising anti-trans hate was the so-called 1 Million March 4 Children that took place in September.

Marchers used hateful slurs against the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, including false accusations of grooming and pedophilia.

Fortunately, in most Canadian cities, these demonstrations were met with a response from unions and other 2SLGBTQIA+ allies who said that this kind of hate had no place in Canada.

#SearchtheLandfill gets national attention

This year also saw another chapter in the ongoing fight against violence and discrimination against women and Indigenous peoples.

The lives of three missing Indigenous women garnered national attention and became an issue in the 2023 Manitoba provincial election.

These women were the suspected victims of a serial killer and despite calls to have a Winnipeg landfill searched for their bodies, then- Manitoba premier Heather Stefanson steadfastly refused. Stefanson even went so far as to campaign on this stance as a part of her re-election platform.

Stefanson lost her re-election to NDP leader Wab Kinew who, Indigenous himself and Canada’s first First Nations premier, promised that he would explore options to have the landfill searched.

On the national stage, NDP MP Leah Gazan put forward a motion in the House of Commons calling the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirit Peoples (MMIWG2S) a national emergency and to provide funding for a national alert system.

Israel-Hamas conflict becomes a global tragedy

In October, the decades-long tensions between Israel and Palestine reached a new inflection point. The October 7 terrorist attack by Hamas, which killed over 1,200 Israelis, spawned what has become an ongoing tragedy to which the world has borne witness.

In response to the Hamas attack, Israel blockaded the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip, cutting off all food, water, medical supplies and electricity to the territory. They have also been engaged in a brutal bombing campaign that has killed more than 16,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children.

The conflict has become an issue of conscience across the world with protests and demonstrations being held both for Israel and Palestine as well as demonstrations from those who simply want to see an end to the fighting.

A big year for unions

Unions and labour action were a bright spot in 2023. This year saw major gains for unionized workers both in the public and private sectors.

Of greatest significance was the introduction of anti-scab legislation in the House of Commons after years of effort from unions and the NDP.

Canadian Labour of Congress (CLC) president Bea Bruske said that this bill represented an important step in union-employer relations as employers could no longer use scab labour as a tool to extend strikes.

“We have seen years of record corporate profits while workers’ pay lagged far behind. Workers are rightly demanding fairer wages, better safety standards and respect from their employers,” said Bruske.

This year also saw significant gains at the bargaining table for autoworkers both in Canada and the United States.

This year also saw major strikes at Canada’s ports, and some of the largest strikes in a generation in Quebec.

All indications show that 2024 will likely be just as historic for labour in Canada.

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Nick Seebruch

Nick Seebruch has been the editor of rabble.ca since April 2022. He believes that fearless independent journalism is key for the survival of a healthy democracy. An OCNA award-winning journalist, for...