Dec 29, 2015
What a year!
Some remarkable things happened in 2015 for working people across Canada. Remarkable not only because they have changed the landscape of our country but because they have clearly shown us, when we work together, we can do great things!
From the Court rulings that strengthened the rights of working people, to electing an NDP government in Alberta after decades of Conservative rule, to ousting the federal Conservatives from Ottawa, and most recently, to the outpouring of empathy and action to help refugees as they flee violence and poverty ─ it has been an important time to be a Canadian.
We kicked the year off right in January with the Supreme Court of Canada ruling on three significant and historic labour rights issues. The decisions established the constituional rights of all Canadian workers to join a union of their own choosing, to participate in collective bargaining without substantial interference from government and, to take strike action to support their bargaining demands.
The rulings had the effect of overturning three decades of SCC jurisprudence that, for the most part, have restricted labour rights and limited unions in their ability to defend the interests of their members. These decisions are indeed significant for the labour movement, and for Canadian society. Our chief justices have clearly affirmed that unions matter to our country and our communities and recognized the importance of labour rights as a cornerstone of Canadian democracy, and therefore deserving protection under Canada's Constitution.
Through our union’s campaign work on Labour Rights are Human Rights, we played a critical role in helping to coordinate arguments for the Supreme Court challenges. It’s this kind of strategic and thoughtful analysis that is essential for us to move forward as a movement and to improve the lives of working people.
What a great start!
Then there were the historic political events that took place this year. In May, strong winds of change blew through the mountains of Alberta. For the first time in over 40 years, the Conservatives were soundly rejected by Albertans when the NDP won a solid majority in the provincial election. People were searching for hope and optimism and found it in Rachel Notley’s spirited and principled campaign.
But it didn’t stop there. After a decade of cuts and privatization of public services, attacks on science and knowledge and undermining of the core democratic values of our country, Canadians were finally fed up. On October 19, the Conservatives were thrown out of office. We committed to relieving Canada of the mean-spirited, selfish and destructive government that seemed eager to walk over our most poor and vulnerable.
This was the year that people said we’ve had enough ─ and took action. Conversations took place in every corner of the country about what kind of country Canada was becoming and people didn’t like it. People were tired of fighting at every turn against blind ideology. And we made change.
As I was writing this year-end message, I took some time to consider its tone. On the one hand, we are all so relieved to have defeated the Conservative government and give our battle-weary spirits a break. On the other hand, we lost some tireless MPs who stood up for progressive legislation and concrete action to make Canada a more equal place. Now we must ensure this Liberal government lives up to its promises.
I think, by nature, Canadians are a hopeful bunch. We are hopeful that there are better times ahead for us all under this new government. Yet, we also know we must be vigilant to not allow the country to again follow the path we were on for a decade. We still need to stand up to the forces that work to divide and diminish us and try to undermine our core values.
But, at this moment, how can we not be hopeful?
There’s the start of the inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, where the issue of violence against women will finally get the attention it deserves.
There’s the restoration of the long-form census so that we are again able to document what changes are taking place in our country and use the evidence to make sound decisions, for this generation and the ones to come.
There’s returning the freedom of our scientists and government workers to speak openly and inform the public, and government, about their work.
There’s the increased funding for health care and education to ensure that every member of society has an opportunity to be their very best.
Let’s end this monumental year looking forward. Looking forward to working cooperatively with our allies and members making positive change on issues that matter.
I want to thank you all for your commitment to our struggle and for making 2015 a year to remember. I wish you and your family a safe, joyful and restful holiday season.
James Clancy is the National President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good.
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