Tuesday, 15 May 2012

May Day in Ottawa 2012

May 1st has always marked the coming of Spring  a time of rebirth and new possibilities. For over a century, May Day has been observed as the International Workers Day when workers around the world (some 99%) have united to seek fairer wages, better working conditions,  and economic equality.

Beginning on May Day 1886, thousands of workers in Chicago and New York City went on strike, joining the call for an eight-hour day. The response on this and in other occasions, the 1% (the 'haves') have employed various tools of repression including the police, the Cold War, the hysteria of McCarthyism, the passage of anti-union laws, and the expulsion of progressive labour leaders from unions.

In 2012, millions throughout the world — workers, students, professionals, homemakers, environmental, indigenous, anti-poverty people, and seniors  took to the streets of big cities to strike against a system which has failed them.

In Ottawa, I attended a downtown rally of 2,000 people calling for social justice in Canada at the time when the Stephen Harper Government is cutting some 30,000 civil service jobs while at the same time supporting wars and the purchase multi-billion dollar killer jet planes. See 50 photos.

As one group marched from Confederation Park towards Parliament Hill, I heard some of the following chants:
  • We'll never be defeated. The people united!
  • Services are for everybody.
  • It's hypocricy to cut services when the government is debating the spending of $35 billion for jets.
  • Respect is what we want. Don't tamper with our pensions.  Health care is a human right.
One of the handouts came from a new local interfaith 'Solidarity against Austerity' group which helped organize this year's May Day event in the City.  It stated:
  • Our government and the corporate elite are deploying measures of austerity that are leading to economic inequality, to the depletion of our much valued social and public services, to environmentally racist practices against indigenous peoples and lands, and to the support of wars that are killing innocent civilians. We need to rally Ottawans who believe there is a better way.
Active participants from The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), stated in their Fact Sheet #1: 'The Conservatives' heavy-handed use of back-to-work legislation has raised eyebrows arguing that the government has effectively put an  end to federal sector collective bargaining, which includes the right to strike.' Here is what CUPW is doing about it:
  • Challenging the constitutionality of the unjust legislation that has denied us of our most basic rights, the right to negotiate and strike if necessary.
  • Organizing the fightback — developing a plan with unions and other allies to regain our right to bargain and strike.
  • Working with others to defeat our federal Conservative government and its anti-worker agenda.
Following the noon-rally, a Teach-In of some 75 people was held at a local church across Parliament Hill; it explored strategies to oppose the government's inclination to privatize the Public Service,  the closing down of the national youth learning program called Katimavik, the loss of jobs across the country, and neglecting the affordability of good public education for the masses.

At the end of the day, I was impressed by the spirit of concerned people to change the terms of the debate from narrow interests to the broader social movement interests of equality and social justice for all. Added to this was the desire to follow a  policy of nonkilling in society.  Getting rid of the $35 billion jet purchase would go a long ways in providing the monies needed for sustainable human programs. As a priority, the state must generously support basic human needs including education, job training, public health care, and culture.

See 50 photos on Flickr.

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