Dear sisters and brothers:
Well, the G-20 is over.
From the news, you would never know that OPSEU members were among 25,000 marchers who called on world leaders to put the needs of people first. We marched peacefully for good jobs, strong public services, and fair taxation. We marched beside environmentalists, human rights activists, and thousands and thousands of trade unionists.
We marched for a better world. But that’s not what the world saw.
The world saw Toronto as a city of burning cars and riot police.
The world saw Canada as a conservative land that is keen to slash public services, end job creation, and ignore the real issues of global poverty, disease, and environmental devastation.
That’s not how it used to be. Time was, Canada was seen as progressive, proactive, and practical. We built a Medicare system for everyone. We basically invented peacekeeping. And it was a Canadian who drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
In 2010, we can barely say “Canada” and “human rights” in the same sentence. Thanks to Stephen Harper, we’ve signed a free trade deal with Colombia, a country that kills more trade unionists each year than all other countries combined. Thanks to Dalton McGuinty, police at the G-20 could – and did – arrest people just for standing within five metres of a security fence.
The behaviour of our so-called “leaders” has been a national disgrace.
Good thing it’s Pride Week from now through July 4. Unlike the G-20, Pride Week makes people happy. And unlike the G-20, which punished local businesses, Pride will pour money into local economies in cities around the world.
Pride Week celebrates diversity of all kinds. It’s about equality. It’s about participation. It’s about making a political statement – without being arrested. In many ways, it’s the exact opposite of the G-20.
In the months and years ahead, OPSEU members will face big challenges as Stephen Harper keeps pushing his religion of austerity. Progressive Canadians have a different vision.
With Canada Day and Pride Week upon us, let’s celebrate a better vision of our future.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas President,
Ontario Public Service Employees Union
P.S. On June 26, hundreds of OPSEU members sported green t-shirts in support of the Robin Hood Tax, a tiny tax on financial transactions that wouldn’t hurt a bit but would raise hundreds of billions to tackle the world’s real problems. Imagine my surprise when I learned that former Prime Minister Paul Martin supports it.